Capture Images for Merge to HDR Pro

To merge several exposures into an HDR image using Photoshop CC, you need to have several exposures with which to work. There are two ways to meet the challenge: You can shoot a series of exposures, or shoot one Raw image and make several copies with different Exposure values.

If you want the absolutely best results from Merge to HDR Pro, keep two words in mind: manual and tripod. Those are the keys to capturing multiple exposures for use with Merge to HDR Pro. The only variable you want to change from shot to shot is the camera’s shutter speed — everything else, including focus, should remain the same.

Your tripod should be sturdy and level, and a cable release is a good idea. You can use auto focus and auto exposure to set the lens and get an exposure recommendation from the camera. But then switch the lens to manual focus and set the camera to manual exposure. Before each exposure, adjust only the shutter speed.

How many exposures do you need? A minimum of three (the best exposure possible for the scene’s midtones, one “overexposed” for detail in the shadows, and one “underexposed” for detail in the highlights).

Each scene differs to some degree, but you’ll want to capture as much of the tonal range as possible. It is better, however, to use seven separate exposures with Merge to HDR Pro. More than that is rarely necessary, and most scenes can be captured in five exposures.

If you are familiar with exposure values, try for a range of perhaps seven, including three below and three above the “optimal” exposure. If that’s unfamiliar territory, try shooting the optimal exposure, then taking a shot at 1/4 the shutter speed of the first shot, and then taking a shot at four times the original shutter speed.

Okay, so say that you don’t have a tripod and there’s a shot that’s just crying for HDR. Set your camera to auto-bracket at the largest increment possible, set the camera to “burst” mode, get as settled as possible, frame the shot, focus, take a deep breath, let the breath out halfway, pause, press and hold the shutter button.

In burst mode, three (or more, depending on your camera) shots are taken as quickly as the camera can operate. In auto-bracket mode, the exposure is automatically changed for each shot. (Note that you need to set the camera to auto exposure bracketing, sometimes seen as AEB, not white balance bracketing. Check your camera’s User Guide.)

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