Ohanawareʼs guide to HDR Photography

Ohanaware’s guide to HDR Photography

Copyright ©2010 Ohanaware.com

Ohanawareʼs guide to HDR Photography

Preface
Like those of you who are eagerly reading this guide, I too am interested in learning HDR Photography and I practice HDR Photography as often as possible. HDR Photography can produce some amazing results, that are simply not possible otherwise. When I first started to learn HDR, I read as many different tutorials as possible. Most of these tutorials are geared towards using equipment and software that would tally into the thousands of dollars range. This was disappointing and frustrating, why should HDR Photography only be for those who can afford it? So I set about researching and developing ways to create HDR photos without the need to spend thousands of dollars, in fact my mission was to enable you to enjoy the world of HDR without spending a penny! I have discovered and written about 6 methods, each with a list of requirements and various advantages/disadvantages. I’ve written which one I think yields the best result, and provided an example of each method, allowing you to judge with your own eyes. There should be a method that will work with your current digital camera. To end the guide, I’ve written about some equipment I’ve purchased to aid me with HDR Photography and why I purchased it. Finally thanks to my wife, who’s sat by my side in the cold, the wet and the blistering heat while I take photo after photo. Sam Rowlands

Ohanaware’s Guide to HDR Photography Written by Sam Rowlands (http://twitter.com/sam_rowlands) First Published: October 2009 Copyright ©2010 Ohanaware.com Share this guide with family, friends and co-workers. Share via Twitter, Share via Facebook, Share via e-mail.

While distribution of this guide is allowed, reproduction of any part of this guide is strictly forbidden without prior written authorization from the author.

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Ohanawareʼs guide to HDR Photography

Contents
What is HDR Photography: Explanation & Diagrams How do I make my own HDR Photos: How To Take Photos For HDR Auto Bracket :: Best Quality Manual Multi-Exposure :: Better Quality Handheld Auto Bracket :: OK / Better Quality Handheld Single RAW :: OK / Poor Quality Handheld Single Photograph :: OK Quality Using Software To Create & Tone Map HDR Images ! Method Examples and Comparisons ! What makes a good HDR? HDR Software: This list only features software that was made available or updated in 2009. Name HDRtist ImageFuser Version 1.2 0.7.2.3 Price URL

FREE http://www.ohanaware.com/hdrtist/ FREE http://panorama.dyndns.org/index.php? lang=en&subject=ImageFuser&texttag=Im agefuser $29.95 http://pangeasoft.net/pano/bracketeer/ $55.00 http://www.mediachance.com/hdri/ $79.99 http://www.creaceed.com/hydra/ $99.99 http://www.hdrsoft.com/ $699.99 http://www.adobe.com/products/ photoshop/photoshop/

Bracketeer Dynamic Photo HDR Hydra Photomatrix Pro Photoshop

4.0 4.6 2.1.3 3.2.6 CS4

HDR Equipment Suggestions.

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All this information is then compressed in such a manor that it can either produce a more realistic image or a more dramatic and punchier image. the light value for each pixel is calculated based upon all these different exposures. so we have to have to use some more math to compress the light values down to a range that can be displayed on a computer screen. Below are the 5 exposures that were used to create the above HDR. it’s then stored using a higher precision system than the traditional image methods. On the next page you’ll see a table. which tries to demonstrate the differences in light ranges. created from 5 exposures HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. 4 . where as they’re lost in the highlights of the left hand image. which basically means an image which can store more light values than traditional digital cameras & computer can display. you can clearly see the difference in light ranges. The last stage is called tone mapping. Once it’s finished the dynamic light range is too vast to be shown on a computer screen.Ohanawareʼs guide to HDR Photography What is HDR Photography? Single photo direct from the camera HDR. Notice in the right hand image. Using some math. the clouds are visible.

The you can see that the multiple exposures gather a similar range of light and once processed produce a High Dynamic Range Image which contains a light range close to the human eye.Ohanawareʼs guide to HDR Photography Human Eyes: Digital Camera’s & Displays: Multi-Exposures: HDR Image: Tone Mapped HDR: Light Range Table The first thing you’ll notice when looking at this table. the tone mapped image has compressed this light range so it’ll fit onto a LDR (Low Dynamic Range) display. Lastly. 5 . is that the human eye can see a broader range of light than a Digital Camera can capture or than a Computer screen can display.

