How to make a simple HDR

By PF Staff in Favorite Photos on Dec 24, 2012

What is HDR? High Dynamic Range, first thing we heard about HDR photos is picture that always connected with bright and dramatic scene. Even though some scenes simply contain a greater brightness range than can be captured by current digital cameras — of any type but a single image can't capture all parts of the scene in a proper exposure, High dynamic range imaging utilizes this characteristic by creating images composed of multiple exposures.

Generating an image series for HDR works better if you have a tripod since you'll want avoid the slightest shake or variation between shots. It also works better if you have more than 3 shots to combine, perhaps as many as 5 or 7 shots. This picture below is example of a simple HDR. I try to make black and white HDR despite to dramatize the pattern of the sky, even though in order to get that i have to lower down my tripod very low so i can get a unique low angle because sometimes 16 mm is not wide enough in APS-C sensor to make a good composition.

Click on the image for a larger version

Equipment & Settings Used

  • Pentax K-7
  • Sigma 16mm F2.8
  • Manfrotto 7322SHB
  • Shutter speed: 1/100 with EV 1,7 bracketing in 3 frame
  • WB setting : Cloud/Sunny
  • Aperture: F8
  • ISO: 100
  • Shooting mode: Av
  • File format: JPEG

Software Used

First step is to take a few pictures with different exposure

For technical reasons, we can merge the images using new feature of Photoshop or using Photomatix software, accomplishes this by combining a series of bracketed exposures into a single image, which encompasses the tonal detail of the entire series. I usually take 3 shots each spaced 1,7 EV exposure values apart - one at EV -1,7, one at EV 0 (which is the most correctly exposed photo), and one at EV +1,7. Here is an example of 3 shots I recently took:  

Tips : only use HDR when the scene's brightness distribution cannot be easily blended using a graduated neutral density (GND) filter. This is because GND filters extend dynamic range while still maintaining local contrast. Scenes which are ideally suited for GND filters are those with simple lighting geometries, such as the linear blend from darker land to a brighter sky in landscape photography

In those picture above I prefer to used JPEG file because its more lighter and like standard JPEG engine, it can be converted to 8 bits/channel using processes that adjust highlights, shadows, luminance among other things (depending on how it's done) to fit within the 8-bit range.

This picture called “unprocessed” HDR, much like a film negative or RAW file shot with a DSLR camera, in this picture you can't see all of the captured detail until the JPEG file is processed for HDR or monitor displaying. The main process that i want to show is how to process an unprocessed HDR photograph with a technique called tone mapping, which displays highlights and shadows contained in the unprocessed HDR image.

Second step is to generate and tone map the HDR in Photomatix and Photoshop

For this step you will need Photomatix Pro. While it's possible to do this with Photoshop CS3 or other HDR software, Photomatix is a much better tool - it gives you better results and is much easier to use.

1. Click "Browse..." and select the 3 photos you took (by clicking each one while holding down CTRL on a PC) then keep Align source images checked. Then leave the "Attempt to reduce ghosting artifacts’" option checked as well. 

2. Choose the enhancer B/W mode to make black white HDR in preset thumbnail that already available in that list, just like the picture shown above. You can also set the tonal range compression in order to gain contrast and also brightness.

3. After doing tone mapping or tone enhancer in Photomatix then save this file in extension TIFF mode 16 bit or lower. Within TIFF extension, the colour depth will be save as same as previously original picture. So we wouldn’t lose any colour compression during this post processing.

4. In this last step , you can open the picture in adobe Photoshop CS3 to do final retouching such us cropping, make a better contrast or try to reduce noise with Photoshop extension. In this finishing step just try to make the colour of the sky as dramatic as you want.

As digital sensors attain progressively higher resolutions, and thereby successively smaller pixel sizes, the one quality of an image which does not benefit is its dynamic range.  Shooting in a RAW also an option but remembers sometimes it will be more difficult to gain contrast and brightness in the scene because we use more than one image in every HDR photos. The contrast depth can be similar with other images so i suggest shooting in JPEG mode because recently JPEG mode is already compress with modern algorithm which can gain more contrast and shadow in multiple images. This is particularly apparent in modern compact cameras with 12 or more megapixels, as these are more susceptible than ever to blown highlights or noisy shadow detail. Furthermore, some scenes simply contain a greater brightness range than can be captured by current digital cameras — of any type.


Post processing is the last stage in HDR photography that you can control. This is where technical skills merge with creative sensibility. And with the introduction of advanced digital cameras and photo editing software, HDR image post-processing is made a lot easier. Post-processing software also allows you to blend photographs with different exposures. This clearly increases the dynamic range of the final output photo. There is also tone mapping which reveals highlight and shadow details in an HDR image made from multiple exposure. As the conclusion , i just want people to see what I saw and hopefully feel what I felt. I’ll use HDR, black and white, cross processing, low contrast, high contrast, any other form of processing to get me to that nice little jpg to show people.

- ewig

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