High Dynamic Range Photographs With Adobe Photoshop

Introduction: High Dynamic Range Photographs With Adobe Photoshop

HDR photography is a really wonderful thing, although its ideal mainly for sunsets and sunrises; it can make regular photos pop as well. Photoshop, along with all its other amazing functions, allows you to create you own High Dynamic Range photos by letting you use Bracketed Images. This tutorial will show you a simple step by step guide on how to create your own beautiful HDR photos in Photoshop.


These are all the materials you will need to create your own HDR image:

  1. Flowers (Optional)
    • Your flowers can be fake or real, whatever is available to you for use
    • For this tutorial, the flowers will be the focal point of the photo but you may choose to use something else to be the center of attention
  2. Tripod
    • We will be taking shots with multiple exposure levels, so keeping your camera still is a must
      • If you do not have a tripod you can use a makeshift one by resting your camera on a flat surface where it wont move when you click the picture
  3. Camera
    • Of course we will be needing a camera to take the photos
    • This type of photography style requires a DSLR camera
      • I used a Cannon EOS Rebel T3
  4. A Non-Distracting Background
    • This rule is a must for all types of photographs, you never want too much noise in the background
      • Always make sure that the main focus of your photograph doesn't have to compete with anything in the background
  5. Flashlights/Studio Lights (Optional)
    • Depending on where you take your picture, you may want to use some extra artificial lights that you can easily control to enhance your photographs
  6. Your Computer
    • After all your photos have been taken, we will be using Adobe Photoshop CS6 to combine them into a HDR Photograph


In photography, the 6 Rules of Composition are something you must always think about. They help you enhance your photos to create a better visual impact on whoever is looking at it.

  • Your Flowers
    • Place your flowers in an arrangement that you like
      • You may have to play with them quite a lot (especially if your using fake flowers) but keep fiddling with them until you reach an arrangement that you like
      • You may also choose to use multiple kinds of flowers to have random pops of color
  • The Background
    • Make sure your background is fairly simple, it should enhance your image, not take away from it
      • It should not have too much noise or distractions but you should also not have a completely blank background
      • Use Simplicity, the center of interest in your photograph should be your flowers.
        • They should be dominant and prominent


If you take your photo outside, you can use the natural light from the sun

  • Natural light is one of the best sources of light for photography, but it can be very hard to manipulate
    • You can try and find ways to direct it the way you like using shades

If you choose to shoot indoors, artificial lighting is the main source of light you will have available to you

  • Artificial lighting can be both good and bad
    • Its good because it gives you almost complete freedom to change it and move it around, but the light itself can cause your photograph to become orange or too white
    • When creating your own light, Direct-Diffused lighting would be the best
      • This type of light will allow you to get distinct yet soft shadows to give the entire photo a more natural feel to it
        • For my photograph, I used the florescent light from the room I was in along with a flashlight to add a slightly more dramatic front lighting


When taking photos with different exposure levels, having a steady camera is a must

  • Using a tripod is the best option since it wont move at all from the spot you placed it at
    • If you do not have a tripod, you can try and hold the camera in your hands, but you must have very steady hands
      • Otherwise the pictures will turn out blurry or the exposure levels wont be correct
    • If you don't have steady hands or a tripod, try using regular objects to create a "make-shift" tripod
      • Try placing your camera on a flat surface or pile books on top of each other to create the height you need
    • Take some practice shots with your camera before you start taking photos with different exposure levels to make sure that you like how everything looks and if the light is too bright or too dull


Once your satisfied with the arrangements of everything, its now time to change your camera settings.

Set your camera to be on Manual Exposure

  • Adjust your Aperture to be at F8
    • The higher your aperture. the deeper depth of field you will have
  • Adjust your ISO to around 200
    • Your ISO should be in the middle somewhere because you will have minimal noise in your picture
  • Your AF Mode should be in One-Shot
    • One-shot is the best used when shooting still subjects, which is ideal for this photography style


You will need to take a minimum of 3 images with all different exposures to achieve an image you like in the end

  • Over Exposed Image
    • Your exposure meter should be anywhere from +2 to +2.5
      • The higher this number is, the more light will be let into your photograph, hence the over exposure
    • Adjust your shutter speed to change the exposure level on this meter
      • If you half press the shutter to focus on your subject, the screen on your camera will tell you what the exposure meter is at
      • Do not use images that have too much exposure
        • You want to use images that are bright but make sure you can still tell what the subject is
        • Reference the pictures above and try and make your images match those exposure levels
  • Under Exposed Image
    • Your Exposure metershould be anywhere from -2 to -2.5
      • The lower this exposure meter gets, the less light will be let into the photograph causing the photo to become darker
    • Adjust your shutter speed to achieve this exposure level
      • The faster your shutter speed, the lower the exposure will be because you are letting less light in
      • Again, you can half-press the shutter button and look at your screen to monitor the meter
    • You will need to play with this meter until your happy with the darkness of your image
  • Perfectly Exposed Image
    • Your exposure meter should be at 0
    • You must adjust your shutter speed until the exposure meter is at 0
      • Your image cant be too bright or too dark for this


Now that your happy with your photos, its time to create your HDR masterpiece

  • Open Adobe Photoshop CS6
    • Go to File>Automate>Merge to HDR Pro
      • A dialogue box will open
        • To insert your three images click browse and select your photographs and click okay
      • After you click okay, Photoshop will automatically merge these images into one HDR image
        • Once the photos have been merged, a new window will open that allows you to do further adjustments to your images
        • This new window allows you to add or take out images that you had chosen
          • If you want to take some photos out, un-check the check marks in the corners of them
      • For the most flexibility with your image, change the Bit Depth drop down to 32 bits
        • If you set this to a lower bit then Photoshop will automatically convert it to HDR and you will lose some bit depth in that process
        • Use the "Set White-point Preview Slider" to adjust the exposure of your image
          • Play with the slider until you are satisfied with how it looks
      • Once your done playing with the slider and your happy with the image, click OK to create the HDR file

Step 8: YOU'RE DONE!!!!

Now that you're done, save the PSD file and enjoy your new HDR knowledge!!!!

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