Requires setting up the tripod. Advantages Cleanest results. You may wish to double check with your camera manual to see if your camera has such a feature or how to use such a feature. Requires setting up the tripod. HDR may not help it. You can make HDR looking images from any camera and true HDR images from almost every camera. expensive or complicated as some believe. The key thing to think about when shooting photos for HDR. While HDR can be used to make photos really pop. required features and the quality of the result. Manual Multi-Exposure :: Better Quality Requires: Tripod Advantages Wider range than a single photo or RAW. also on what situation you are in. Requires setting up the camera. Let’s start by looking at the various methods. but if the image is boring or dull to begin with. Disadvantages Have to adjust settings per exposure. Any movement will ruin the final HDR. As HDR software choices are fairly simple and using most HDR software is a breeze. Disadvantages Difficult when in motion or too windy. A single shutter press. will this make a good photo regardless of it being HDR. How do I take photos for HDR? Taking photos for HDR really depends on what camera and accessories you have. Can produce cleaner results. the difficult part is actually taking the photo. Wider range than a single photo or RAW. 6 . Once you’ve decided on which method is suitable click on the method header to read the guide for that method. Auto Bracket :: Best Quality Requires: Auto Exposure Bracket (also known as AEB) Function and a tripod.Ohanawareʼs guide to HDR Photography How do I make my own HDR photos? Making HDR photos isn’t as difficult.

Disadvantages Final HDR can be quite noisy.Ohanawareʼs guide to HDR Photography Handheld Auto Bracket :: OK / Better Quality Requires: Auto Exposure Bracket Function and a steady hand. Some HDR software won’t use JPEGs created from a single RAW. Too much movement will ruin the HDR. Can capture motion or in windy conditions. Advantages A single press of the shutter. Can be used for motion or in windy conditions. Single press of the shutter. can only tone map the images. Wider range than a single photo or RAW. Some HDR software won’t use a single RAW. Handheld Single Photograph :: OK Quality No Requirements Advantages Single press of the shutter. Some HDR software won’t use a single JPEG. Handheld Single RAW :: OK / Poor Quality Requires: RAW format capability on the camera Advantages Wider light range than a single photo. Can produce cleaner results. Disadvantages Requires setting up camera. 7 . Disadvantages Not enough light range to create an HDR. Not as much range as multi-exposures.

2. It’s the most heaviest on requirements as it requires your camera to have an Auto Exposure Bracket function and a Tripod. This prevents problems caused when the camera in its default mode if it decides to shoot your set of images at different apertures (which will cause image alignment problems due to depth-of-field differences. To continue. focus the camera on the subject and lock the focus.2 is a good position. 4.1 is better than none. Enable the Auto Exposure Bracket function of your camera (check your manual if needs be). 8 . you’ll need to skip ahead and read the paragraph on Using Software To Create & Tone Map HDR Images. You may wish to check with your camera’s manual to see if it has such a function and how to use the function. Now that you have your HDR images. the Auto Exposure Function and know how to use them. This step minimizes camera movement. When shooting bracketed images for HDR processing. you’ve take your first HDR! If you check your camera you should have a series of exposures that may look like the below. If not use the camera’s timer. Set the range to be the widest possible. set it to 2 seconds. you should shoot in an "Aperture Priority Mode" so that each image has the same aperture. however +/. If you have the capability to manually specify the white balance do so. 5. I’m going to assume that you have a tripod. 1. let go of the camera and use the remote control/cable release to take the picture. Congratulations. If you have a remote control or cable release. click the shutter button and let go of the camera. Setup your tripod and attach your camera to your tripod. 3. also if your camera features a focus lock (AF/AE Lock) or manual focus. +/.) The Auto Bracket is the best way to product high quality and perfectly aligned HDR images. Setup your camera so that you are ready to take the photo.Ohanawareʼs guide to HDR Photography Auto Bracket :: Best Quality Requires: Auto Exposure Bracket (or AEB) and a Tripod. 6.

Ohanawareʼs guide to HDR Photography Note: While is most cases you shouldn’t need to lock the focus. I have come across situations where at least one of the exposures wasn’t focused. 9 . It’s only happened a couple of times but it does ruin the HDR.

