Guide to HDR Photography





Introduction: Guide to HDR Photography

The complete process of high dynamic range photography in photomatix and if you chose adobe lightroom using the adobe lightroom photomatix plug in

i have hard and digital watermarks on all my shots prints can be purchased on my page

and please excuse my english

Step 1: What Can Be Used

any DSLR with a supported raw or jpeg format and has mutable exposure settings
i use a nikon D90 because of its image stabilization and exposure bracketing
Tripod -
i hardly use one because of how fast my camera can take all 3 shots required but one is highly suggested if your camera does not have a vibration reduction lens
Photomatix - what i will show here ... its the best but costs $99 USD
Photoshop - CS2 CS3 and CS4 have a very basic and glitchy HDR program under File-Automate-merge to HDR
QTPFSGUI - no its not gibrish its a free hdr program ... i don't use it but im told its reasonable
Post Processes -
Lightroom - Adobe lightroom is what i use ... photomatix gives you a plugin for lightroom appon installation. its not cheap but it works great
Photoshop - expensive not as powerful as lightroom when it comes to this BUT its more common and some school programs give it away for free
GIMP - free cross platform no more powerful to photoshop when it comes to this
Sharing your master peace
Deviant Art - the myspace of the art world ... request quitics get positive and nevitae feedback for any art from from drawing to photography to funny things ... has a VERY strict art theft program and helps get your art out there
Flickr - general image hosting ... not much of a community but still nice

Deviant art
My Page

Step 2: The Concept

the concept is simple
as you can see you can see one picture the ground is right but the sky is to bright the other the sky is right but the ground is not and in the last is all bright (normaly used to remove shadows) this was taken using 0ev -2ev and a +2ev shot ... you can take more exposures of the image but AT LEAST 2 is necessary

Step 3: Taking the Shot

find a nice place with nice clouds and a nice range ... try to picture the result before you hit the shutter button
set your image quality to a raw quality (nikon cameras are NEF and canon is RAW) or jpeg if non eof that is available (tiff works also)
i suggest you put your camera on a tripod than set your shutter mode to continuous set your bracketing to 3 exposures 0ev +2ev and -2ev hit the shutter hold it down until all 3 shots are taken

Manual Bracketing-
put your camera on a tripod in a stable place turn your shutter mode to single capture a shot on metering (0ev) take your shot change your exposure variation to +2ev take another shot and set your exposure variation to -2ev and take another shot

Step 4: Uploading the Shots to Your Computer

now is the simple part ... record the image name from the shots insert the card in your computer and copy them to to a folder in your computer

Step 5: Light Room (OPTIONAL)

!! this is an optional step !!

upload the files in lightroom
click on the first image (the 0ev one) than click on the "develop" option select the brush and select exposure and remove anything that may give you problems in photomatix like slivers of clouds exc

you can ignore the second (-2 ev shot) and only need to modify the +2 ev shot if it has the same cloud problem

select the 3 images and right click > export > photomatix pro

if you are asked any extra dialog select "stack with first selected photo" leave all the defaults (unless you have means to do otherwise) and click ok

Step 6: Photomatix Upload


open photomatix click "generate to HDR image" select the files that you want and click ok
when the options dialog pops up select "align source images" an select "by matching features"
reduce chromatic aberrations
reduce noise
attempt to reduce ghosting artifacts
background movements
adobe RGB
than ok

Step 7: Tone Mapping

this works for both light room and without light room

the image will look strange and dark DONT WORRY its not done yet
click the tone mapping button

now here its best to play around and get lots of practice .. when you get the image you want click the button "save and re-import" if u used light room or select "process" if you did not (in the same spot)
if u did not use light room wait for it to finish than click file>save>jpeg

Step 8: Re-importing in Lightroom

go back to the devolving tab and go back to the exposure brush thing lighten up spots you want light and darken up what you want dark

go to File>Export and export to the folder you want

Step 9: Watermarking

watermarks are very impotent if you plan to upload online it tells people "if you try up clam this as your own i will sue your ass"
open in photoshop (or paint or gimp or anything) and watermark your shot now don't make it annoying or obnoxious because it may kill the appeal ... some people say hiding it is best so you can enhance the shot showing it in Cort but i play by the honor policy and i may make some money if they get in to trouble

Step 10: Uploading to Deviant Art

odiously this is optional

step one - make a free account
step two - go to my page and select "deviant watch" (cant balme me for wanting to meet new people ;D )
step three - name it, upload your art, add a description, add keywords, request crits (if u want you must have a premium member ship to deviant art) set your mature content filter than click upload
step four - enable prints or dont (if someone buys a print you make money!)
sit back and wait for people to favorite comment and give critics become popular meet people artists and get new ideas

Step 11: Contact and More

email me at
watch me and view my art at


want sample images? want the images i used here? email me so you can practice BUT YOU MUST GIVE ME CREDIT FOR THE SHOTS!



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    24 Discussions

    Nice clouds, but I have to say that you are the first post I have seen here that feels they have to point out the obvious, about copyright laws, and it makes you appear hostile. Art/photography is very competitive and threats don't stop the ignorant or evil ones that would pull a stunt like that, just sayin'. I have been creating all kinds of art for over 40 years and I would not even notice if someone borrowed a design of mine. I have never looked that hard. I guess if someone reported something to me that was obvious plagiarism, I would probably talk to the guilty party.

