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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You think your ready, you think you’ve got all of the necessary equipment, the right lens, your subject is there and waiting to be captured, the lighting is flawless… but there are a multitude of other factors that many people forget about when in the moment. So you take the shot, and something is wrong, its blurry, under/overexposed, etc.. and you think to yourself, why? Next time, always keep the following in back of your mind:

  • Only Darkness. The Lens cap – Yes, this is huge for everyone; of course you realize it’s on once you take a peek through the view finder, but from the time you notice your subject to the time you take the lens cap off is valuable time, and by the time it’s off, you may have lost the ideal opportunity.
  • Over/Underexposed? The Exposure Compensation You think everything is just right, the lighting, the composition, so you then take the photograph, but while reviewing it in the LCD, it doesn’t look like how you thought it would, even though you swore you had everything right. Many times, you have probably forgotten to reset the exposure compensation.
  • The Twitchy hands – This would have to be even more common than the lens cap being on, and the worst part is, many photographers don’t even know its their own hands that are the culprit. With most people, when they press the shutter, their whole hand tends to push the camera off of where it was originaly framed, some deviate moreso than others. Clearly, the longer the exposure time, the more prone your hands are to blur the image. Taking a breath and being in a comfortable position can help, a tripod is even better though.
  • Grain?! The ISO – Much like forgetting to reset the exposure compensation, just as many people forget about checking the ISO. For example if you were shooting in a dark setting the night before, and the next day you’re in a well lit scene, this should be the number one tweek you should remember.
  • Where’s my ____ ? Forgetting Gear – The avid photographer may have various gear, things like lenses, tripods, lighting equipment, etc. Specifically with lenses, it’s very easy to forget the only one that you actually need for. Be sure to predict the scene(s) you will run into throughout the day, so you can be prepared.
  • …Its Dead. The Battery – If this list was in order, this would definately be number one, if not close to the top. Always, always, and always check the battery life before you head out. Either check the life early, incase you need to have it charged, or always have a back up battery that is fully charged.