Step by Step HDR Photography Tutorial

Photographers have been capturing best moments of surroundings to share with the whole world. Ways of transferring an image that you see with your eyes into a photo file has greatly changed for the last ten years. Then, you could watch the most breathtaking sunset sitting on the balcony of a hotel room and become disappointed with the way your camera captured the scene. Now, you can admire every scenery on any screen with the help of HDR technology.

High dynamic Range (HDR) is an emphasis on both shadows and highlights in each photo.

The darkest and the brightest areas are displayed the way you see them in real life. Photographers take shots of scenes with high contrast to generate HDR. These are the scenes with great difference between levels of luminosity. For example, an old building on a bright sunny day. If you take a shot, you will see a black building and a white sky instead of a beautiful image. Below you will read HDR tutorial with some examples of my work.

HDR Effect Tutorial: Get Started

You will need three things to get started with HDR:

  • A good digital camera. If your camera supports taking RAW files format, your shots will be of high quality. Other file formats like JPEG have loss of details that you will have to edit in any image editing application. High price will not guarantee great shots, so choose the one that meets your requirements.

  • An application for your device. I use Aurora HDR as a standalone application for generating HDR and tone mapping. I use it sometimes as a Photoshop plugin for the same purpose, but with further image processing. It is really fast and reliable as it has never failed or done something wrong unlike other apps. Wrong application can spoil all the process.

  • A fascinating scene. I offer you two different personal examples in this HDR tutorial: city and landscape. If you choose an ordinary place without any special details, the final HDR effect will not be impressive. People like something unique and something they cannot observe in everyday life. A landscape will impress citizens while a city scene will impress village residents.
  • These three issues join together and give birth to a new masterpiece.

    HDR Image Tutorial: Bracketing and Single-Exposure Shots

    Depending on the type of camera you have, you will take three to five shots with different exposure levels. Some cameras support auto-bracketing technology, so you will just choose it in the Settings menu. Manual adjustment of exposure levels is plus 2 degrees for each shot. The first should be -2EV, the second will get 0EV and the third will get +2EV. In simple words, you will have dark, normal and highlighted photos. The camera must stay still when taking shots. Any move of your hands will spoil the final result, but do not worry if you did so.

    A tripod helps to capture wonders of our world, but sometimes it is impossible to use it. Sometimes you can face the situation when you have only few seconds for shooting. I think, only ninjas take shots with a tripod at high speed. Single-exposure image suits for generating HDR. It is an ordinary shot made by an ordinary camera. You will get a quality HDR image from a RAW file. When your shots are ready, open the Aurora application, drag your photos into the app window and click on Create HDR (tick Align for better results). Congratulations! You have done your first HDR image! Have a look at one of my photos before and after creating high range:

    Aurora HDR After

    Aurora HDR Before

    Depending on the type of camera you have, you will take three to five shots with different exposure levels. Some cameras support auto-bracketing technology, so you will just choose it in the Settings menu. Manual adjustment of exposure levels is plus 2 degrees for each shot. The first should be -2EV, the second will get 0EV and the third will get +2EV. In simple words, you will have dark, normal and highlighted photos. The camera must stay still when taking shots. Any move of your hands will spoil the final result, but do not worry if you did so.

    A tripod helps to capture wonders of our world, but sometimes it is impossible to use it. Sometimes you can face the situation when you have only few seconds for shooting. I think, only ninjas take shots with a tripod at high speed. Single-exposure image suits for generating HDR. It is an ordinary shot made by an ordinary camera. You will get a quality HDR image from a RAW file. When your shots are ready, open the Aurora application, drag your photos into the app window and click on Create HDR (tick Align for better results). Congratulations! You have done your first HDR image! Have a look at one of my photos before and after creating high range:

    HDR Photo Tutorial: Tone Mapping and HDR Denoise Tools

    If you are satisfied with the high dynamic range picture, you can save it and share via social networks. Aurora contains cool tools for further image processing. I like playing with them to change the effect I want the photo to express. Tone presets provide ready solutions for various scenes: Basic, Dramatic, Indoor, Landscape, Architecture and User preset. After you click on one of the presets, you will see changes in the right sidebar. Highlighted items are adjusted ones in this very preset. After playing with ready presets, you are free to create your own to use for further editing.

    Photographers often face problems of noise in photos that spoil the realistic effect of the scene. Noise appears when objects are moving while you are taking three shots. The most common example of noise appearance is shooting the sky with clouds. As you know, clouds are constantly moving, so it is almost impossible to avoid noise. Deghosting tool will get your photos rid of objects that are situated in different places in each photo. Otherwise, you will thrill people with strange half-transparent things or creatures in the photo. Dramatic preset will add extra effect to the ghosts in your photos.

    Below is the photo before and after using Deghosting, Tone Mapping and Denoise tools:

    Aurora HDR After

    Aurora HDR Before

    If you are satisfied with the high dynamic range picture, you can save it and share via social networks. Aurora contains cool tools for further image processing. I like playing with them to change the effect I want the photo to express. Tone presets provide ready solutions for various scenes: Basic, Dramatic, Indoor, Landscape, Architecture and User preset. After you click on one of the presets, you will see changes in the right sidebar. Highlighted items are adjusted ones in this very preset. After playing with ready presets, you are free to create your own to use for further editing.

    Photographers often face problems of noise in photos that spoil the realistic effect of the scene. Noise appears when objects are moving while you are taking three shots. The most common example of noise appearance is shooting the sky with clouds. As you know, clouds are constantly moving, so it is almost impossible to avoid noise. Deghosting tool will get your photos rid of objects that are situated in different places in each photo. Otherwise, you will thrill people with strange half-transparent things or creatures in the photo. Dramatic preset will add extra effect to the ghosts in your photos.

    Below is the photo before and after using Deghosting, Tone Mapping and Denoise tools:

    HDR Photo Tutorial: Tone Mapping and HDR Denoise Tools

    There are no limits for you to play with various editing tools. The application allows you to undo editing steps with one click. When you are happy with the result of your work, take some steps to save your work.

    Cmd+S or File>Save will save the file in PNG, TIFF, JPG or PSD formats on your Mac.

    An Export Image button will lead you to the list of sharing variants. All you need is just to choose the best appropriate option. Three bracketed source photos are not changed, so you can use them for creating high range pics as many times as you need.

    What is Aurora HDR? Why do I choose exactly this very app? Only Mac users enjoy high-quality programs and applications worldwide. I trust App Store Editor’s Choice apps where Aurora was highly ranked. It provides great experience on OS X 10.9.5 and later. Photographers can download free trial version to have a closer look at image editing tools and high speed of processing.

    Read More