Ever since I got into photography with my first DSLR 6 ½ years ago, I’ve been obsessed with images of people. I became pretty comfortable photographing people in different lighting situations, but I focused so much on them that I never learned how to take good landscape/urban photos until this year! It has been one of my goals because my husband and I love to travel and I wanted to be able to better capture our adventures.
I have always known what HDR is, but never realized how simple it is to accomplish well before now. I’m excited to share this trick with you that COMPLETELY transformed my landscape and urban images within a couple days of learning it!
Multiple exposures combined into one image to capture the most detail in each element of the scene.
For example, imagine it’s mid-afternoon on a sunny day with a few clouds here and there and you are trying to photograph the side of a building that is shadowed. The very best exposure you could manage with one image would be a balance between the darkest and lightest parts of the scene and would most likely get something like this straight out of camera:
However, if you take one underexposed image to capture the detail in the sky, one balanced one like above and one overexposed image to capture the detail in the shadows…
…you can combine them to create something like this:
Kauffman Center for Performing Arts | Kansas City, Missouri
Big difference, right?? Given, that last image has been post processed, but you can tell that there is no way the original image would end up looking that detailed or have as much ‘pop’ as the final one.
Things to know about HDR:
Main Street | Kansas City, Missouri
In my experience, the simplest way to achieve this is to use Aperture Priority Mode (A on Nikon, Av on Canon) and the Auto-Exposure Bracketing option in your camera’s menu settings.
Many new photographers go from using Auto to Aperture Priority Mode (you set the aperture and the camera automatically selects the appropriate shutter speed to get a properly exposed image) to Manual, but when I started learning, I went straight from using Auto to using Manual mode so understanding Aperture and Shutter Priority has been an interesting challenge! Aperture Priority has already been so helpful and as soon as I get comfortable using it with my external flash, it may be my go-to!
Western Auto Sign | Kansas City, Missouri
Here is the thing about this mode that confused me at first: you set your aperture, but then your camera will often decide that the shutter speed needs to be way too slow to shoot hand-held in order to achieve the correct exposure for the scene (typically in low-light situations). I never shoot hand-held slower than 1/60 for my shutter speed and usually even faster if I’m using a long telephoto lens to avoid camera shake and blurry images. The trick to fixing this issue is to just increase your ISO because it will force your camera to speed up the shutter speed to compensate… it’s that simple!
The other MUST KNOW fact about Aperture Priority comes in to play during the times when you don’t agree with your camera on what it thinks the ‘correct’ exposure is. Every time you adjust your ISO or aperture, your camera will compensate to keep the exposure level the exact same. However, you can override this by finding something called “Exposure Compensation/Auto Exposure Bracketing” in your camera menu. It is literally just a scale that you move right to make it think the exposure needs to be brighter or left to make it darker. This is also where you will set your exposure bracketing for HDR.
Okay, take a deep breath… I know this is a lot of information and it may not sound as easy as I said it was. I promise it is, just email me or comment below if something doesn’t make sense – I’d love to chat! After you follow the process a couple times, it will become second nature.
While you have the exposure compensation scale pulled up, use the scroller at the top right by your shutter release button (Canon) to scroll two clicks to the right. You should see two extra tick marks appear on the scale so you have one in the center where you started, another 1 stop underexposed and another 1 stop overexposed. Be sure to click the enter button by your thumb to actually SET this setting (I kept forgetting that step at first). You can set them even father apart and do more than 3 images, but as mentioned above, this is a good place to start.
Be sure your camera is set to continuous shutter so it takes multiple images if you hold the shutter release button down. Now, take a deep breath, steady your shooting hand and hold down the shutter release button until you hear/feel it take three images. Check them out and you’ll notice that they probably look similar to my Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts example above!! You did it!!
Kansas City Convention Center | Downtown
Town Topic | Kansas City, Missouri
Last but not least, I would be remiss if didn’t explain how to combine and edit your images. There are a plethora of ways but here is a brief overview of three of them (I highly prefer the third so feel free to skip to that).
Lightroom + HDR Effects Pro (Google Nik Collection):
Pagoda in Wenshan, China
I would love to see what you create (firstname.lastname@example.org)!! Was this article helpful?! Leave me a comment below!
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