If you have a remote control or cable release. let go of the camera and use the remote control/cable release to take the picture. click the shutter button and let go of the camera. you may need to change the mode of your camera to "P". adjusting it to -2 or +2 and back to 0. You may wish to spend a few minutes playing with the exposure compensation. 4. There are two ways to accomplish this technique. 3. 5. If not use the camera’s timer. set it to 2 seconds. The second method does require a full manual mode on your camera and is a little more tricky to use. this will make the picture dark. Setup your tripod and attach your camera to your tripod. 6. 7. If your camera doesn’t feature the Auto Exposure Bracket feature you can still make an HDR. Set your exposure compensation to -2. I’d suggest checking with the camera manual. If you have the capability to manually specify the white balance do so. your first exposure! 10 . Technique 1 :: Exposure Compensation 1. also if your camera features a focus lock (AF/AE Lock) or manual focus. it just takes longer and requires a tripod of some sort. Setup your camera so that you are ready to take the photo. focus the camera on the subject and lock the focus. Before you start you need to figure out how to adjust the exposure compensation on your camera. Congratulations. but at night the second technique provides much better results.Ohanawareʼs guide to HDR Photography Manual Multi-Exposure :: Better Quality Requires: A Tripod. 2. This step minimizes camera movement. during the day I’ve not noticed any difference.

using the remote/cable or timer like the first photo. this is done via an exposure meter. 11 . Before you start you need to figure out how to use the full manual mode. Change the exposure compensation to 0 and take the second photo. When you are in the manual mode. it may not work in bright light. 3. Change the exposure compensation to +2 and take the last photo. 2. so that you minimize camera movement. 9.Ohanawareʼs guide to HDR Photography 8. 1. Technique 2 :: Using Full Manual Mode Note: Because this technique relies on Shutter speed. ISO and lock the focus onto your subject. Remember to use the remote/cable or timer. Setup your tripod and attach your camera to your tripod and point your camera at your subject. check with your camera documentation if needs be. Set the white Balance. you need to be able to tell your exposure. Aperture.

your first exposure! 7. and take your last photo. most HDR Software offers image alignment. but might get slightly misalignment. If you’re using the timer to take each exposure. This step minimizes camera movement. Now that you have your HDR images. Reduces motion. Congratulations. If not use the camera’s timer. 6. For the last exposure. let go of the camera and use the remote control/cable release to take the picture. you’ll need to read the chapter on Using Software To Create & Tone Map HDR Images 12 . then take the photo in the same way as before.Ohanawareʼs guide to HDR Photography 4. this will make the picture dark. set it to 2 seconds. 5. click the shutter button and let go of the camera. 8. Now you need to reduce the shutter speed. so it’s possible to speed up taking manual photos by not using the timer and relying on the image alignment to fix any minor alignment problems. so your exposure meter reads 0. reduce your shutter speed one more time so your exposure meter reads 2. If you have a remote control or cable release. Now increase your shutter speed so that the exposure meter reads -2. consider this.

and try to keep the camera as steady as possible while it’s taking the bracketed photos. but it couldn’t handle the cars in the top right hand corner and for this example. So basically follow the Auto Bracket :: Best Quality but skip the Tripod steps. While is most cases you shouldn’t need to lock the focus. If the movement of the camera is too great. See the examples below of a Suzuki Grand Vitara. Before Alignment 13 . the resulting HDR is useless and wasted. however some situations don’t allow for a Tripod. the HDR software managed to align most of the image. (which isn’t great anyway) the HDR is ruined. At this point I would recommend that you use a Tripod to get perfect alignment. there have been a couple of times where one or more exposures wasn’t focused and the resulting HDR was ruined.Ohanawareʼs guide to HDR Photography Handheld Auto Bracket :: OK / Better Quality Requires: Auto Exposure Bracket This method is identical to Auto Bracket :: Best Quality except that you don’t use a tripod.

Ohanawareʼs guide to HDR Photography After Alignment Close up of mis-alignment 14 .