    2 used illegally by an ED medication advert

    the person was also fined around $48,000 ... im not sure if it was actually payed out

    Ever heard of creative commons? People can use your images, but you still keep the copyright, and businesses have to pay plenty of $$$ for them.

    Thank you very much, that definitely is worth looking into. I have one image right now that has gone a little viral and I didn't even think it was worth protecting.

    Again wow! $6000 per image. I am not sure what country you live in but in my country you would have to prove that you were financially disadvantaged to garner equivalent compensation. I would really like to see the images, I assume they were on FLIKR, any chance of a link?

    I think even in Australia illegal use of a photo in an advertisement would be blatantly illegal and a suit like this would have the same result. If the company is using his image without permission and compensation, I think that would certainly be considered "financial disadvantage." Not much to prove...

    There is a difference between a fine and compensation. In Australia the main tendency for the law is to punish the criminal and in business cases, restore the victim to as close as possible to the condition they would be in if normal trading practices had been preserved.

    Right, and for the medical advertisement, his price for using those pictures, plus the cost of lost time dealing with the problem, 6k per image wouldn't be too outrageous.

    Good Instructable. Thanks. Your English is better than most. Now I just need to get a better digital camera so I can try this.

    2 replies

    i was able to make a descent photo with a point and shoot camera but noting compared to this ... for this type of photography i highly suggest a nikon D90 always go nikon for a DSLR but the D90 has bracketing and comes with a vibration reduction lens if u get the kit

    Good advice biozz. My work doesn't permit me to be brand biased but my brother is a Pro Photographer and his weapon of choice is also a D90. In my testing it outperforms..........well I better not say which camera it outperforms, let's just say, a camera many people think is the top pro camera.

    Nevertheless I have pulled of some devastating HDR shots with reasonably good non-DSLRs. I will try to find one that I can upload without a contract infringement.

    Can this be done with just a regular digital camera, I have a Kodak DX4530 that u can adust exposure, will it work? I don't have the $$ for a SLR :-(

    4 replies

    i dont wanna say no .. but i cant say yes ... photomatix DOES work with JPEG images .. and if you do have a tripod to keep it steady it should work ... to a limit ... i suggest taking 0ev +1 ev +2 ev -1ev -2ev because jpeg is only 8bit when nikon NEF is 32 bit ... if you try it tell me how it ends up

    Photomatrix and all the HDR programs I have reviewed work fine with JPG's. Effectively 8bit just means you need more overlap in your exposures eg 0 and +/-1.5, +/-3 instead of just 0 and +/-3. Most cameras even the cheaper ones can be set to bracket +/- 1 and this gives quite good results for basic HDR.

    BTW Recent experiments with the OB-Pod have shown that gyroscopic stabilization as used in Panasonic Cameras and other makes can actually have a negative effect on image to image alignment. Keep in mind that image stabilization is primarily intended to keep the shot steady for the duration of each exposure, not shot to shot. I actually have found it is best to turn image stabilization off while doing HDR on a tripod or the OB-Pod.
    I am still investigating this and I cannot test every camera, I would be interested to hear from other people who have tried this.

    there is also more information in NEF images than JPEG including luminosity, focus, lens (to cross reference with a distortion and CA correction list) white balance and much more that is used by most major HDR programs to improve output but basically yes it contains little information and in images compressed with SRGB almost no information to change exposure

    nikon VR i have found to increase vibration on a tripod slightly and decrease vibration when held majorly ... generally i turn it off when on a tripod and cut it on when my only option is to hold the camera by hand
    with VR on sometimes alignment of the images will be off and thanks to parallex that can mess up the shot even tho it auto aligns when some subjects are close and some are far
    but i find that if shot by hand its best to use VR and hold your breath and take the shot like your shooting a scoped rifle

    if you need any data i now shoot with a D90, D7000, D300s and a D3x but i also have a canon 3DmkII i used to use for video before the D7000

    Actually JPG images from digital cameras contain info on luminosity, focus, lens, white balance, exposure, shutter time, f stop etc etc and the information is used by all the HDR programs I have reviewed. If they didn't they would not be able to do the job at all.
    In fact an enormous amount of information is contained in typical camera images (jpg, nef, raw etc). Part of my work is forensically analyzing digital images. From one particular image I was even able to determine the model and serial number of the camera, the name of the photographer; what time he took the photograph; exactly where he was when he took the photo; when he reprocessed it; what software he reprocessed it with; what he changed in the image. That image was just a JPG!
    Mind you much of this JPG information can be lost by some pre-processing. Whereas RAW image (eg NEF) files tend to retain the the information even after processing.
    You area lucky lad to have access to that range of cameras.

    Not trying to be a jerk, just clarifying for others that the D90 does not have in camera image stabilization, the stabilization would be in lens if applicable. You can tell if your nikon lens has image stabilization or not by looking for a "VR" on/off switch. If there's no switch, then no image stabilization.


    1 reply

    most nion lenses have vibration reduction ... only half have the on/off switch ... all lenses that are packaged with the nikon D90 have vibration reduction