Lesson from the Shop: Seven Elements to Great HDR Images by Gavin Phillips

By Gavin Phillips

On any new journey, it’s important to figure out where you’re going and pack the right gear. Likewise, when diving deep into HDR, keep in mind the following practical tips. 

1. Camera Set-Up and Essential Equipment

a)    Shoot RAW – there’s more post processing flexibility regarding exposure and color correction when shooting RAW files. The other popular format is JPG, which uses a compressed amount of pixel information. 
b)   Use the lowest ISO - Keep within ISO 100 – 800. Anything higher produces serious noise issues (digital artifacting).
c)    Set Aperture High – a routine setting for daylight is f/11 outdoors; f/5.6 or f/8 for indoors.
d)    Bracketing – Set up your camera for auto bracketing, where your camera automatically fires off a set of multiple exposures at one or two stop increments. A preferred HDR set is 5 to 7 frames. 
e)    Tripod – The camera should be perfectly still during multiple exposures. One may shoot hand-held, but camera movement is a problem.
f)    Manual Color Correction – It’s essential for indoor shooting with artificial light. Try making the color perfect in camera. It will save a lot of post-processing time in Photoshop later.
g)    Memory Cards – Shooting RAW with sets of 5 to 7 exposures each, fills up memory cards fast. A shoot of 15-20 gigs in a day is not uncommon.
h)   Remote Release (optional) – It allows for remote firing of the HDR sets, without risking camera movement. It’s handy with very low light and long HDR exposure sequence sets. 


2. Make certain your digital camera sensor and lens are clean.


3. Get the shot “right” in the camera. Compose in the viewfinder, for the “exact” photo needed. Sometimes moving the camera an inch of two in any direction can remove a garbage can, light pole etc.


4. Look for interesting angles and unusual locations. Sometimes putting the camera on a rock or low angle provides a unique vantage point.


5. Take several HDR sets with variations on the point of focus.


6. Shoot multiple HDR sets. Sometimes it takes dozens of sets to get a few winners.


7. Wide-angle lenses are great, but beware of lens distortion. Although a modest amount of distortion could be corrected in Photoshop, it might be easier keeping the film plane straight in the camera when shooting.


Learn more about the HDR training and services that Gavin provides at his Web site and use your WeArePhotographers.com purchase code wearephoto to receive a 10% discount off the price.


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