Creating an HDR Image

In this article, I’m going to walk through the steps of creating an HDR image from the beginning. There is no one exact way to create an HDR image, but there are certain aspects that don’t vary a lot: generally you need 3-5 image of a scene (preferably RAW images) spaced 1-2 stops apart. I will be using my favorite HDR software; Photomatix.

The first thing is getting your camera ready. You should have it on a tripod. If you hand hold your camera, you are going to have to align the images later using the software, not to mention your images probably won’t be as sharp as they could be. Just use a tripod!

Now, you need to set your camera to take multiple exposures and bracket them for you. I recently purchased a Nikon D7100 that allows me to do 5 bracketed photos. The D7000 only allowed 3, so I was really happy for this improvement. I can’t help you with other cameras because all I use is Nikon, but I’m sure you can find plenty of sites explaining how to bracket with your camera if it has this feature. If your camera lacks this feature, you will have to adjust each image individually which means you will probably move the camera slightly each time and need to align the images later with your software. Don’t let this discourage you though. Photomatix and other imaging applications do a great job of aligning images.

If you are using a camera like the Nikon D7000, D800 or similar, setting the bracketing is quite simple: On the left side of your camera just below the flash you will see a small button with the letters BKT. Press this button and look in the control panel on top your camera. You will see some numbers like 0F   2.0, in the upper right corner. Rotate the main dial and the sub dial and these numbers will change. The number on the left is how many shots you are going to take and the number on the right is the exposure differences the camera will use. Other cameras may require a visit to the menu to set up bracketing.

Once you have decided how many photos and what exposure range to use you are just about ready to shoot. If you have wireless remote you should use it. You can also set your camera to Continuous High or Low so it will take all of the shots in fast succession with one press of the remote or you can press the button on your remote (or your shutter release) once for each image in single shot mode. You should really use the remote though to avoid shaking the camera when you press the shutter release.

Important: When you have finished taking the bracketed shots be sure to set your bracketing back to 0F; otherwise it will continue to bracket photos. I have done this more than once and it is really frustrating when I don’t realize it until I have ruined a few shots.

hdr photography

Original images

 I usually drag my images from Camera Raw or Windows File Manager to Photomatix. The following prompt appears:PhotomatixInitialScreen

After clicking OK and progressing through a a couple of other screens, you will be in the editor window:


This is where the fun begins. Immediately you have an image that is starting to look quite good. Photomatix has a long list of presets you can use to start looking for the style you want for your image. Once a preset is chosen, you can make many more adjustments from the slider controls on the left. There’s a lot to do here and it may take a while to master Photomatix completely. It’s worth the time though if you want to have beautiful photos that that will elicit “wows” from your friends and other viewers. There are many other sites that have very good tutorials for using Photomatix so I have included them in the Additional Resources section at the bottom of the page.

And here is the final image after making adjustments:

Old Barn
Old Barn

Additional Resources:

Mark S. Johnson : Several very good tutorials for Photomatix.

YouTube : Never forget about YouTube.




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