Tips to Make Better Images - HDR 101 by Guest Writer Darren Gahan

The guest writer for this article is Darren Gahan.  Darren is a professional real estate photographer in addition to being a superb Lightroom and Photoshop Elements educator.  I've had the pleasure to teach with Darren in the field and be a guest on the Daytripper Webtalk show with Darren and his co-hosts Bryan Weiss and Gabriel Bousquet. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

HDR 101 with Darren Gahan

What is HDR? High Dynamic Range. What is Dynamic Range? Contrast, as in dark areas and bright areas.

Why would I be interested? Our eyes see a much larger range of light and dark detail than the camera can capture. We use HDR Photography to make the photo the way our eyes would see it. HDR Photography can also be used to enhance or modify a regular looking photo into an exaggerated brightness and or colour photo.

Do I need special equipment? No, you can use any camera as long as there is a way to make the images brighter and darker. Most cameras have a feature called "Exposure Bracketing" that will change the brightness automatically after every shot.

Do I need a tripod? No, but it would help and make things easier.

Can I do a HDR of moving subjects? Not really. Because it has to overlay each image exactly on top of each other, things that move will create a problem called "ghosting" .

How would I set my camera to do this? Set your camera to the Aperture Priority Mode. A or Av (If it doesn't have this mode, use the P or other advanced mode where it will allow you to use Exposure Bracketing. Find the Exposure bracketing feature of your camera and turn it on. It may be helpful to also turn on your continuous shutter release or burst mode.  Try to hold the camera steady and not move it while it is recording the photos. Take a deep breath, hold it for a second, then when you start to slowly let it out, press and hold the shutter button down and the camera will take the required number of photos then stop, and then you release the shutter button. This is where a tripod is very useful.

What if there is a range of exposure values in bracketing? Usually a difference of 1ev (also called 1 stop) is enough. Feel free to experiment.

How can I tell if it worked? Play back the photos. If it worked, there should be 3 photos of the same subject with 3 different brightness levels.

TIP: You are looking for a normal or middle brightness photo, and 1 darker than normal and 1 brighter than normal. Your camera may have them in a different order, but usually in this order: Normal -> Darker -> Brighter, but this doesn't matter.

What if I have 2 dark photos and 1 normal brightness photo? This means you need to find and use your exposure compensation control, and set it to a value of +1 (plus 1 ev).

What if I have 2 light photos and 1 normal brightness photo? This means you need to find and use your exposure compensation control, and set it to a value of -1 (minus 1 ev).

Does it matter if I shoot in JPG or RAW? No it doesn't make any significant difference. In fact, if you aren't comfortable with shooting in RAW or you don't know what it is, don't worry. Some software may only work with JPG images or with RAW images converted to a different format, such as Photoshop Elements. (Which does have a RAW converter)

What software do I need to process my photos? There are many different software packages out there, each with a specific advantage. The best bang for your buck would be Adobe Photoshop Elements. Available at Henry's for around $99. (Henry's also has workshops on Photoshop Elements. I teach at many of GTA locations. I also offer my services directly and can do customized training in Elements, CS5 & CS6, Lightroom or Apature) You can also download a FREE 30 day trial fully functional of Photoshop Elements from the Adobe website.

In Photoshop Elements (Version 9 and above) open up your 3 (or more) photos from your bracketed set. (If they are in the RAW format, make sure you select all 3 at the same time before you choose Open,<Click the first one, hold CTRL <<CMD on a MAC>> and click on the other 2, release the CTRL key> and then in the Camera RAW editor, select all 3 images <<The same way>> and then choose Open Images on the bottom right. ) Go to File -> New -> Photomerge Exposure. Play with the 3 sliders till you are happy. File Save As a jpg file and you can have it printed or shown anywhere.