Home Photo Tips HDR Photography Tutorial

HDR Photography Tutorial

What is HDR?

Lately, there has been a spur in interest to make HDR images. Everywhere we look, Flickr, blogs and other social media channels, we see photographers posting the result of their experiments with this technique. It encourages us to create a few of ours. But how do we go about doing it? What is HDR Photography actually?

Meadowlark Gardens Revisited HDR
Meadowlark Gardens – Revisited HDR by Nicolas Raymond

HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. HDR Photography is a composite of two or more images of the same scene that are shot at different exposures and then combined together in order to create one perfectly exposed image. HDR imaging technique is primarily dependent on post-processing tools because it is very difficult to get everything perfectly exposed in one single image.

Just like anything else in photography, there are more than one ways to create HDR images. You could simply shoot one image in RAW and then adjust it to create an HDR image as well as make several images of the same scene and then combine everything together.

Al Capone's Luxurious Prison Cell HDR
Al Capone’s Luxurious Prison Cell – HDR by Nicolas Raymond

Basic Tools you Need to Create an HDR Image:

• Camera
• Lens
• Tripod (optional if you choose to shoot more than one images)
• Photo editing program like Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom
• A dedicated HDR program like Photomatix Pro.

Photomatix Pro 6 HDR photo editing software
High Dynamic Range Photography Software

Shooting one single image and then creating different components out of it allows you to counter a lot of issues like image blur and compositional differences. In this tutorial we are going to learn how to create a HDR image with only one RAW frame.


Making the image is very easy. Just follow normal approach and capture the frame(s) that you wish to convert to RAW. Take care to shoot them all in RAW because this is a loss less compression allowing you to tweak everything in Photoshop.

Buick '57 HDR
Buick `57 by Stephanie Kroos

Post-processing: Basic corrections

The first thing that you need (after the image is shot) is to open them in Camera RAW. When you open an image in Adobe Photoshop Camera Raw automatically takes over. This neat little program allows you to tweak some basic issues such as white balance adjustment, lens profile correction, clarity and exposure.

Creating the Component Images

Once this is done you will need to create the separate images that will be used as component for the main HDR image. If you have shot separate images with exposure compensation dialed in you can skip this step.

Iconography by Theodore C
Iconography by Theodore C

Here we adjust the exposure compensation and create several images. Name them so that you can easily identify which is which. I prefer to use a naming convention like image_name_ev_XX. Here ‘XX’ is the amount of exposure compensation used for each component image in Adobe RAW. If you use advanced HDR software such as Photomatix Pro you will need the images to be named like this.

Blending the Images Together

Open Photomatix Pro and blend the images together. This is the easy bit. Load the images on to Photomatix Pro. This is an advanced software and will automatically detect how much compensation has been used. But it still is beneficial to let it know exactly how much exposure compensation values has been dialed in. Once the images are blended together you will have what is a preliminary HDR file. This will be good enough for you to understand how vastly different the original and this new composite images are.

A pro would not stop here and this is where advanced plugins like Nik Software’s HDR Efex Pro comes into the picture. There is also another excellent plugin, Topaz Adjust, but if you can master HDR Efex Pro you wouldn’t need it except for giving your images some really out of this world effects.

Both these work as plugins for Adobe Photoshop and all you need to do is work your way around these to give the image the right effect. Please note, there are plenty of examples of HDR image attempts going bad with photographers going overboard with their editing. Whatever you do try and keep sanity to everything so that the final result looks natural. Happy clicking!

Photo Editing to Achieve a High Dynamic Range (HDR)

The way that photographers achieve photographs with a very high dynamic range such as the one above is by combining different exposures of a photograph where the detail can get captured at each exposure and then the best of each photograph is combined. Sound like a lot of work? Luckily we have computers to do most of the heavy lifting, and new gadgets such as the iPhone 4 do all the merging within the device.

Or, if you can prefer you can use your favorite photo editing software like Photoshop. In photoshop you just go to File > Automate > Merge to HDR.

It used to be when moving from film to digital your camera automatically looses a few stops of dynamic range because the digital sensors are not as capable of capturing the details of the brightest and darkest parts of the photograph as film. Although digital had once lost the battle of dynamic range, it’s now only because of digital technologies we can achieve photographs like the one below.

hdr photo

ISO and Dynamic Range

A lower ISO sensitivity provides a higher dynamic range. In other words an ISO 0f 50 provides more detail throughout the photograph than an ISO of 400.

HDR Mimics the Eye

The thing that makes HDR so wonderful is that it get’s photographs closer than they’ve ever been before to being what we see. Our eyes instantaneously refocus as we look from a dark area to a light, and we see an incredible amount of detail. HDR allows cameras to match that ability and even move beyond it.

HDR Photography Video Courses from Udemy

HDR Photography for Beginners (video course)

HDR Photography for Beginners - photography course from Udemy
Learn to Shoot and Create Stunning HDR Photographs!

HDR Photography Tutorial. Learn To Creating Stunning HDR (video course)

HDR Photography Tutorial. Learn To Creating Stunning HDR - photography course from Udemy
A full detailed tutorial for the photographer that explains all you need to know to take, edit and manipulate HDR images

The HDR Masterclass (video course)

The HDR Masterclass - photography course from Udemy
Start-to-Finish HDR Photography

Mastering HDR Picture Making (video course)

Learn how to significantly ramp up the visual impact of your photography with this high energy manipulation process

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. We also participant in the Udemy Affiliate Program, an affiliate advertising program that provides a means for our site to earn fees by linking to Udemy.com.

Photography Course
Photography Coursehttp://photographycourse.net/
Photography Course offers free courses, tutorials, tips, and tricks for photographers of all skill levels. Browse our collection of courses from photographers all around the world to take your passion to the next level.


A Guide To The 61 Most Frequently Asked Photography Questions

New to photography? We’ve compiled a useful and comprehensive photography guide for those wanting to learn more about photography. This guide...

Multispectral Imaging: What is it used for?

You may be surprised to learn that there's a kind of photography that captures images of things that you can't see. It's...

Understanding Post Production in Lightroom

Post Production in Adobe Lightroom Learning how to properly edit your images is vital in a digital photography world....

Using Leading Lines in Composition

Learning composition starts with an understanding of how humans look at things and how they see things. When a viewer looks at...

Free Photography Courses from Alison.com

Free Photography Courses We have found another great resource offering online free photography courses. Alison.com offers five free photography...

Digital Photography Course by Stanford Professor

We are constantly on the lookout for free quality photography education and training resources, and we found an outstanding series of Lectures on Digital...


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Cart Item Removed. Undo Have a coupon ?
  • No products in the cart.