The technique I’m going to suggest may seem like overkill. before it’s been turned into a photo. 3. but when working with HDR software I’ve found that this technique produces the best results. 15 . it does not create HDRs from a single RAW. You can use this when the subject is moving or when the camera is moving. There’s a bunch of serious disadvantages to shooting a single RAW. 2. as this generally produces better results than generic software. and load in your RAW photo. Take the photo. 4. This technique is not compatible with Photoshop CS3. Personally I’d recommend using the software which ships with your camera. nor does it like multi-exposures developed form a single RAW image. Develop the photo as it is and save it with the file name of “Normal”. Some HDR software may also be able to use your RAW file directly. Camera settings are also stored in this file. It allows you to make alterations later and then create the image. Some RAW formats don’t contain more dynamic range than a JPEG. 1. Open your RAW processing software. for instance the end result will never be as clean multiple exposures. this is great as more dynamic range is stored within a RAW file (there are exceptions). RAW images are basically raw camera sensor data. Any image imperfections are multiplied. Set your camera to store photo in it’s RAW format. For HDR.Ohanawareʼs guide to HDR Photography Handheld Single RAW :: OK / Poor Quality Requires: The ability for your camera to save photos in a RAW format.

16 .Bias. Develop the photo and save it as “Dark”. Next adjust the exposure again to +2 and save the developed photo as “Light”.Ohanawareʼs guide to HDR Photography 5. Now you have your multiple exposures from a single RAW image.) down -2. adjust “Exposure Bias” (maybe Exposure Compensation or Exp. In your RAW development software. 6. move onto the chapter Using Software To Create & Tone Map HDR Images.

nothing else. even if their camera isn’t able to take photos for HDR or simply don’t have the time or patience for taking photos for HDR. In the “Info” pallet. Photomatrix Pro: Doesn’t have a tone mapping facility for a single JPEG.. Navigate to your photo and open them. Use the Strength slider to adjust the tone mapping. This method is know as FHDR (Fake HDR) or Pseudo HDR. Hydra: Simply drag your photo into Hydra or use the “+” button to choose your photo. click on the “Create HDR” button on the far right hand side. A new dialog appears. enabling such an option will pull more detail out before you Fake-HDR it and can make a much stronger image. Dynamic Range Optimizer (DRO) or High Dynamic option. the process may be slightly different from the normal HDR generation and tone mapping. Not all HDR software will allow you to tone map a JPEG. Dynamic Photo HDR: When Dynamic Photo HDR starts up. in the next dialog I’d recommend choosing Ps Halo-Matrix. and select your photo. as we are skipping the HDR step and simply tone mapping a regular photograph. 17 . I recommend choosing the Fake HDR and clicking OK. within this dialog click on the “Add Images” button.Ohanawareʼs guide to HDR Photography Handheld Single Photograph :: OK Quality Requires: Digital Camera. or use the “Add Photos” toolbar button or “Open.” from the “File” menu to open the Open File dialog. This technique is not really HDR. ensure that “Tone Mapping” is checked. If your camera has an iContrast. In the next step Dynamic Photo HDR will ask you if you want to do a FULL HDR or a Fake HDR. you only need to open it. and the choose the tone mapping method. HDRtist: To tone map an image in HDRtist. Either drag the image into the HDRtist window. However it does allow everyone to accomplish the much sought after HDR look. Bracketeer: Doesn’t have a tone mapping facility for a single JPEG. Photoshop: Doesn’t have a tone mapping facility for a single JPEG. click on the “Merge” tab and about half way down the window.

I’ll show you to how to create HDR images using the software listed on the contents page. Then you can Tone Map the HDR so that it’ll display nicely on the computer screen. you need to merge them into an HDR. 18 . or use the “Add Photos” / ”Open” menuitem on the File menu to select your images. Different HDR software use different techniques to create their HDR images. Use the Strength slider to adjust the Tone Mapping. and automatically create the HDR preview and tone map it you.Ohanawareʼs guide to HDR Photography Using Software To Create & Tone Map HDR Images Once you’ve taken your photos for an HDR. HDRtist will then import those images. HDRtist Either drag your images into the HDRtist window. If your images are not aligned you can use the “Align Photos” button on the toolbar.

click on the “Use Align_Image_Stack” checkbox. If you need to align your images. then click on the “Align Preview” checkbox to see the preview aligned.Ohanawareʼs guide to HDR Photography ImageFuser Either drag your exposures into the ImageFuser window or select “Open Bracketed Set” from the file menu. You can use the “Enfuse” tab panel to fine tune your finished result. Once you’ve imported your images ImageFuser will update the preview for you. When you’re ready click on the “Save Enfused Image” button. 19 .

