Welcome to my FREE step by step written HDR Tutorial
HDR stands for High Dynamic Range and has been one of the most talked about and controversial methods of photography in recent years, it is still a relatively new way to process photo’s. Some photographers will tell you that post processing your photo’s is a no-no… especially when it comes to HDR.
The Remarkables – Queenstown New Zealand in HDR
I took this photo when I was touring around New Zealand’s South Island. It’s an amazing place and is a landscape photographers playground. Here HDR allows me to capture the full dynamic range of the scene, the sun was rising and starting to colour the sky, the foreground is super interesting too, I wanted to capture all the details, HDR allowed me to!
This Free HDR tutorial is for you whether you’re a brand new photographer wanting to learn how to make your photo’s stand out or you’re an advanced photographer wanting to add HDR photography to your toolkit. This HDR tutorial will teach you how to create HDR without overcooking it! Overcooking is for steak… not HDR… really, steak isn’t nice overcooked either! I like mine Medium rare…. if you want to learn how to make yummy HDR everyone will love, keep reading!
I think that is because there is some horrible HDR out there… I made some horrible HDR in the beginning, and you will too! The good news is that as you practice your HDR processing, it will improve and people will have a hard time picking that your photo’s are HDR in the first place… They’ll just give you nice compliments!
HDR Works great inside too!
I took this shot inside an abandoned building, HDR was the only way to get all the details, the light through the windows was way too bright for anything else, and there were holes all through the roof as well, this was from a previous hail storm and the light was shining through each hole with intensity, without HDR this shot would be dull and boring.
In this HDR tutorial I am going to take you through the workflow I use for creating a HDR image. HDR is how I process most of my photos. I am going to keep this as simple as I can (because, it really is simple) and in a short amount of time I will help you to create fantastic HDR images!
Software You Need…
HDR Software – To be able to complete the HDR tutorial you are going to need some software, I use Photomatix Pro, I have tried lots of HDR software and find Photomatix to be the best and it’s very affordable. I suggest you download the free trial to see if it’s for you, if you want to purchase Photomatix you can use the Coupon code ‘ON3LEGS’ for a 15% discount, you can get it from here -> Photomatix DOWNLOAD
Software that is just nice to have…
Topaz Labs – When i’m in the final stages of cleaning up my image, what I call step 3 in the HDR tutorial, I will use Topaz Adjust or Topaz Detail to really bring out the detail in my images. Topaz Labs makes awesome software and at the very minimum, if you can only afford one of their products, I recommend you get Topaz Adjust.
Use the Coupon code ‘ON3LEGS’ for a 15% discount – You can get it from here -> Topaz Labs DOWNLOAD – If you can afford it get the full bundle, you’ll save more money that way and they have some other great software too, I use all of their plugins, Adjust is my favourite but they’re all good… by the way, the Topaz products are great to use on any photo… not just HDR.
I used Topaz Adjust to bring out the detail in this shot.
When I shoot something like this underground train station with heaps of cool detail, I want to be able to bring out all the detail. Topaz Adjust is one of my all time favourite plugins, it is a great way to make my photos really stand out from the crowd.
What is HDR?
Have you ever taken a photo of an amazing scene and then got home to view your photos on your computer screen only to find that they look flat and dull? yeah… me too. And it didn’t matter what type of camera I used, sure, my more expensive DSLR produced a better result than my point and shoot… but the photo still did not look like what I saw… why?
The human eye is an amazing bit of gear, combined with your brain it can capture an extraordinary amount of light and colour information (dynamic range). Unfortunately, the sensor in your camera does not have the dynamic range of your eye, this is why when you take a photo, it quite often looks nothing like you remember. The higher the dynamic range of the scene, the harder it is for your camera to capture it.
HDR is a way of replicating what your eyes can do. Quite simply, to create a HDR photo we’re taking several photo’s of the same scene, but at slightly different settings, we then combine them all together to get one photo with all the light and colour info, just like our eyes.
If you have looked through my photo’s, you may have noticed they have a slightly different look and feel to them, quite often people comment that they look like a painting. The reason for this is that an artist will paint a picture as they ‘see’ it… so they’re capturing all of the dynamic range of their eyes in the painting. So when you see a HDR photo that has all of the dynamic range, you feel it looks like a painting.
In this HDR tutorial there a 3 very simple steps to creating your HDR image, well 2 really, the 3rd step is kind of an optional one that I always use, and recommend… (we will cover each step in more detail soon in the HDR Tutorial).
The Road to Mount Cook in HDR
If you ever find yourself driving around the South Island of New Zealand this is one place you just have to visit. After cruising along side a turquoise lake for about an hour, this it the view! The mountain in the foreground is not Mount Cook, you can just see the peak of Mount Cook behind it, apparently it is often covered with cloud and hard to spot, I was happy that as soon as I arrived it was poking up above the cloud, so I stopped and took this shot. Taken using HDR and post processed with Topaz Adjust.
It’s as easy as 1,2,3
1. Capturing the image
There are a couple of ways of creating your HDR photo, you can use a single RAW file, or you can use multiple exposures. The easiest way to get multiple exposures is to have a camera that has an ‘auto bracketing’ feature. I use a Nikon D800 for most of my photography, it has auto-bracketing, most DSLR’s will. Sometimes I use my Fuji X-E1 and I have to manually adjust the exposure, or just use a single RAW file.
2. Creating your HDR
This is where you need HDR software like Photomatix – Download the free trial or use the Coupon code ‘ON3LEGS’ for a 15% discount, you can get it from here -> Photomatix DOWNLOAD – It is really quite simple and in the next couple of pages I am going to show you how I use Photomatix
3. Photoshop Cleanup
Technically, you don’t need photoshop to create your HDR photo, Photomatix does all the HDR wizardry, however, if you’re picky like me, you will want to spend a little time in photoshop after you have made your HDR image cleaning up. If you need Photoshop you can Get it HERE
Before and After HDR
The before photo is what came out of camera as the ‘correct exposure’, because I was shooting into the sun the camera’s sensor is unable to cope with the dynamic range of the scene and I end up with a flat, dull and washed out photo. After processing it with HDR software and doing a little work in photoshop afterwards… it comes to life.