How to Configure Your Camera for HDR Photography - dummies

How to Configure Your Camera for HDR Photography

One of the most important elements of shooting high dynamic range photography is configuring your camera. You change the settings to optimize the outcome for HDR rather than a traditional digital photograph.

Different types of cameras have different capabilities. Each of the following sections generalizes your situation by what your camera can do. Find the method you can use (experimentation notwithstanding) based on the following criteria:

  • Exposure Compensation Bracketing: Only cameras without a manual mode or auto exposure bracketing (AEB) need to use exposure compensation. This includes most compact digital cameras. Newer models don’t often allow you to directly alter the exposure. This makes traditional bracketing impossible.

    This is a sneaky workaround for that limitation. You can use exposure compensation to indirectly change shutter speed and therefore manually bracket a scene.

    This figure shows exposure compensation in action on a budget compact camera. The camera is in Programmed Auto mode — there is no manual mode and the camera does not have AEB — and the exposure is adjusted to -2.0 EV (that’s why it is so dark) in preparation to shoot the lower bracket.


  • Manual Bracketing: Any camera with a manual mode can manually bracket a scene. Exposure compensation bracketing is very similar but uses the exposure compensation control instead of directly changing shutter speed.

    If your camera limits the exposure difference between auto brackets to less than +/- 1.0 EV, you will find manual bracketing, although a pain, to be more practical.

  • Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB): AEB is found on many dSLRs and the occasional compact camera or super-zoom. You don’t need a manual mode for AEB to work on most cameras.

  • Single-Shot HDR: Any camera that shoots Raw photos can perform single-shot HDR.