While trawling the Internet for cool stuff, I came across a great post by the folks over at Smashing Magazine on HDR images, I had seen these images all over the net and they catch my eye every time, using HDR to create an almost surreal effect for your pictures.

So naturally I had to give it a go!

Things you will need:

Camera (with the ability to change to manual mode, Shutter speed and Apperture) I’m using a Canon 400D D-SLR
Tripod (you need to be able to take the same photo over and over)
PhotoMatrix Program (Get a trial Here)

What is HDR?

High Dynamic Range is the range of different light levels you can see, your eyes have great dynamic range, look out the window in a well lit room, you can still see everything outside as well as inside, but a camera’s dynamic range is not so crash hot, try taking a photo and capture the details inside the room and outside, not so easy is it! You will either end up with a well lit room and the outside detail is completely white, or you will catch the detail of the outside but now inside its just too dark to see anything inside!

How do we fix this? enter HIGH DYNAMIC RANGE PHOTOS!

So the basic concept is: take a few photos with different light settings, combine the images with some sort of HDR creating programs (get to that bit in a second) and then mess around with the settings until the photo is how you want it to look.

So lets do that:

First thing, find a nice scene where there is strong lights and low lights (this will make the photo look extra cool). I have used my car with the sky in the background. (usually i could get a nice photo of the car, or a nice photo of the sky, not both)

Taking the photos:

Set up you camera on a tripod.

Now the trick to changing the light settings is to use shutter speed and not aperture, you don’t want each photo to have different depths of field.

Also try to take the exact same image each time (the HDR programs can try to align the features of the images up but sometimes it does funny things to the picture). Don’t move the camera at all and if you have one, its highly recommended to use a remote for you camera.

I usually take 5 photos, one photo with the light meter off the scale (say +4 ev) you will get an almost white photo, next bring your light meter down to about +2ev and take a photo and so on for 0ev, -2ev and -4ev.

Now we have 5 pictures of the exact same thing but will different light settings.


Now lets upload them to the computer.

Now we need to use a HDR merger program to get all the photos into one, adobe PhotoShop has a built in HDR creator under File > Automate > Merge to HDR.

This is good but its pretty difficult to get all the good highlights out of the picture unless you know your way around PS well.

I’m going to take the easy way out today, using a sweet program called PhotoMatrix. You can jump on their website and grab a trial version to give it a go.

Install the program and click generate HDR image, select your 5 pictures and hit go! Give it a little time and it will come back to you with your HDR image, it probably doesn’t look very good at the moment but when you click the “Tone Mapping” button you will notice a great difference in the picture. If the images are lined up well, it should look pretty awesome already.

At the side you have a heap of sliders that do all sorts of cool stuff to the image and all you need to do is just play around with the settings to get the effects you are looking for.

And that’s about all there is to it! Create awesome HDR pictures quick!