8 steps to taking an HDR photo

Written by Eric W on June 5th, 2009
A 9-frame HDR image of my neighborhood

A 9-frame HDR image of my neighborhood

The picture to the left I originally posted to Flickr on Sunday.  It’s had an interesting response: not overly popular, in fact.  The stretching of the angles (due to extreme wide angle) and the evening out of the extremes makes it almost look like a model instead of real life.

Well, this is most definately a photo of the neighborhood, but from an unusual angle: my roof.  And despite it not getting the love that other photos get (abstracts or B&W images seem more popular, unless the HDR has a ton of contrast), it has triggered more people to ask how I did it.

So here’s how to take the shot, from a technical point of view (I’ll gloss over the software details, but if you want a good example of that, then check out Trey’s Stuck In Customs tutorial). Steps:

  1. Frame the shot. Do this off the tripod, but at roughly the level that the tripod will be at.  You’ll fine-tune it later, so don’t mess with aperture, filters, etc.
  2. Fine-tune the frame. Which is to say, setup the tripod.  Get it in position.  Take your time setting it up so that it’ll be stable.  Get the camera on it & tweak the position until you have your composition set.
  3. Set the photograph settings. For a normal landscape, I might go into manual mode.  For this, though, it’s pretty unimportant.  I’m going to be bracketing, so no zone work here.  Set it to Aperture priority.   In this case, maximize aperture (f/25 on this lens).  This will give a slower shutter speed, though.
  4. Set bracketing. My DSLR has a setting.  For this wide of a range, I’m going to max out what the camera will do: 9 steps.  That means 9 photos, with EV calculated like this: 0,+1,+2,+3,+4,-1,-2,-3,-4.  So it’ll start normal, get faster for four shots, then slower for four shots.  For me, I also set the quality to large JPG.
  5. Attach remote cable. That is, assuming you haven’t already.  You’ll need it for the slower shots.
  6. Set focus. Do a half-press on the camera to acquire focus.  It’s not terribly important since the aperture is so tight, but it’s good to not have a blurry image after all this work. When set, turn focus mode to manual, so autofocus won’t accidentally mess you up between shots.
  7. Cover the eyehole. With the slower shots, there’s a chance of light leaking in to the frame, which could ruin the effect.  You can buy a little switch for it, or you could do what I do: imitate Tony Sweet (to phrase it better: I imitate what I saw him do in his Photography Workshop DVD).
  8. Start shooting. The trick here is to not just rip off a bunch of shots.  Each time the shutter clicks, you get a tiny bit of camera shake.  To minimize that, take slow, measured shots, especially on the slow side.  Count to nine & you’re done.

So that’s it as far as taking the photo.  There’s still some software work, but that will be saved for another day.

0 Comments so far ↓

  1. [...] new and interesting – going to someplace new, or finding a new perspective.  Witness the rooftop pic I took recently – that was [...]

  2. [...] impressive if you consider that it’s a 9-frame HDR.  The technique was similar to the one outlined here, except that it was completely [...]

  3. [...] recommend that you use a tripod.  I’m no different – you’ll see that some of my previous HDRs (and easily my sharpest) are all taken on a tripod. But I suffer from a problem: I’m [...]

You must be logged in to post a comment.