HDR Photography Tips

Here you will find HDR photo tips and information for taking great HDR photos (HDR = High Dynamic Range) from multiple photos. We also have HDR photo samples, comments section where our visitors can submit their HDR photo tips or suggestions on improving our HDR photo section of this website. So thank you for stopping by our website and we hope you contribute to this website with your tips and suggestions. Take care, and come back again soon.

HDR Photo Tips for taking great HDR photos!

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1) Set your camera to Aperture priority or Manual.....This is probably the most important tip for creating good HDR photos, that's why it is listed first..duh. The aperture for each bracketed photo should be the same, so the depth-of-field(focus) is the same for all the photos. If you have different aperture settings, then the focus will probably be different for each photo, so when they are combined together, it might make the HDR photo more blurry than it should be. A good aperture to start with is about F8 or smaller so more things are in focus, but it depends on what depth-of-field you want.

2) Use a tripod whenever possible.....This is one of the more important tips about creating good HDR photos. This will help to reduce ghosting and chromatic aberrations in your final HDR photo. If the camera moves between the bracketed photos, it will be harder for the HDR software to line up all the photos, and usually you will have ghosting and chromatic aberrations in your HDR photos, which don't look good.

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HDR Photo Tips Continued...

3) Focus on the same area for all bracketed photos.....For the same reason as in tip number one above, it is important to make sure your camera is focused on the same spot for all 3 or more bracketed photos. If it focuses on something in the distance for one photo and then something in the foreground for another, the sharpness of your HDR photo won't be very good. It is probably smart to manual focus or auto focus and then before taking the photos, change it to manual focus so the focus doesn't accidentally change while the 3 or more bracketed photos are being taken.

4) Try to limit the amount of moving objects in the photos.....Moving objects in HDR photos don't look very good, so if possible try and limit anything moving in your photos like people, cars, boats, birds, trees, or anything else. If there is lots of movement, then go for a longer shutter speed to really blur them out of the photo. Moving objects in HDR photos usually produces ghosting effects and/or chromatic aberrations, which really don't look good in your HDR photos, and they are difficult and time consuming to take out with photo editing software. Handheld HDR photos can have the same effect as moving objects, so use a tripod whenever possible.

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5) Adjust the bracketing stops to match the scene.....Most of the time when taking HDR photos, using +2 and -2 stops of bracketing for 3 photos will work fine. But, if the scene doesn't have really high contrast between the highlights and shadows, then use smaller bracketing stops like +1 and -1. The whole reason for bracketing exposures is to have every area of the scene, perfectly exposed, so when you combine them, the whole HDR photo will be perfectly exposed. So you have to make sure you bracket correctly to cover all areas of the scene with a good exposure. To start, you can set your camera to bracket +2 and -2 and average, and then check all the exposures to see if all the areas are well exposed. If not, then you can either move the average exposure up or down, or change the amount of the bracketing stops, or both.

6) High contrast scenes are the best for HDR photos.....The reason HDR photos came about is because cameras can't expose a high contrast scene like the human eye, so you either have blown out highlights or muddy black shadows. If the scene doesn't have high contrast then you probably don't need to create a HDR photo from it, unless you really want to. Just a normal single exposure will be able to cover all the areas of the scene, so a HDR isn't necessary, plus the single exposure will probably be sharper than a HDR photo would be.

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7) Calm days are best for scenes with trees/water.....Similar to tip number 4 above, try to limit moving objects like water and especially trees. I have found that in some HDR photos, the areas that have trees look kind of muddy, not detailed like a single exposure, and have ghosting effects and chromatic aberrations. I've seen this in areas that have water also. This is from the movement of the water and trees between the bracketed photos, so taking HDR photos on a calm day is best.

8) People in HDR photos isn't the best.....Having people in your HDR photos as part of the main subject usually isn't a good idea, from what I have seen. They have to stay completely still and don't blink their eyes, or again there will be ghosting effects, etc. Also, the HDR effects that look cool in a scenic photo, isn't very good looking on people. Skin color also is affected, so it won't look natural, which most of the time you want the people in your photos to have a natural skin color to them. The best thing to do is take your HDR photos of the scene and then add the people in later like the example on our homepage. You then have a great HDR background and properly exposed natural looking people in the foreground.

9) Set camera to shoot continuous photos.....To reduce camera shake and moving objects, make sure your camera is set to take continuous photos, so you just hold the shutter down and all 3 bracketed photos will be taking right after another. If you don't set your camera to continuous, then you will have to hit the shutter each time and you could accidentally move the camera between shots. If you have the camera set to self-timer, to fire the camera after 2 or more seconds by itself, then it should take all three continuously, but check to make sure your camera does.

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10) Clouds really enhance HDR photos.....If you see a great HDR photo, it usually has some great looking clouds in it. Clouds and the sky might just benefit the most from HDR photos. I always seem the most impressed by the sky and the clouds in HDR photos, so always keep your eye open for some great clouds, and have your camera ready. I am always looking outside before the sunset to see what kind of clouds are hanging around, they can make your sunset sky stunning. Look at the panoramic HDR photo on the top of this website, the sky and clouds make the photo 100% better and more interesting. The best clouds are scattered broken up clouds with patches of blue sky thrown in. If it is just a solid gray or white cloud over the whole sky then that isn't very interesting. If it is just clear blue sky, it won't be as dramatic either, but you can still get some nice HDR photos.

