Creating HDR Images for Newbies

October 2, 2010

Firstly, in case you’re unaware, HDR is short for High Dynamic Range. This is a common technique used by photographers to manipulate a scene to create proper exposure when otherwise impossible through post-processing.

A perfect example for this is capturing a landscape with a clear and bright sky. What will happen is the sky will be over-exposed, or the landscape will be under-exposed. This is where HDR comes in. The idea is simple, however the process can be quite time consuming. What has to happen is instead of taking one capture, you would need to ideally take at least 3. One for the highs, one for the lows, and one with proper exposure. The most common method is to simply set your camera to bracketing mode with a 2EV difference in exposures. In most scenarios this will enable you to capture all ranges of detail.

I’ll explain how this is done in Photoshop, since its the most commonly used application. Once you’ve got your captures:

  1. Open them with the RAW editor, SELECT ALL, and click OPEN IMAGE(S)
  2. Next, FILE > AUTOMATE > MERGE TO HDR
  3. Click on ADD OPEN FILES and hit OK
  4. Now you should see a preview of your HDR image.
  5. You will want to change the BIT DEPTH to 16-Bit, and also adjust your white point if you need to on the histogram
  6. Click OK to convert
  7. In the new window, if you want to adjust the TONING CURVE AND HISTOGRAM, change the method to LOCAL ADAPTATION
  8. Adjust the THRESHOLD to how you see fit and then hit OK
  9. You’ve now successfully created an HDR image! From here you can go ahead and do other modifications to the image if you feel the need.

This was the perfect situation for using HDR, since photographing a dark subject will normally cause everything else to become over-exposed.

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