YOUR 3 REQUIREMENTS FOR GREAT HDR RESULTS
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Most cameras sold today can take great HDR photos.
To make an HDR image, make sure your camera fits the following requirements:
- Is able to take multiple photos in something called (depending on your camera manufacturer) “Auto-bracketing mode” or “Auto-exposure mode” or “Exposure Bracketing” . This will take, for example, three shots...one under-exposed, one normal, and one over-exposed
These are called "Exposure Values" (EV) and in this case of 3 shots represented by -2, 0, +2
5 shots would be represented as -2, -1, 0, +1, +2 etc.
YouTube contains many videos on how to set up your particular camera for bracketing.
Search for "<camera make and model> set up bracketing"
- For best results, make sure your camera is set up to allow you to take RAW shots.
RAW is a specific file format that captures all image data recorded by the sensor when you take a photo. When shooting in a format like JPEG image information is compressed and lost. Refer to your camera's manual to learn how to change formats.
- You can also take just one shot using RAW format, however the results when using HDR will not be as good as using multiple exposures.
If you are taking photos of landscape-type scenes, sunrises, sunsets and still objects, you will achieve better results with your camera mounted on a sturdy tripod. This helps to avoid camera movement as opposed to hand-held which can cause "ghosting" of movement in the shot.
Investing in a good tripod will pay dividends !
You then use software to create the HDR image.
Programs such as Photomatix and Photoshop are popular choices. These combine the bracketed shots to expand the light captured in the exposures by bringing out darker and lighter areas.
After creating the image, you can then process the image by increasing or decreasing various colors, contrast, black and white balance etc. This simply is done by using sliders and is called "tone mapping".
You can then save the tone mapped image and post-process to refine it further if you wish in Photoshop, Lightroom, NIK software and others.
Photomatix Pro is highly recommended. Easy to use, giving excellent results, it is the most popular HDR processing software on the market. Retailing at $99 it is a wise investment for all photographers. There is a non-expiring free trial version but this shows a watermark.
Download it from http://www.hdrsoft.com/order.php?id=201
Buying ? Use the coupon code UnitedPhotographics for a 15% discount. Both Windows and Mac versions are available.
Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom also allow HDR creation, but are a little slower than Photomatix.
For post-processing, Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, and Lightroom are popular choices.
Photoshop Elements, great for post-processing, and around $99 is much less expensive than Photoshop. It can be downloaded from adobe.com as a trial, as can the full version of Photoshop. These trial versions are usually limited to 30 days.
Google have now made the NIK suite of programs free. Simply Google search for "NIK" and download. Highly recommended.
Other software to consider :
Topaz Adjust will bring sharpness and wow into the final image.
Noiseware Professional is regarded as the best noise reduction software. Available in Windows and Mac