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HDR Photography Tips: Compose Shots with a Purpose

Try this simple rule when composing a scene for an HDR photograph. It will have a profound impact on how you compose it. Take a picture of something. Not anything. Not nothing. Take it of a thing you can point to and say, “This is why I took the picture.”

It could be a person, a tree, the sunset, a shadow, a horse, or a building. Landscape shots of “nothing” will challenge you on this.

For example, this HDR image of a soybean field isn’t terribly bad, but it lacks purpose. Anyone could have walked out into this field and taken this shot. That’s part of the problem. There is nothing to set it apart.

Here’s the point: HDR can’t make a bad photo good all the time. Don’t think that all you need to do is fire up the HDR application and turn anything into an amazing photo. It doesn’t work that way, and this image shows it.

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There are many ways to make these types of shots better.

This figure shows a better composition, this time of a corn field. The tripod is lower, resulting in the corn plant in the foreground becoming the true subject of the scene. The rest of the field recedes into the background, and the field takes up more space in the shot than the sky, which itself is more attractive.

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The clouds are puffy and interesting. Even though they’re nice, they’re not the main element of the shot: It’s about that one corn plant. This photo has purpose and interest, which is then accentuated by HDR.

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