HDR or High Dynamic Range photos are photographs comprised of multiple pictures taken at different exposures and then stitched into one single layer or picture. Basically, you take the same picture multiple times at different exposures and then compile them into one final photograph. HDR photography works best when capturing images with a high dynamic range (a large difference between the lightest and darkest areas of an image) such as this one below that Sparksight did for St. David’s Georgetown Hospital.
Some cameras and even some newer phones will take HDR photos automatically and processes them internally. However, for more dramatic results I suggest taking HDR photos manually. Here are 4 tips that help ensure you get the most out of and shoot beautiful HDR photos:
Use a Tripod
For HDR photos turn out properly, your camera cannot move between shots. The easiest way to insure your camera stays steady between exposures is to use a tripod. You don’t need anything fancy, a $20 Amazon special or even a ‘pocket tripod’ will do the trick.
Take Multiple Exposures.
HDR photography works by combining multiple exposures of the same image into one picture. I normally take 6 to 9 exposures for every one HDR image I want to capture. Start by setting the camera to the proper exposure for any given scene. Next, close down the aperture until there is just noticeable detail remaining in the viewfinder (normally 2 to 3 f-stops). Take your first exposure, open the aperture ½ to 1 full stop, take your next exposure and repeat. Continue to take pictures until you reach a point where most of the detail in the viewfinder is blown out/over exposed. Some cameras have Auto Exposure Bracketing that will essentially do this for you, however I recommend taking HDR photos manually.
Use a Self-Timer or a Remote Trigger.
Most digital cameras have a self-timer function built in. I suggest using this feature when taking HDR photos. Even when using a tri-pod there can be a bit of camera shake when you push the shutter release button, using the self-timer or a remote shutter release will help eliminate this shaky. Camera movement or shaking will result in lower quality HDR photos.
When taking HDR photos, use manual focus if you have the option. Taking HDR photos requires that you capture over and under exposed images. Auto focus systems will tend to hunt for focus while you are capturing these extreme exposures, setting the focus manually and locking it off will eliminate this issue. In addition, you want the focus point to be the same in all of the pictures you plan on merging together. So use that manual focus!
A little bit of practice and following these 4 simple tips will result in some very beautiful HRD photos. Good luck and happy shooting! If you have more tips to add, please let us know in the comments!