High Dynamic Range Photography

Taking amazing photos is something many aspiring amateur photographers strive for. And HDR effects can really make your images pop.

Below is a complete toolbox to get you started with HDR photography on your own. Whether you want to go all out and learn how to take real HDR composite images or if you just want to learn to fake it in Photoshop, the information below can get you started. And, to really inspire you, we’ve also included a showcase of fifty phenomenal HDR images.

Winter Wonderland
What is HDR?

HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. In other words, HDR photos cover a large exposure range, allowing for deeper contrast in both shadows and highlights. HDR photos are striking to look at, but the effect can easily be overdone.

Amsterdam
There are two basic types of HDR photos. The first are true HDR composite photos, created by taking multiple shots of a subject at different exposures and combining them. The second technique involves using Photoshop effects and adjusting the shadows, highlights, and other settings.

Basic Equipment for HDR Photography

If you’re interested in creating real HDR images, you’ll need slightly higher-end equipment than many amateur photographers have. Here’s a list:

  • A camera capable of taking images in RAW format
  • A good quality tripod
  • Software such as Photomatix or Photoshop

The RAW format camera is going to be the main sticking point for many photographers. There are some point-and-shoot cameras out there that can save to RAW (such as the Leica D-Lux 3), but they’re pricier than most other cameras with otherwise similar capabilities. Most DSLR cameras will let you take RAW format images, but it’s something to double-check before purchasing a new camera. It is possible to create decent HDR images using JPEG or TIFF originals, but they won’t be as striking as those created from RAW originals.

If you want to create faux HDR photos, all you really need is a good point-and-shoot (or DSLR) camera and Photoshop. Everything in this technique is done in post-processing, so you’ll just want a camera that’s capable of taking high-quality originals with a good exposure range.

 

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Cameron Chapman

Chapman was born in New Hampshire, raised in Vermont and Virginia, and now lives in Vermont. She blogs about web design and technology for a number of leading blogs, including Smashing Magazine and Webdesigner Depot.She began writing fiction as a child, and has written off […]

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Martin Lawrence

After many years as a keen amateur photographer, I decided to start a small landscape photography business called Lakescenes which I ran alongside my main job as an IT Manager. As business increased, I found myself working long, but rewarding, hours just to keep up […]

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Rob Sheppard

Rob Sheppard is a naturalist, nature photographer and videographer who says his favorite location is the one he is in at any time. He is the author/photographer of over 40 books, as well as a well-known speaker and workshop leader, and a Fellow with the […]

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Gary Hart

Gary Hart has photographed California’s natural beauty for over 30 years. Gary’s photos and writing have appeared in many publications, most recently Outdoor Photographer and Sierra Heritage magazines. You’ll also find his images in greeting cards, postcards, calendars, and many galleries and private collections throughout the world.

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