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How to: HDR Photography

HDR photography. A tool that every photographer should have in their bag of tricks. Great for tricky shots where you need to capture detail in the highlights and low lights. Here are my tips and tricks on how to get set up and running.

What does HDR mean?

HDR means High Dynamic Range.

You might also results of this technique known as bracketed photography. A bracket is where you set your exposure a stop above and below properly exposed.

End of blog. Douces!


What you need:

  1. Camera- It's best to have a mirrorless or DSLR camera, but if you don't have the budget, you can pull this effect off with a smartphone camera or a well-equipped point and shoot. If you really want to hack this together, you can manually set your exposure shots.

  2. Tripod- If you don't have a tripod for your camera, you'll end up with ghosting.

  3. Remote- Helpful so you avoid camera shake.


Set up your shot on a tripod. Once you're ready, you need to set your exposure stops. On the Sony A7RIV, there is a shooting mode where you can set your bracket up. Properly expose the entire image. From there, in bracket mode, you hold down your shutter until all 3 frames are taken. If your camera doesn't have exposure bracketing, here's what you need to look for when setting up your bracket.

  1. Get your highlights properly exposed. This is your upper bracket. Your low lights may turn completely black, but that's okay. If you are real estate, expose so you can see what's outside the windows, which are typically the brightest part of the room. Landscapes? Shoot for the sky.

  2. Get your low-lights properly exposed. See if you can expose so your shadows are properly lit. For real estate, eliminate as many shadows as possible. Disregard the windows since we already shot for them.

  3. Get your mid-lights exposed. Find a balance between your highs and lows while avoiding blowouts.

Here's what they'll look like:

Note: You won't most likely have the wide-angle lens distortion like the images below. The distortion is intensified the closer you are to an object. To fix this, you need to apply lens correction to remove the warp. Alternatively, you can also use a tilt-shift lens. The images below were shot on a 14mm lens, which is technically in the range of a fisheye lens and distortion is something you'd need to crop out.




Final result after stitching

Putting it together

Now, the fun part. Dump those photos into a photo editing program, like Adobe Lightroom. Once imported, select your bracketed set, right-click, photo merge, and select HDR photo. You'll be able to choose the amount of HDR effect you get. Lightroom will then "stack" the photos and your album will be a little more manageable.

For real estate shots, I always aim to remove heavy shadows, which is why the image above is very bright. For landscapes, you might notice ghosting on windy days. To avoid ghosting, aim for calm days and a high frame rate.

HDR wrap-up

HDR is great for shots that have a wide range of highs and lows. It also helps if you can't light a scene, but are able to tote a tripod. HDR is a technique to practice and master for sure. Once you have it down, it will quickly become one of your most-used tricks to have in your bag.

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