Step 1: HDR Vs. Non HDR
Step 2: Getting Started
1. A Camera
The camera must have some form of manual brightness control.
2. Tripod (optional)
A tripod is not necessary but i highly recommend it.
Here are several options.
Photomatix Essentials (recommended for beginners)
Ease of use: 5
Cost: $39 (free trial)
Ease of use: 3
Cost: $99 (free trial)
Ease of use: 1
I recommend starting with Photomatix essentials because it is really easy to use and it has a free trial. Photomatix Pro gives you more control at the cost of ease of use and Luminance HDR is very hard to use because none of the controls make any sense unless you know the names of the algorithms and what they do.
For this intractable I will be explaining the process using Photomatix Essentials but a similar process would be used for the other two as well.
Photomatix download page
Step 3: Take Bracketed Photos
A set of bracketed photos commonly consists of 3 or more images of varying brightness. For the set of images here, I took the dark photo to capture the detail in the sky, the bright one for the boat shadows and water detail and the last picture is correctly exposed for the midtones. In the next step, the software will merge the photos together using the best parts of each image.
Step 4: Process the Bracketed Photos
After that, the software will ask you if you want to remove ghosts. Ghosts occur when things move while you are taking the bracketed photos. If your photos contain plants, water, cars, animals, or people than you probably want to choose yes for this as well.
once these steps are complete the main window will appear. Here you will find settings on the left, an image preview in the center, and a list of presets on the right.
The first thing I do when I get here is flip through and try some presets until I find one that I like. Then, I will play with the settings until the image looks pleasing. Here is a basic explanation of the settings.
NOTE: You may have noticed the Method & Presets box in the upper left corner. A few words on this. One, the presets here are the same as the one in the column on the right. Two, I haven't found much use for the Tone Compressor or Exposure fusion, so I will be focusing on the settings for the Detail Enhancer.
Strength: The master control that adjusts how strong of an HDR effect you want.
ColorSaturation: Like it says, this controls the color saturation of the image.
Luminosity: This control adds fill light to the dark areas.
Detail Contrast: This is a basically just a contrast control. However instead of changing the contrast of the image as a whole, it changes the contrast in a way that avoids over or underexposure.
LightingAdjustment: This changes the lighting based on the bracketed photos. For example, the sky is actually much brighter than the water
Once your settings are tweaked the way you like them, click Process & Save. Sometimes I will then import the HDR photo into another image editor to tweak some other settings but if you're happy with it the way it is, then you're done!
Thanks for reading and have fun creating HDR photos!