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Photography by Jon Adams

Nik Software

HDR Photography Basics




Many people are often let down by camera companies who don't include bracketing options in their cameras. The three frame up to two stop bracketing just doesn't cut it for me. My very high end Nikons could do a 9 frame bracket which is usually sufficient (Not Always) but even my D7000 couldn't do this. Sony has what seems to be the worlds worst bracketing features. you can bracket .3 or
.7 stops for three frames. Does that do any good in any way? Not really, I have that much latitude with a raw file. Why is it even there? Anyway, maybe they think their build in HDR jpg rendering is what everyone in the world wants or that there isn't anyone who really wants bracketing. In any case, you're mostly going to have to bract your shots yourself.

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What is HDR?
HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. Your eyes see in High dynamic range, at least when compared to cameras. Even the most expensive cameras don't see detail in the highlights and shadows like your brain does. Photographers have been trying to keep detail in bright clouds and deep shadows since photography began. This is just where the tech has taken us. This technique is one way to extend the range of detail your camera can capture. Actually, you capture different exposures of the same scene. This technique doesn't work well for moving subjects. Landscapes and Architecture are where this works. So if you've ever taken a shot of a landscape or sunset and wished there was a way to get more detail in the shadowy areas, this is for you.

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Preparation.
What you need to get a good HDR capture? First you need to secure your camera. A good solid tripod is very important for best results. Also don't skimp on the tripod head. You should be able to lock down your camera on your tripod and it shouldn't move. If it moves when you let go of the controls, well, your tripod and or head aren't strong enough for your setup. So step 1 Lock down your composition. Second, figure out Where the information is in the scene. My Nex-5n has a live histogram on the screen. This is very nice for HDR shooting. I compose my shot, then set my camera to manual and pick the f-stop I want. Usually F16 ish. It's important to keep your F-Stop constant for the entire series of shots. Now, I go to one extreme of the exposure. You can slow down your shutter speed until you see the dark side of the histogram come into the middle or the shadow areas are all the way opened up. Then you take a shot, if you are concerned about sharpness, use a cable release or remote control. Now turn your shutter speed dial. My camera moves exposure in 1/3 stops, most do this the same. So I count three clicks on my wheel, this is one full stop. Take another shot. Repeat until you've captured all the detail in the highlights, such as the sky or the sun. I love shooting into the sun for HDR shots. When you are shooting directly into the sun and a subject in the shade, you'll end up with 13-15 stops needed. By taking a shot every stop you are able to get a very clean highly detailed HDR image.

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To Recap.
1. Frame your shot and lock down your camera.
2. Pick your F-stop and ISO and lock those down.
3. Set your shutter speed to one end of the exposure. I usually start with the image overexposed.
4. Shoot then change exposure by one stop and shoot again and again until you've captured all of the dynamic range in the image.
5. There is no step 5, you're done. Recompose and make another image.

Process.
Now take your images into the HDR software of your choice. I'll list three that I use. There are many more options and price points available.

1. Nik Software HDR Efex Pro.
2. Photomatix Pro or Photomatix Light
3. Photoshop CS5

Photomatix is the easiest and fastest. Nik HDR Efex is also easy. You get different looking images from each of these software packages. Photoshop for me is the most difficult way to get a pleasing image.

Some people (photographers) are haters of HDR, I'm not sure why. Most non-photographers love the look. You can make an image of a scene that is more realistic than a standard capture. You can of course go very unrealistic too. It's an art form. Make it look pleasing to you and have fun.

Thanks for reading and watching today.

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