How to Make HDR Images

Picture this. You’re walking outside with your camera when you see this absolutely beautiful scene. You’re thinking about how nice this picture will look on your wall and how you just have to photograph it. There’s only one thing standing in your way: the scene has a lot of contrast, and there isn’t a fast way to get everything lighted properly. Do you light the sky properly or the ground/shadows? If you knew how to make HDR images, you wouldn’t have to choose.

hdr tutorial

photo by Eric Kilby

A high dynamic range image is an image that has a greater dynamic range of luminance and it allows you to portray a greater amount of contrast in one image. Unlike the human eye, a camera can’t capture that great a difference of contrast in one moment. To create a HDR you are going to merge three to four different images to create a single HDR.

What you will need:

  • A camera that enables you to change the settings manually, preferably a camera that can be set to capture bracketed photos automatically. It doesn’t have to be a reflex camera; any camera will do, but you have to be able to change the settings. If you can’t change the settings but you can take photographs in RAW format that will also do, as you will see later on in the article.
  • A tripod. This allows you to take a couple of different photographs without messing up your frame or shot.
  • Photo editing software. This can be anything from Photoshop to GIMP, which is free to download.

Next you’re going to learn how to make HDR images. There are two ways of making them. The first method I’m going to explain takes longer but it has a better result. Here are the steps.

  1. Choose a subject you want to photograph and set up the tripod and focus in with your camera. The next thing you want to do is change your lighting settings. Put it to manual and underexpose four stops. You can do this by closing your aperture or shortening your shutter speed four times.
  2. Once you have your first photograph you are going to want to do the same but this time you’re going to underexpose 2 stops.
  3. The third step is to take a regular photograph, meaning you’re not going to under -or overexpose.
  4. Step four is to do the same thing as steps one and two but this time you are going to overexpose two and four stops. This will give you a total of five images varying in brightness.
  5. Load all the images into your photo editing software and put all the different photographs together. This step depends on which photo editing tool you are using. There are plenty of tutorials out there that explain how to merge them together.
hdr landscape photography

photo by magnetismus

Alternative HDR Method

If you don’t want to go out and take five different photographs but still want to know how to create HDR images then I’ve got good news for you. If you have a camera that has the ability to capture images in RAW format you can take one photograph (one with neutral lighting, meaning not over or underexposed) and create four additional images digitally and then merging those together.

About the Author
Robin Lipton is a photography enthusiast who regularly blogs about all things photography.

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3 responses to “How to Make HDR Images”

  1. Luminance HDR is a great free alternative HDR/Tonemapping software :

  2. blog says:

    I was suggested this web site by my cousin.

    I’m not sure whether this post is written by him as nobody else know such detailed about my trouble. You are wonderful! Thanks!

  3. Jeff Gauthier says:

    Wow, so many mistakes here. First you don’t ever want to change your aperture to get different exposure levels. You will get from darker to lighter, but the perspective of the shot will change and it will be really hard to match them up post processing.
    Though GIMP is free, it has a very steep learning curve. Give yourself a couple or weeks to learn it. It’s probably harder than Photoshop.
    On many cameras, you don’t have to put your camera into a manual mode as the author repeated a couple of times. Most recent cameras have an HDR or Bracketing button. You can leave your camera in Auto mode so it will select the best setting, engage the HDR and hold down the shutter.
    Tripods should be used whenever possible, not only for HDR. But you can shoot HDR successfully handheld if you try really hard to remain steady. Most HDR programs can match up the pixels just fine.
    Not a well researched article. Or, the author doesn’t have very much experience with cameras.

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