Some HDR Learnings

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I’m an HDR novice, so I took the opportunity yesterday afternoon to futz around in my house and try to familiarize myself with the concept. I addressed things with an eye toward learning what works, and what doesn’t work. For the purposes of the exercise I used the HDR Photo Merge capability in Corel PaintShop Photo Pro X3.

I set my tripod up in my game room at high noon, with the light coming in from the skylights, and also supplied by the lights around the pool table. For the first set, I took a series of three Auto Exposure Bracketed (AEB) shots at f/5.6, ISO 400, AEB +/- 1:

Then I took the same shot with the f-stop at f/10:

Next I set up the AEB for +/- 2, and did the same shots at f/5.6 and f/10 respectively:

In order to conduct HDR Photo Merge in PaintShop Photo Pro, first you open the Full Editor. Then go to File, HDR Photo Merge, and this screen will appear:

Cllick on “browse” to find the photos you wish to merge. For the sake of consistency, and to demonstrate the mechanical differences between exposures and bracketing, the ONLY thing I did for each set of bracketed photo merges was to click on “Align Images”, and set the Local Tone Mapping to 50%. I did no further post-processing, not even sharpening or increasing brightness. Much as I was inclined to do so. After everything was set, I clicked on “OK” and let the program do its thing. Then I saved each file as a JPG.

For my final experiment, I decided to merge all six bracketed photos from the f/5.6 group and f/10 group (that’s three at AEB of +/- 1, and three of AEB +/- 2), just to see what would happen. So, here’s the final merged result of six shots at f/5.6:

And here are all the merged shots taken at f/10:


- For this amount of light, I noticed that the shots taken at f/5.6 came out better, though for the AEB +/- 1 shots, there wasn’t a whole heck of a lot of difference between the photos taken at f/5.6, and those taken at f/10.

- Since the area was quite bright, the AEB 1 shots came out far better than the AEB 2 shots. I believe I would only use AEB 2 in much darker environs.

- I did like the quality of the six merged f/5.6 shots. I believe having more exposures to merge creates greater depth. Next time I would exercise the option to create six sets of exposure between AEB 0.5 and AEB 1, instead of between AEB 1 and AEB 2.

- Slight blurring still occurred within the merges, due (I believe) to the fact that though I had the camera set up on the tripod, I was not using a remote shutter release.

- There was a lot more noise in all of the f/10 shots.

Are any readers out there just beginning to experiment with HDR? What has been your learning process so far? Let us know in the comments!

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  • Andreas Bexell


    Some thoughts:

    First of all – I think HDR is best applied to subjects with extreme contrasts – like cityscapes at night or reflective subjects in direct sunlight. To apply the technique indoors in a well lit room seems unnecessary. That being said – I love the way the wood on the underside turns out in the first shot.

    And – as for the merge of the six exposures – aren't that a merge of five? If you have -1, 0 and +1, and then -2, 0 and +2, then you have 0 twice, and that should be the same, right?

  • Marcus Dashoff

    A good read. I think it is worth noting that sometimes you can get away with a poor man's HDR technique that utilizes just one photo. You take one perfectly exposed photo, and make two more copies of it (having one that is two stops lower then the exposure level of the original, and one that is two stops higher then the original).

    Then you combine them in the same way that you mentioned above.

    This technique is most useful when trying to get an HDR effect on a moving subject.

    Unfortunately the only example of mine is just a “final product”. I don't have the original to show the drastic difference of the HDR to non-HDR shots.

    However, at the very least you can see how the poor man's technique would be the only way you can get this quasi-HDR effect on a moving subject.

  • Marcus Dashoff

    And shooting in a RAW format is the best way to get the most out of an HDR project.

  • Moses

    Pretty sweet. I have a Nikon D90 and the AEB function is awesome! I'm using PhotoMatixPro, which is an awesome HDR merging program. You have some great starts to a real interesting side of photography!

  • Tiffany

    Thanks, Moses!

  • Tiffany

    Hi Marcus, VERY cool hurdles shot! And thanks for the tip, I have often wondered how an HDR-like image of a moving object was accomplished. I will give it a try!

  • Tiffany

    Hello Andreas, yes I think you're right. The white, beige, and tan of my game room doesn't provide for enough contrast to really make an HDR photo stand out. And yes, you're right about there being five and not six exposures, but I left the doubled-up 0's in the mix of merged images. :D

  • fred

    i am trying really hard to see the major difference is from the first capture. if you did this for learning great but if you are doing this for paid commission able work it seems like a waster of time

  • Franshighlander

    The photography is very nice and the tutorial is very good, very good.

    Good bye