Shoot Landscape Images for Your HDR Photo - dummies

By Doug Sahlin

Creating landscape and nature images to merge into HDR isn’t rocket science, but you have to follow a sequence and use some specific tools. The images you merge using HDR software need to be perfectly aligned. You also have to create three different exposures to merge into an HDR photo.

The logistics may sound complicated, but it’s actually very easy if you take advantage of some camera automation. To create images to merge into an HDR photo, follow these steps:

1Choose your lowest ISO setting.

This may result in slow shutter speeds, which will cause some problems if leaves, tree branches, or objects like flags are swaying in the breeze.

2Choose Auto-Exposure Bracketing (sometimes listed as AEB) from your camera menu.

When you choose Auto-Exposure Bracketing, you can choose how much the exposure changes for the images you plan to merge to HDR. Most cameras let you bracket only three exposures. As a rule, bracket the exposures by 2 EV, which will give you one image at –2 EV, one at the exposure as metered by the camera, and one image at +2 EV.

3Set your camera to Aperture Priority shooting mode.

When you photograph in Aperture Priority mode, the shutter speed changes when the camera brackets the exposures.

When you shoot HDR images, never set the camera to Shutter Priority mode. When the camera brackets for the different exposures, the f-stop changes, which gives you a slightly different depth of field for each image.

That, in turn, yields undesirable results when merged in an HDR application. If an object has a dynamic range of tones from dark shadow to bright light, when the images are merged in the HDR application, part of the object is in sharp focus and the rest is not.

4Enable your camera’s time-delay function and choose the lowest duration.

When you enable Auto-Exposure Bracketing, your camera takes three exposures in succession. (If you don’t enable the time delay, you must press the shutter button three times.) An added bonus is the fact that the delay stabilizes the camera from any vibration that might have occurred when you pressed the shutter button, which is especially useful if you’re shooting in low lighting conditions.

5Mount your camera on a tripod.

Most HDR applications attempt to align images, but it’s best to have all images pin-registered, which means the camera is in exactly the same position for each exposure.

6Take the pictures.

That’s the basic setup. Now all you need to do is find a scene you’d like to create an HDR image of, compose the shot, and fire away.

To keep your sequence of bracketed images organized, take one picture with the lens cap on (or put your hand in front of the lens) between each sequence. This creates a black image that serves as your visual reference for the next sequence of bracketed images.