If your images need aligning. Bracketeer will then auto update the preview. 20 .Ohanawareʼs guide to HDR Photography Bracketeer: Drag each image into an individual image well in the “Drag Source Images Here” window. click the “Auto Align Source Images” button at the bottom of the “Drag Source Images Here” window.

along with a bunch of various options. When it’s finished rendering the HDR. which you do so click on “Tone Map HDR”.Ohanawareʼs guide to HDR Photography Dynamic Photo HDR: When Dynamic Photo HDR starts up. within this dialog click on the “Add Images” button. click on the “Create HDR” button on the far right hand side. In the Tone Mapping window. If you need to align the images. Then click on “OK”. Navigate to your photos and multi select to add them. Personally I use the “Ultra-Contrast” method and don’t adjust anything else. click on the “Process and Save” button. A new dialog appears. When you’re happy. you’ll see the various methods listed on the left. you’ll be asked if you want to “Tone Map” the HDR. make sure that “Align Files in Next Step” is checked. 21 .

22 . Then check “Tone Mapping” and can choose between the different methods from the popup menu next to “Method”. then check “Align Images”.Ohanawareʼs guide to HDR Photography Hydra: Simply drag the images into the Hydra window. click on the “Align” tab in the “Info” window. Next click on the “Merge” tab and click on “HDR”. and finally click “Auto Align Images”. If you need to align the images.

In the tone mapping options. you’ll have your HDR image. you need to click on the “Generate HDR” button.Ohanawareʼs guide to HDR Photography Photomatrix Pro: When the program opens. Say okay to that dialog and a little while later. Then a further dialog might appear asking you to specify the Exposure compensation of each image. each image is different and can require manual adjustment to make it look great. You can either drag your photos into this window or use the browse button to choose which images to use. the first is the details enhancer and the second is tone compression. then a small dialog will appear. Now you need to click on the “Tone Mapping” button in the floating palette besides your image. 23 . This will take you to the Tone Mapping options. if your images were taken without a tripod. you have two tabs. Lastly a dialog will appear with a bunch more options. Personally I leave it on Details Enhance and then start adjusting the bars until I see what I like. if it doesn’t match I’d advise you set it now as there is no way to change it later. the one to worry about is the “Align source images” option. There are no magic numbers here.

This will produce the HDR Dialog. 24 . check the “Attempt to Automatically Align Source Images” checkbox. To tone map this HDR. You can do so by selecting either “16 Bits/Channel” or “8 Bits/Channel” from the “Mode” submenu of the “Image” menu. Then the “OK” button. you can choose your method by selecting it from the Method Pop-Up menu. you’ll need to reduce the depth of the image.Ohanawareʼs guide to HDR Photography Photoshop: Launch Photoshop and select “Merge to HDR” from the “Automate” menu on the “File” menu. If your images need aligning. from here you have to click on the “Browse” button to navigate and open your images. The Local Adaptation method is the method I’d use. This will open a new dialog. When the dialog opens. click on the Triangle button to reveal the curve. Again there is no magic numbers here folks and different images require different settings. you can use this to adjust the contrast of the image. click “OK” and now you have your HDR.

Multi-Exposed +/.2. Auto Exposure Bracket with Tripod. Single RAW processed in HDR software. Manual Exposure with Tripod. Auto Exposure Bracket Without Tripod. Below are examples of different methods and some comparison information. Single JPEG. I used HDRtist as the software for HDR Generation and Tone Mapping. Single RAW. 25 .Ohanawareʼs guide to HDR Photography Method Examples & Comparisons.

