HDR Tutorial

date April 11, 2011 location Chicago, IL comments 28 Comments

Welcome to my HDR tutorial!

I plan to keep updating this tutorial, so please be sure to leave any advice or feedback in the comments section below. Let's get started...

I divided the tutorials into two videos, Part 1: Capturing the Brackets, and Part 2: Processing the Photo. There is really a lot that goes into both of these steps. I designed this tutorial for beginners and HDR experts alike, so feel free to skip any steps that you can't do (for example if you don't own a specific program that I am using, or your camera doesn't bracket in as many intervals), and you should also keep evolving your own workflow, don't change it completely based on what I provide here. This tutorial is the culmination of what I have learned over a couple of years making HDR images.

One thing that I left off is materials, these are very important, so here you go:

  • DSLR Camera: This is the most important. You can't do HDR without a camera, and I recommend a good one. The HDR process tends to bring out the details in the images that you will capture. Unfortunately, this means that if you don't use a good camera, the flaws in the images that you take will be exaggerated even more by the HDR process. It is also necessary to make sure that your camera does autobracketing. Autobracketing is the process by which your camera takes multiple pictures consecutively at various exposures. It is the process of combining these images that creates an HDR, so make sure your camera can do this. I shoot with a Nikon D700, most Nikon DSLRs are capable of autobracketing.
  • Tripod: A tripod is a necessary piece of hardware for shooting HDR. Since you will need to capture multiple images of the same subject, you need a tripod to keep your camera secure while your camera brackets away. I shoot with Induro CT-114 legs, and a Manfrotto 498RC2 head.
  • Software:
    • Adobe Lightroom 3: I use this software for manipulating my RAW photos and also storing my photo library.
    • Photomatix: This program is at the heart of my HDR processing. I use this program to combine all of the exposures that I take, and turn those images into a tonemapped, high dynamic range image.
    • Adobe Photoshop
    • Nik Color Efex 2.0: This is a series of photoshop plugins that I use in every HDR image that I produce. These filters are great for adding contrast, texture, and structure to HDR images.

Part 1: Capturing the Brackets

Part 2: Processing the Photo

And the final result...

My HDR TutorialView Exif Information

My HDR Tutorial

Posted by Dave on April 12, 2011 9:12am

Great tutorial. I would love to shoot with you one day in chicago and learn more from you. Keep up the good work. http://twitter.com/dvsphotos http://www.flickr.com/photos/dsnuckel

Posted by Scott on April 12, 2011 5:23pm

Great videos dude!

Posted by Jim Denham on April 12, 2011 9:59pm

Good stuff Matty! Love to see how others make their magic!

Posted by Manjunath on April 12, 2011 10:30pm

Really a good Tutorial :)

Posted by murphyz on April 14, 2011 2:57pm

Thanks very much for taking the time to produce this tutorial; it was good to see the way you process.

Posted by Nick Long on April 18, 2011 12:24am

This is a slight change from the way I have been processing photos and has made a great difference in quality for me. Thanks for sharing!

Posted by Brad on April 18, 2011 2:22pm

I've been following the blog for a little while and always enjoy it. I get out when I can to photograph sunrise. Maybe our paths will cross one of these days. Jovially, Brad

Posted by Safetorque on April 19, 2011 3:30am

I'd also like to thank you for the video teaching. Your Flickr site is fantastic - very inspiring and it's a great help to see some of your techniques. Best regards, Ralph

Posted by Safetorque on April 19, 2011 2:36pm

Just one question, if I may. When I copy one of the tiff files to blend with the tone mapped image I receive the message "it is too large to export to the clipboard". Is there some way to get around this? Regards Ralph

Posted by ShutterRunner on April 29, 2011 10:03am

Thanks all! @Safetorque - in photoshop under general preferences, uncheck "Export clipboard". Give that a try.

Posted by Frank on May 11, 2011 9:18am

Hey Matty: I love your tutorials on HDR. One question: Wouldn't you use the anti-ghosting feature of PhotomatixPro since the clouds are moving, although ever so slightly when you captured them, so as to have just one of the cloud images in your final image?

Posted by bfhstudios on May 12, 2011 1:50pm

Nice tut. I'm actually surprised I didn't see any noise reduction. Your photos are velvety smooth. Good work. bfhstudios.com/blog

Posted by Marc on May 14, 2011 1:57am

Great tutorial. Love your images!

Posted by ShutterRunner on May 14, 2011 3:23pm

Thanks everyone. @Frank - I definitely could have used the anti-ghosting feature in photomatix here. In hindsight I probably should have. @bfhstudios - Depending on how far up I turn the notches in photomatix I sometimes use noiseware pro. In this case I didn't feel the need to.

Posted by Agustin Rafael Reyes on May 19, 2011 11:36pm

Thanks for sharing your tutorial. I tried using Nik Software and it completely changes my HDR shots! Thanks again http://arcreyes.blogspot.com/

Posted by Sue on May 27, 2011 2:38pm

Brilliant tutorial, thank you. Can I ask you, is that a plastic cover you have on the LCD screen or a glass one?

Posted by ShutterRunner on May 28, 2011 9:23am

It's a plastic LCD cover. It comes with the D700.

Posted by doug on July 23, 2011 2:38pm

that is the very best one that i have seen!! thank you

Posted by MD on November 28, 2011 7:40pm

Glad to have stumbled across your site. Well done tutorial.

Posted by Thomas on January 26, 2012 8:09am

Hey Matty! I just found your Blog today. I'm so impressed about your Pictures! EVERY Pic looks fantastic! Great work, great motives and perfect processing and finishing! Love to follow your blog and see more of your fantastic work! Best regards, Thomas from Germany.

Posted by Chance on January 30, 2012 8:50am

Thanks for the tips. Great example. Thanks for sharing.

Posted by Ruel on March 11, 2012 11:03pm

Thanks for the Tips and Tutorial. I'm new to HDR and live in Chicago, hope to meet you and shoot with you one day. Keep posting. Love to see all your photos.

Posted by Chris Smith on May 09, 2012 12:13pm

Nice tutorial, Matty. I thought that I had this HDR thing figured out, but I picked up a few tricks from the videos. I'm looking forward to meeting you at the Justin kern workshop. Chris www.outofchicago.com

Posted by Chris Smith on May 09, 2012 12:13pm

Nice tutorial, Matty. I thought that I had this HDR thing figured out, but I picked up a few tricks from the videos. I'm looking forward to meeting you at the Justin kern workshop. Chris www.outofchicago.com

Posted by Lee on August 03, 2012 5:59am

Superb photography love the HDR's! Lee http://www.flickr.com/photos/lee10/

Posted by nizar on October 22, 2012 12:19am

can I know where I can get photoshop filter plugin?

Posted by Juan Carlos Heredia on April 26, 2015 6:01am

Great tutorial. Thanks for sharing.

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