HDR of the Thirst Tree here in Austin, Texas. Taken using a Canon 6D with the 17-40mm f4 lens at 17mm. Camera was Tripod mounted, set to Aperture Priority using ISO 400 and f4.5. Why f4.5? I intended f4 but didn’t notice till I got home. I must have accidentally bumped it to f4.5. The HDR was built in Photomatix 4 and further edited with Photoshop.
A friend and I took a trip out to Pace Bend Park yesterday for some night fishing. Too bad the fish weren’t biting. Although I think there’s no such thing as a bad fishing trip, some fried catfish would have been nice tonight. At any rate, I turned out a few cool pictures of the view we had. I love Texas.
All HDR’s in this post used Photomatix and Aperture 3. EV was set to -2,0,2. All exposures were hand held, taken in Program mode on the Canon 40D with all settings auto. A 2 sec. self timer was used for the auto bracketing
All Pictures in this post were taken with a Canon 40D using the Canon 10-22 EF lens.
The Bishop’s Palace HDR was taken with three exposures at EV 2,0,-2 and tone mapped with Photomatix. The clouds were layered in from another picture I took. The Palace also needed some lens correction to compensate for the angle the original picture was taken at.
I had to crop this image in some as it was taken from inside my car. The HDR still came out well considering the three exposures were hand held.
I think photos like this are kind of amusing. You see a lot of pictures similar to this turning something boring really dramatic.
Found these Pelicans just hanging out on the back of an old beat-up fishing boat. The Pelicans couldn’t care less that I was there and let me get pretty close. The deck was literally covered in bird droppings. I don’t think this boat is used very often.
You just don’t see too many of this type of phone booth anymore, at least not in Texas. It’s too bad the actual phone on the inside is a modern one.
HDR or High Dynamic Range is a way of combining multiple exposures in order to get a desired exposure. Often we take pictures of landscapes, sunsets, buildings or anything that inspires emotion but the end result is not how we remember the image when we were there. HDR is a technique used to achieve either a natural or an artistic look. In this tutorial I’m going to walk you through what it takes to get started working with HDR.
A couple of tips before we get started. One, It’s strongly recommended you use a tripod for HDR. This is really the only why to get usable and consistent results. However if you’re using an SLR or a point and shoot camera like the Canon G10 that can capture in a RAW file format, you can get good results editing a single RAW image. In some cases you will need to use a single image anyway, if you’re capturing people, animals or other types of action. Two, RAW, RAW and more RAW although not a requirement, this is the best format to use for HDR because it simply gives the HDR software more information to use and the end result is just better. On the other hand if done right, JPEG can produce good HDR. In fact the IKE Water Line HDR Picture was generated by a single JPEG. Last, a Good HDR program. Photomatix Pro is what I’m using for HDR images and even though there are a lot of HDR programs out there Photomatix in my opinion really does do the best job at producing solid, great looking HDR’s in very little time. One cool thing about Photomatix Pro is that it’s also available in a full featured trial version for both Mac and PC that you can try for free before you buy it, so check it out. The trial version does put a watermark on your finished image but never-the-less this trial is a great and free way to get your feet wet with HDR. The Trial version can be downloaded at
When working with HDR, the idea is that you typically take 3 exposures of different values using the exposure compensation of your camera. One normal (0), one under exposed (-1 to -3) and one over exposed (+1 to +3 ). The Canon 40D that I use has an auto bracketing feature that when set will do this automatically. This feature is common among SLR’s but if you don’t have an SLR handy you can set the exposure compensation of your camera manually between shots. Just don’t move your camera between shots (use a tripod). If you’re using 1 image to do your HDR, you will need to duplicate two more copies of you picture ( total of three ) then edit your exposure values of each before you open up your HDR software. You can do this in just about any photo eding software. Most programs will have an exposure slider. Adjust the exposure control to the left or right to the desired look. If your using Photoshop you can simply enter in the EV you want ( which is nice BTW ) You’ll have to experiment with this for a while. I’d start of with a plus 1 or plus 2 and then a negative 1 or negative 2. It’s best to keep your 3 values symmetrical. First picture -1.5, second 0, and third +1.5, and so on.
Once you have your three pictures, you’re ready to get started. Believe it or not, getting good pictures to work with is the hardest part of the HDR process. As the old saying go’s “Garbage in garbage out” is never more true than when working with post editing effects. Using the HDR software it’s self is a little tricky and has some learning curve to it, but it’s relatively straight forward.
Once you have the pictures you want to turn into an HDR, open up Photomatix Pro. By the way if you haven’t already, you can also download sample images from hdrsoft.com. This is a good way to start and it will give you a good idea of what to do when you start shooting your own pictures for HDR. The dialog box that opens when you launch Photomatix Pro will give you a hand full of options but for now, just click on the “Generate HDR Image” icon. A second dialog box will open asking you to select the images you would like to use in your HDR. From here browse and Select the Pictures you want then click “ok”.
Another way to do this is to highlight the pictures want then right click and choose “open with” Photomatix Pro.
After that, one of two new diolog boxes will open up. If the photos you picked already have the exposure meta data imbedded in them the next box you will see is the HDR Options box. For now you can just use the default options that are already preselected for you. The RAW conversion setting options in this box will only appear if your using RAW or Digital Negatives. The other box you may see ( depending on the type of file you’re using ) is the Exposure settings window. Here you can change the exposure values to the desired levels if the ones preselected are not what you need. This can be done using the “E.V spacing” drop down menu or by selecting the exposure levels manually.
Once you have the exposure values at the right spacing you’re ready to continue and click “OK”. Photomatix will then start to work its magic and begin processing your HDR. However this not the end of the HDR process. After Photomatix processes you’re images you will be presented with a preview that will NOT look good ( this is normal your not done yet ) and right next to this image you will see a new dialog box that has the “Tone Mapping” Icon. Click that and your HDR image will start to come to life. In the Tone Mapping settings is where the HDR becomes true to it’s reputation. From here you will be given two different way’s to adjust your HDR image. One is the “Details Enhancer” and the other is “Tone Compressor” For now stick with the Details Enhancer option, it’s selected by default anyway. Now before you do anything else you may want to sit back and take a look at what you have already. The default settings in Photomatix Detail Enhancer actually look pretty good.
Well, that’s about it. The basics of HDR. From here on out you’re on your own. Try different presets, experiment with the different settings and remember, The quality of the pictures you start with will have the biggest impact on how they look as an HDR. Also be cautious about your edits to your images before they go in to the HDR process. Try to hold off on as many if not all of these edits until you have your finished HDR. Good Luck and have fun.