11) Set ISO setting as low as possible.....One of the main problems I have seen with HDR photos is the enhancement of digital camera noise. It can be very frustrating, because you might have a great photo, but then the noise is just so bad, that it makes the photo useless. To help with this, set your camera's ISO setting as low as possible to reduce the noise. The higher the ISO number, like 800 or more, the worse the noise will be in your photos and in the HDR photo. You can reduce the noise with software, but from what I have seen that just makes the photo look like a photo taken by a really bad low resolution digital camera.

12) Buy a digital camera with low noise.....Like mentioned in tip number 11 above, digital noise can be a problem in HDR photos. The less noise that your camera produces the better, so set the ISO low and if possible buy a camera that produces the least amount of digital noise. I see all the time now, camera makers are advertising "improved noise reduction", so if you can, go and check and test them out at a camera store, and buy a low noise digital camera if you can afford it and are in need of a newer camera.

13) Use your cameras highest quality setting, preferably in RAW.....It is important to shoot your photos that you will use for HDR photos, at your cameras highest quality setting, preferably in RAW format. Shooting at your cameras highest quality setting will produce sharper, more detailed HDR photos, and reduce the negative side effect of digital noise in your final HDR photos.

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14) Don't Overdue the HDR Effect.....The HDR photo effect looks great in my mind, but you have to be careful not to overdue the HDR effect. Usually when people are just starting out with HDR photos, they go a little crazy, that includes me. I am still creating HDR photos, because it can make your photos look amazing, but the more I do it the more I seem to be trying to make the HDR photos look more normal, but still having a good overall HDR exposure. I use HDRsoft's Photomatix, and if the HDR effect looks bad or I can't get the results I am looking for, then I use the exposure blending technique. This allows you to combine the photos for a good overall exposure and it makes the final image look like a normal photo, which is great in certain circumstances.

15) Buy Some Good HDR Photography software.....There are many HDR software programs out there, now a days, but the most popular are Macphun's Aurora HDR and HDRsoft's Photomatix. There is also EasyHDR, Adobe Photoshop with built-in HDR function, Corel Paint Shop Pro, Nik HDR Efex Pro and Topaz Labs Adjust which creates HDR images similar to HDR. All of the HDR software companies offer free trial downloads for about one month, so that's a great way to try them out and see which one you like best.

  • 1) Macphun Aurora HDR is the new kid on the block for HDR photography. It came out near the end of 2015, and is getting very good reviews. It was created with the help of Trey Ratcliff, who is one of the first HDR photographers. The only negative is the software is only for Mac computers, which is the case for all of Macphun's software. If you would like to download a free trial or order a copy of this software, here is a link to the Macphun website,

    Aurora HDR

  • 2) HDRsoft Photomatix is still one of the most popular HDR software. It offers a good price, is compatible with Mac and Windows computers, offers some free upgrades, lot's of adjustments, exposure blending, which combines multiple images like HDR, but produces more normal results.

If you would like to order Photomatix Pro, you can do that here, Photomatix Pro HDR Imaging Software Program Page. There are many option so you can buy exactly what you want and need.

  • 2) EasyHDR, Click here to checkout EasyHDR, it is cheaper, currently only $39, has some free upgrades, and offers the free trial download.
  • 4) Corel PaintShop Photo Pro, I have Corel Paint Shop Pro X and I tried the free trial of X2 with the HDR function, but I didn't think the HDR images were as good as Photomatix, and it doesn't offer as many adjustments. X2 didn't have as many new features and I would have had to pay $49.99 for the upgrade, so I went with Photomatix Pro, to create my HDR images. The advantage that Corel has over Photomatix Pro is Corel is a full featured Photo editing software program, not just a HDR program, and it has a good price, and they always have discounts. If you need a good photo editing program and want a HDR program, buying Corel might be the way to go. Since I already had Corel X, I decided to go with Photomatix Pro. Corel doesn't offer free upgrades, they charge $49.99 to $59.99 depending if it's on sale. Corel also offers the free trial download, but they don't put a watermark on the final HDR images, which is nice.
  • 5) Adobe Photoshop, Create powerful images with the professional standard. Everyone has heard about Photoshop and since CS4 it has the HDR function built into it, but the big drawback is the expensive price. If you want the best photo editing software and the one all the professionals use and can afford the price, Photoshop is the way to go.

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16) Try Converting Some HDR Photos To Black And White.....In some instances you might want to try converting some of your HDR photos into black and white. Sometimes if the colors look to wild and un-natural and distracting in your HDR photos, try converting them to B&W, especially HDR photos with great skies with awesome looking clouds, would look great in black and white. You might want to try adjusting the contrast a little after converting them to black and white, just experiment a bit to see what looks good.

17) Use Your Cameras Histogram Graph To Help Create HDR Photos.....Many people don't know how to use their cameras histogram graph to help them take photos. By using your cameras histogram graph you can tell if the scene is good for HDR photography. If the average exposure for a scene shows high spikes on the far left or right of the histogram graph, then that means you are losing detail in the shadows if the spike is on the left and in the highlights if the spike is on the right. This should make for a good HDR photo, because you can then bracket exposures to get a good balance of peaks across the whole histogram and get details in the highlights and shadows.

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