For those of you who don’t know, HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. The point of HDR is to take pictures that show both the darks and lights in a scene. Normally, when you take a picture, the camera adjusts to make one part come out with the correct lighting, but another part will either be under or over-exposed. That’s where HDR comes in. It allows you to take pictures where no part is over or under-exposed.
First you have to take the photos. One thing that you definitely need is a tripod so that you don’t get any ghosting between your bracketed photos. It’s best to bracket from -2 to +2 on your exposures. How to do this varies on different cameras, but after playing around for a while, I’m sure you’ll find an exposure bracketing option. Exposure bracketing is when your camera automatically takes an under-exposed picture, normal exposure, and over-exposed picture which you then combine to form your HDR photo. Then set your camera (if it’s a DSLR) to Av mode (aperture priority) so that the depth of field doesn’t change between the bracketed photos. Set your ISO to 100 to minimize the amount of noise that appears in your photos. Now you’re ready to take the pictures.
Now that you have the pictures, you’re ready to make your HDR photo! A software that you need is Photomatix Pro. It is the best HDR software on the market. Assuming you’ve bought it, open up all of your bracketed photos in Photomatix Pro. Select “Align source images”, “By matching features”, and “Crop aligned images”.If you did not use a tripod, which I already warned against, select “Reduce ghosting artifacts”. Now hit OK.
Now is when you get to make your HDR photo. Drag the strength all the way to 100. You should have no trouble with that, but you can always tone it down at the end if you think it’s too much. Then drag the color saturation to about 70 (this you will most likely change at the end). Skip the next few sliders for now and go to smoothing. This is where you get the awesome HDR effects. Drag it to the left for the most dramatic photo, but don’t overdo it since then you’ll get a really crazy picture. The next few sliders are also very important. Drag the black point slider to the right to get a more dramatic photo. White point brings out the bright parts and gamma makes the photo overall darker. The sliders below these do nothing essentially. You can now go back up and play with the other sliders until you are satisfied your photo.
Congratulations! You have now completed your HDR photo! If you’re photo-savvy already, you might want to reduce the noise in Photoshop.