I might not be the best person to write an FAQ on HDR photography. I have over the course of this project though been asked many questions about what I have done. I thought that I could answer those questions here to have a centralized response.
What is HDR?
I am asked this question by far the most. HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. A normal shot cannot capture all of the contrast range of a scene. An HDR process takes several shots and combines them to allow the photograph to show how the scene truly looked. I myself use many different exposures, but most commonly I use the -2, 0, and +2 exposures. My images are actually tone mapped images, but I call them HDR.
What is Tonemapping?
Tonemapping is the process of combing several pictures of varying shutter speeds to get a result that captures all of the contrast of a scene. I use Photomatix to tone map the images that you see on this website. The images that I call HDR on this site have actually been tonemapped.
Do I need a special camera to shoot HDR?
No. All you need is a camera that can capture the exposures needed to create a tonemapped image. In fact you just need a camera that shoots in RAW, and you can create a tonemapped image with that single file.
What program(s) do you use to process your images?
As I said above I use Photomatix Pro to process my images. When I first started this venture I tried several programs, but Photomatix really stood out to me. I am not knocking the other HDR software companies, but Photomatix just felt right to me. I love the interface, and it really seems to get me the results that I want.
After the image is tonemapped I use Photoshop to clean it up a bit. I have not made the jump to the full version of Photoshop. I am still using Elements, but so far I can get everything done that I need to. I am still new to the plugins, but I have really fallen in love with Topaz Adjust 5. It has helped me save some pictures that I didn’t think could be saved so far. I can’t wait until I fully understand what it can do.
How do I learn more about HDR Photography?
There are several great resources on the internet for this. Trey Ratcliff may be the one that most think of when they think of HDR photography. He has a free guide here, as well as an 11 hour course that covers a lot of the basics of photography as well as how he processes his HDR shots. Dmitrii Lezine also goes into great detail about his workflow in this three part series that starts here. Rob Hanson has a great series of YouTube videos on how to tweak your HDR image that I picked up a couple of tips from as well. This past week I have been watching RC Concepcion go in depth about HDR on my iPad. He really knows his stuff, and the $10 app is well worth the purchase. It has some valuable data that I can watch over and over again. When I feel that I have gotten to a point that I can impart some new knowledge I might tackle a guide myself. For now though I will leave it up to the masters. The best advice that I can give you is to get out there and do it. Take as many pictures as you can and process them. I am by no means an expert, but I feel that I am getting better everyday. This is a process, and the only way to get better is to practice.
What Are the Stages of HDR Imaging?
There really are not stages per say, but I found a great article online that really hit the nail on the head as far as how a person looks at HDR. I really fit these steps to a T. Here is a link to ‘The Ten Steps That Every HDR Photographer Goes Through.’
This page will never be complete. It will keep flowing as long as new questions keep coming up. I hope that it will be a way to explain a little about what I do. So for now keep the questions coming, and I will keep answering them.