How to Shoot HDR Images

How to Shoot HDR Images

by Gavin Phillips

HDR Camera Set-up
I always shoot RAW since the RAW format is generally better for HDR than JPG. I have compared sets of JPG and RAW of the same scene and processed them in Photomatix and Artizen. The results are better with the RAW images than the JPG images.

Auto Exposure Bracketing Mode
Put your camera into the auto exposure bracketing mode. This allows you to take a sequence of shots at different exposures by simply holding down the ‘shoot’ button.

It will depend on your camera how many shots you can get in a sequence. Most DSLR cameras offer you up to 1-stop increments in bracketing mode. You would only ever go to a maximum of 2-stop increments. I usually shoot sets of 5 or 7 at 1-stop increments.

If your camera allows you to go up to 2-stops, it would be best to shoot sets of 5 at 1.5 stops. There is an electronic add-on called Promote Control which allows you to have any number of custom bracketing options for your camera.

Some recent advanced bridge cameras offer RAW shooting and Auto Exposure Bracketing. Two that I know of are the Panasonic Lumix G3. It offers up to 7 shots at a max of 1-stop exposures. This is perfect for HDR. Also, the Olympus E-PL5 (and the earlier and cheaper E-PL3) offers RAW and AEB. These make great ‘grab’ cameras and are easy to carry around (and easier to shoot HDR hand-held with.).

Shooting HDR Handheld
Although you will want to use a tripod for most of your HDR photography, I have improved my handheld techniques over the years and can share them. This has several benefits, besides not having to carry a tripod around.

Your camera must be kept perfectly still during the bracketed set of shots. You want your camera to buzz through them as quickly as possible. This could mean increasing your ISO, although I rarely go above 1600 ISO.

The best way to take hand-held shots is to find something solid to hold your camera on or against. Railings, chairs, tables, floors, etc, any solid object. Your knee makes a good tripod (who knew?). You can also look through the viewfinder while pressing your camera firmly on your knee and sitting on the ground.

The shot below is of the London Eye. I found a raised concrete block that was exactly in the middle of the Eye close to the ground. I ‘eye-balled’ it with the camera aiming upwards and shot several sets of 7 bracketed shots. One set turned out with no movement between the frames.


I shot this image inside the Louvre Museum, which does not allow tripods. The guy on the left is my buddy Al; he loves getting in ALL my shots!!


Gavin Phillips offers HDR webinars and training movies. He also offers custom Photoshop ‘actions’ and Lightroom Presets. See his website for more information.

Read more from Gavin…
Introduction to HDR Photography

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