For Photographers: Tricks and Tips: HDR

I was a bit slow off the mark with HDR, having always favored a simple and natural stye of photography, but recently I’ve been trying it out and am really excited about introducing it into my wedding photography.

HDR stands for High Dynamic Range, but practically speaking, it is taking a number of different exposures of the same shot and merging them together. This allows you to expose different elements of a scene together more effectively, such as sky and land, that may have not worked so well in a single photograph. As in this scene I choose, to achieve the desired exposure in the sky would have underexposed the town in the background, and lost all the details of the lights street lights. At the same time, to expose Abi correctly would have meant the lights above her would have been blown out.

There are a number of softwares that create HDR photographs, but I use Photoshop. This is the workflow I used for this shot.

I took five exposures of the same scene using a tripod, one after another, reducing the shutter speed after each shot. They were taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark III, Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II at 21mm, ISO 800, f10. The first shot was exposed for 1/10th sec and the last shot was for 2 secs.

I opened all five of the images in Photoshop and selected the automatic HDR function: File – Automate – Merge to HDR Pro.

Once in the ‘Merge HDR Pro’ window, you can then use the different controls to create the desired effect.

Click OK, and Photoshop will generate the HDR.

I then used made a number adjustments to the HDR image:

  • A Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to desaturated the whole image.
  • A Curves adjustment layer to tweak the exposure and contrast.
  • A curves layer with a gradient tool to create a vignette.
  • A curves layer painted in using the brush tool, to make the sky more dramatic.

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  • December 17, 2014 - 11:34 pm

    Charley Smith - Sounds good! I’ll have to give it a try. Thanks for the tip! Best wishes, Charley

  • November 7, 2014 - 8:35 am

    David Wilkins - Hello Charley
    just read your article on HDR. I use Photomatix pro occasionally for my wedding work I am a Landscape turned wedding photographer. I convert a single RAW file this means I can get shots of the B&G in the frame without requiring multiple exposures, it works fairly well but you do have to watch skin tones. Second picture in on my home page portfolio of St Michaels mount was processed this way

  • June 23, 2013 - 1:48 am

    Dave - For those of us who unable to afford Photoshop I’ve found Photomatrix Pro ( to be a good stand alone program for HDR processing that also integrates with LR as a plugin.

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