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HDR photography of Nubra river in Nubra valley

Do you ever find yourself flipping through pages of magazines and stumbling across photos that look like they could double as paintings, the subjects appearing to burst straight out of the print? This is HDR photography.

Simply put, an HDR photo is a highly dynamic photo (HDR itself stands for high dynamic range). Where a regular photo has a limited range as far as colors and light, an HDR photo is chock full of contrast and luminosity. If your camera allows you to shoot in manual mode – that is, you can control the ISO, aperture, and shutter speed – then you have the ability to produce HDR photos.

How to Do HDR Photography

Shooting the pictures you want to turn into an HDR photo is relatively easy. You’ll want to make sure your camera is set to Program (P) mode, and take three different shots:

  • One with the exposure compensation set to -1.0 (darker)
  • One with the exposure compensation set to 0.0 (middle)
  • One with the exposure compensation set to +1.0 (brighter)

When it comes to the perfect scenery for HDR photography, try to choose something with a lot of colors (think places like Times Square in NYC), or a landscape shot at dusk, like a beach or a mountain. The more range of light there is, the better your HDR shot will be.

HDR photography of Times Square in NYCOnce you’ve chosen your scenery, take out your tripod to ensure that you’re using the same framing for every shot, and shoot your three photos with their different exposure levels.

Easy enough, right?

Is HDR Photography Easy to Do?

Well— it’s the editing part that makes capturing the perfect HDR shot so tricky. Back in the day (mid-nineteenth century, to be exact), HDR photos were conceived by layering film negatives. Today, HDR software exists to make your life a little bit easier— or harder, depending on how computer savvy you are.

With the software, you’ll be able to merge your photos together, and then complete a process called tone mapping, which is the part that turns your limited-dynamic photo into a high-dynamic one.

If working with HDR photography software sounds terrifying to you, consider a class on photo software so you can become more comfortable in your HDR-producing skills. It’ll take some practice to fully grasp the HDR process, but you’ll reap some amazing rewards once you do.

While HDR photography can be breathtaking, make sure you don’t limit yourself to just this one type of photography once you’ve mastered it. It’s best to save it for special occasions, like visiting bright and vibrant cities.

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