Single RAW processed in HDR software. Really noisy and colors are offset. Auto Exposure Bracket with Tripod. 26 . Manual Exposure with Tripod. noise evident. Auto Exposure Bracket Without Tripod.Ohanawareʼs guide to HDR Photography 100% Crops showing detail/damage of each one.2. This is our base. Multi-Exposed +/. Lacking in detail in trees and bright ares. Movement between photos ruined HDR. Single JPEG. You can see areas that don’t quite fit & edges need cropping in a photo editor. Single RAW. Murky and lacking of detail.

the example above. while not perfect contains something in each section. there’s nothing worse than spending all that time making an HDR only to discover that it’s dead boring! Always think about how else can I take this photo? If you’re really stuck. default back to the thirds rule (if you can). You need just enough to make it interesting. Night shots are really great when done in HDR. especially in the sky. it’s fairly simple.Ohanawareʼs guide to HDR Photography What Makes A Good HDR? That’s a million dollar question. What I can tell you are things I’ve learnt that really help. With the thirds rule. This image was taken using the thirds rule. Is it a good image to begin with. Truth be told. it’s like saying how I can make something that everyone will love. I cannot tell you. 27 . When photographing landscape or buildings try to make sure that there is background detail. Contrasty scenes (where part is too bright and another part is too dark) work quite well as before and afters. Break the image into 3 equal sections and try to squeeze something interesting into each section.

Personally I stick to genuine batteries. I take this little guy with me where-ever I go. Watch out for Amazon and eBay auctions that claim to be genuine. but supply you with fakes. it’s small enough to fit in the pocket of my shorts and yet does the job of stabilizing the camera. use the cleaner to remove grime and replace the lens coating. lamp posts and trees. The reason why I choose this card over others. you’ll want a large capacity memory card. I felt that as I had purchased equipment to aid myself with HDR. which means FAST write times. it can easily hold 1. 28 . Again stick to a well know retailer. Joby Gorillapod ($20-$50) This little tripod is indispensable. it may be helpful for readers of this guide to know what I purchased and why. is simple. Spare Battery ($10-$80) Never leave home without one! There is nothing worse than having the battery run out while you are mid shooting or missing a photo because your battery is flat. [See the guide to identifying a fake Gorillapod] Lenspen ($10-$15) About the size of a whiteboard marker. If you want a genuine battery. I had 2 fakes before I managed to get an original.Ohanawareʼs guide to HDR Photography HDR Equipment Suggestions While the main aim of this guide is to help people get into HDR with the digital camera that they already own. this little guy has a brush on one end and special cleaning tip on t’other end.600 10 megapixel JPEGs at high quality or 10 minutes of HD video. Transcend 8 GB Class 6 SD Card ($20) When shooting photos for HDR. It’s a class 6. but many people I know get on well with third party batteries. Use the brush to brush away dust and dirt. I got caught out. shop at well-established retailers. Today 8 GB is standard. but I was able to get my money back. Because of it’s design it can be wrapped around objects such as fences. at the price of a class 4! Having a faster card minimizes the time it takes for the camera to write out the image and reduces the time between exposures.

Folds as small as a foot and a half. yet it features Auto Exposure Bracket upto +/. better image quality than a compact. 2009) Panasonic are still adding new features via FREE software updates! 29 . When we’re off shooting photos. It’s small enough to fit in the pocket of my shorts. RAW file format. It’s price is in-between a Compact and a DSLR. Seem’s Takara is harder to get hold of in the US.Ohanawareʼs guide to HDR Photography Takara TD-1931. probably one of the most useful too. this guy’ll come with me.3ft Light Weight Tripod ($15 . Panasonic LX3 ($420 . complete with a carrying bag. with control over focus. so if you’re looking for a pocketable HDR camera. but any light weight reasonable height tripod should do. this is the one! [Read DPReview’s Review] Note: This camera was released in the summer of 2008.$600) This camera is the perfect mid-step between a pocketable compact and a feature-laden DSLR. Full Manual Mode.3. and at writing (Oct. Aperture and shutter speed (perfect for night HDR). 24mm wide-angle lens (perfect for landscape). especially when in low light. It really helps to get good clean HDR images.$27) This was the most recent addition. 4.

30 . friends and co-workers. reproduction of any part of this guide is strictly forbidden without prior written authorization from the author. Share via Facebook. Share via Twitter. While distribution of this guide is allowed. Share via e-mail. I hope that the information within this guide has proved useful and helps you on your way with the beautiful world of HDR Photography.Ohanawareʼs guide to HDR Photography The End Thanks for reading Ohanaware’s guide to HDR Photography. Share this guide with family.

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