A Beginner’s guide to HDR Photography

If you want to take advantage of the latest technology and add some wow factor to your vacation photographs then HDR photography is a good place to start. In this article we are focusing on giving you tips on How to take great HDR photographs and process them with the help of HDR processing software.
Diego Delso ©
What is HDR?
HDR stands for high dynamic range. As per the name, this technique aims to add more "dynamic range” to your photographs. The dynamic range is the ratio of light to dark in the photographs. So in this technique rather than clicking only one photograph, you need to click at least three photographs at different exposures of a same frame. You can then use the image editing software to stack these images together to get the final HDR image.
Where to use HDR?
Many times while shooting some scenes you face the problems as there is too much contrast in the scene and to capture those scenes correctly exposed is a very difficult task. So in such situation HDR will be very helpful. 
Here are some of the situations where you can use HDR: Landscapes: 
Huge wide landscape photos usually have a lot of contrast between the sky and land, which is very difficult for your camera to capture with just one photo. But with HDR you can capture sky details without making land look too dark and vice versa.
Portraits in Harsh light:
Lighting is one of the important aspects to click a good photograph. But too much light on someone’s face (Harsh light) can cause dark shadows and bright glare. Using the HDR technique one can even the all out and make your subject looks better.
Low-light or Backlit scenes:
If you are getting very dark photos-which often happens when you are shooting backlit scenes. In such situation HDR technique can brighten up the foreground without overexposing the well lit portion of your photograph.
Where not to use HDR?
As you can learn now when to use HDR technique, but there are some drawbacks too in using this technique. Sometime HDR actually makes your photos look worse. 
Here are some situations where you should avoid using HDR technique:
With the moving subject:
If any of your subjects are moving then using the HDR technique increases the chances of getting blurry photographs. Because HDR takes multiple photos with different exposures. So if your subject is moving in one of the frame then the final image won’t look good.
High contrast situations:
Some photographs looks good if there is high contrast in it. Situations like if you want to highlight a dark shadow or a silhouette in your photograph, then using the HDR technique will make the photograph look less interesting.
Shooting HDR photos have two major components. One is shooting and another is post processing.
Shooting Techniques:
Follow these steps to capture a perfect HDR photograph.
• Discover the Auto exposure mode in your camera. Auto exposure mode is the main components while shooting HDR. If your camera doesn’t have this feature then you have to set exposure manually for every photograph you take. For HDR you have to take photographs on at least EV -2, 0, +2. You can take more than three photograph as per your wish but at least three photos are must.
• Set your camera on AV mode and determine the aperture. AV mode will be easier and most convenient setting to start with. This setting will let you select the aperture you want for the exposure and let camera decides to take the shutter speed. While shooting HDR you have to consider what needs to stay the same during the brackets. So after selecting the AV mode you have to decide what aperture you want to shoot in. Again aperture values depends on what scene are you shooting. For landscapes you want to get focus the entire scene with no blur in the background, so when selecting aperture remember that higher the aperture greater the depth of field.
• After selecting the exposure there is one more major component is to set your white balance. White balance is very important to your photos colour balance. Auto white balance will work most of the time. But you need to know the different white balance settings too. If your camera couldn’t capture the colours in the scene like you see them. It’s time to change your white balance settings.
• Select your ISO. ISO is simply your cameras sensitivity towards light. The higher the ISO, the more sensitive it becomes. But the downside of the ISO is the more the ISO, the lower the quality of the photograph. High ISO produces lots of noise. So you need to set your ISO as low as possible. 100 ISO will be ideal for HDR photographs.
• With the higher aperture and low ISO settings shutter speed going to become slower. And shooting handheld in such situation can cause some shake in your photographs. So to get the sharp shot in such situation, using the tripod is must. The type of tripod you need is simply depends on you and your shooting style. If you don’t do so much travelling and drive to the location directly and setup then you may invest in a strong, heavy tripod legs. If you love to travel, hike then you will need something light weight, compact tripod.
• Another way to get rid from the camera shake is to use a self timer. This gets rid of the possible shake from holding down the shutter with your finger.
• Now that you have learned all the techniques and ready to shoot, one major thing can make a big difference is to get use of the manual focus. Auto focus is an amazing technology but it isn’t so great while shooting landscapes. If you really want to get everything in focus then you have to switch to manual focus. AF mostly pick certain spots of the frame usually centre and make sure it is as sharp as possible. With manual focus you can set your focus point to infinity to get the entire frame in focus.
• Take the shot.
Post processing
Now that you have taken series of images in different exposure, you need to stack them together and edit it in the HDR image processing software. Given below are the few techniques with the use of Photomatix pro software that will help you get closer to your desired result.
• Open the Photomatix pro software. Click on the load bracketed photos and then click on the browse and select the series of photos you took for the HDR and click Ok. If you don’t have bracketed images, you can still process like HDR using Load single image option. But this will not give you that much impact which you will get through bracketed images.
• If you have any moving elements such as cars or people in your frame. Photomatix allows you to isolate and correct the ghosting. But we can’t give you assurance that it can isolate the ghosting 100%. So to reduce the ghostings check the show option to remove ghosting. If you want to reduce noise or chromatic aberration then check these two options too. You can change your white balance settings too if you shot photos in RAW format. Then after doing all click align and show Deghosting.
• There are two option for removing the ghosting. One is selective deghosting and other is automatic deghosting. Auto deghosting works well most of the time. After deghosting is done press Ok.
• There are inbuilt presets in this software but ideally we would not suggest you to use them. Choose the default presets and process the HDR the way you want to. After you are happy with the result click Apply button and save the final image.
While these are not an in-depth list of HDR tips, it is a good start to get you on the right track to capture your first high dynamic range photos.


Asian Photography
DCP expeditions