Love HDR photography? I agree it is interesting. But are you doing it the "professional" way? It is not always easy to get HDR photos perfect because of little things we often ignore.
Here is the quick list you must scan through mentally every time you're out for that perfect HDR photo:
1. Whenever possible, use Aperture Priority mode and set bracketing to +-2 of the normal 0EV. You can always take 5 shots at -2,-1,0,1,2 EV but it uses more processing time, creates a mess and produces the same photo (almost) as that at -2,0,+2 EV.
2. Are you using a compact camera like Canon PowerShot series? Take care! It is internally programmed to limit shutter speed of all Aperture Priority shots to 1sec. If you're shooting a night HDR, you'll get all photos underexposed. The only way around is - use manual mode.
3. Use a tripod, ALWAYS. Tilt corrections can always be made. But they affect image quality. In case you don't have a tripod, try placing the camera on something. You could hold on to the strap so that it runs no risk of falling and you could use 5s timer to avoid even minimum motion blur.
4. Do basic chromatic problem removal and noise reduction (if needed) on all three images before combining them to HDR. They worsen many times over in the final output if you don't.
5. If you're photographing images with gradients (like skies, domes), always try to keep bracketing values low. Use +-1 instead of +-2. It avoids banding in final image. Best way - try +-2 AND +-1 - 5 shots - smooth gradients.
6. NEVER change the aperture in between if you're using manual mode. It will change depth of field and HDR might not be sharp.
7. Inspect HDR closely before submitting. Too high contrast makes patches or gives serious noise problems which will give you rejections.
8. While taking HDR of sky/clouds, make sure you're not exposing sensor to direct sunrays. By the time you set the camera, you may get damage done to the camera.
HDR photography is all about capturing different exposures of the same scene, right? But unluckily we seem to forget it all the time. At least the newbies almost always do. Whenever you shoot HDR images, make sure that the normal exposure (usually 0EV) has no/very little underexposed or over exposed areas. If most of it is under exposed, just set normal exposure at +1/3 or +2/3 EV, etc and then apply +-2 bracketing. No use shooting in HDR at all if you get the sky overexposed in all the shots! It causes a lot of disappointment later.
APPLICATIONS (best uses):
- Make boring scenes vivid and detailed. Especially skies.
- Long exposure shots like waterfalls or ocean against rocks.
- Product photography when you have no studio setup at home.
- The still life photos below were shot with horrible and totally unacceptable lighting with harsh shadows but look, HDR at work!
Good luck! (sorry about the tripod - but you gotta carry it if you really want what you want)
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