Blog Archives

Two Down & Dirty Techniques to Make Your HDR Photos Pop

Like your HDR images? Want them to pop more? In this 3Exposure tutorial, Rich Harrington shows you how the Find Edges Command, a Black & White Adjustment Layer and blending modes can take your image from wow… to WOW!

These techniques are easy and fast so take 4 minutes and extend your skill set.

© Richard Harrington


Random HDR Questions

Copyright Scott Bourne 2011 - All Rights Reserved

Several of you have written into with questions about HDR. While 3exposure is not exactly a Q&A site like, one of my other projects, I thought I’d answer a few questions that I receive on a frequent basis.

1. From Steve Johnson, Dallas, TX

Is it possible to make an HDR photograph that looks “normal?” I am not a fan of the over-processed HDR shots I see from some photographers.

ANSWER: Steve “over-processed” is always a matter of opinion. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure and all that. But as one who leans to the more conservative side of HDR myself, I’d say absolutely – yes. You can use HDR with no intent other than balancing out the highlights and shadows in an image as I did in the photograph that appears on the top of the page. I felt like the image would be maybe a stop and one half outside the camera’s ability to capture detail across the board so I made three exposures, one stop apart and merged them in Nik HDR Efex Pro and got what I consider to be a “normal” result. Your mileage may vary.

2. From Bill Brown, Los Angeles, CA

Can you shoot HDR at night and if so, shouldn’t you forego the over exposure and bias your shots toward underexposure?

ANSWER: Yes Bill you can shoot HDR at night. You will probably need to make some very long exposures and most cameras that feature any sort of automatic mode won’t allow for timed exposures that are longer than 30 seconds. I would bias my shots toward more underexposed than over exposed (unless there was also a bright light in the shot) and would use manual mode to make between five and seven exposures – most of those being below the suggested camera exposure.

3. Amy Edwards, London UK

Is it possible to make HDR photos with people in them?

Yes – the easiest way is to make one shot at the perfect exposure for the person and then composite that shot into the HDR combined image of the scene minus the person. There are other ways to do this. Trey Ratcliff explains a very detailed way to do it in his book A World in HDR.

Here’s Why I Think The Leica M9 May Be My Favorite HDR Camera

I find myself using HDR more often than not. It’s helping me satisfy clients who can only shoot in the middle of the day or in situations where the dynamic range of the image simply goes past the boundaries of the sensor. I am less interested in HDR as art than I am as necessity.

My desire to shoot most scenes as if they will be made via HDR (even when I am not sure it is necessary) comes from the ease with which my Leica M9 auto brackets.

Lots of cameras offer auto-bracketing, but the M9 seems to have perfected it. On some cameras, where I don’t use the feature as often, I might forget for a second how to implement the auto-bracket feature. But not on the M9. It’s set it and forget it.

Not only is it easy to set auto-bracketing on the M9, the auto-bracketing options are significant. You can set three, five or seven shots with 1/2 EV all the way to 2.0 EV between each shot. This wide range makes sure that there’s no chance you’ll miss an image for lack of dynamic information. Most other cameras I have tried are limited to three or five shots and many won’t let you shoot more than one full stop between exposures.

One of the problems with HDR/tone-mapping is that it tends to introduce noise into the finished photo. One of the advantages of the M9 is that it is a full-frame camera with almost no noise at low ISO and none introduced by an AA filter.

While there is no PERFECT HDR camera – for me, the M9 is my FAVORITE HDR camera. Do you have a favorite HDR camera? If so list it in the comments section. Thanks.

After The Tone Map – HDR in Post

Copyright Scott Bourne 2011 - All Rights Reserved

When you make high-dynamic range (HDR) photographs, you may be tempted to think that once you’ve converted the image and created a tone-map, you’re done. Sorry – not really. There’s more work to be done.

I like to think of my tone-mapped image as a new RAW file. It still needs to be tweaked and tuned.

In the case of the photo above, it was made at sunrise at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. I made three original exposures (RAW) and then converted the images in Nik HDR Efex Pro. When I looked at the final image it lacked a few things. It was noisy and the color had flattened out. The whole image seemed flat. So using a combination of Photoshop, Aperture and a plugin Called Topaz Adjust, I added some color, smoothed out the noise and returned some definition to the image. It didn’t take a lot of work in post but it did take some work.

The point is simple – don’t assume that your job is done once you’ve created your basic HDR/tonemap. Think about the finished product looking as good as it can and do whatever you need to in post to make sure that happens. Budget at least as much time in post AFTER the tone map is created as you do BEFORE the tone map is created.

What Software Do You Use For HDR/Tonemapping?