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HDR Photography Explained

How to achieve Dynamic Range in your Photos?

The word HDR means High Dynamic Range. While the definition seems a bit too easy, the elaboration may need a few more words to make sense.

You see, HDR photos tend to capture a very high dynamic range, meaning, they tend to capture a lot more detail from the otherwise highlighted and shadow areas in a scene than a standard picture would.

Related Post: Best HDR Software

Case Scenario

HDR Photography Explained
Photo credit: Jonohey

Let’s say you want to capture a landscape scene.

The sun is rising on the eastern horizon, and the golden hue of the rising sun is casting a beautiful color tone on the mountains. You would, like anybody else in such a situation, want to take a picture.

However, there is a problem. Much of the scene is in shadow while only a small portion of it is highlighted. That means you can either expose for the golden sunlight and the rest of the picture will be too dark, or expose for the shadow areas and risk blowing up details in the highlighted areas.

It will be optically impossible to properly expose for both the shadows and the highlights in a single exposure without the use of any additional tools.

This is where HDR photography techniques come into the picture. It combines three or more exposures to create one single image with details retained from both the shadow and the highlighted areas.

Method 1

HDR Photography Explained
photo credit: Stuck in Customs

There are two different ways to do HDR Photography.

One is to do it manually, i.e., capture multiple (three or more) exposures of the same scene by adjusting the settings and then compiling the images in a HDR photo editing software.

This is hard work. You will need to expose for the shadows in the first exposure, then for the mid-tones and then finally in the last exposure for the highlights.

HDR Photography Explained
photo credit: marcp_dmoz

Additionally, you will need to ensure that the camera does not move in between the exposures because even if it moves a little, you ruin the whole image.

Neither can the auto-focusing be engaged because in that case, you run the risk of changing the focusing point. You will need to set focus in the first exposure and then switch to manual mode.

Once the images are captured, you will require to open them in a photo editing software and combine them together.

HDR Photography Explained
photo credit: marcp_dmoz

Related Post: Best HDR Cameras

Method 2

HDR Photography Explained
photo credit: u n c o m m o n

The second method of doing HDR photography involves using the built-in HDR mode of the camera.

A number of modern DSLR cameras come built with this feature. It is known as Auto Exposure Bracketing. The camera itself adjusts the exposure and takes three (or more) images of a particular scene in less than a second.

Then it combines them together in-camera to create one single image. You have the option to, however, set the exposure compensation range.

Like you can set +/- 1 stop to allow a wider compensation or set +/- 1/3 stop for a smaller compensation between the exposures.


Ensure that you are using a tripod. This is extremely important as you cannot afford to have your camera wobble while the shots are being taken.

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