glass, steel, sky

5 exposure hdr;




HDR and Orton Tutorials *************************************************************





HDR (high dynamic range)



the concept (as I see it):


HDR is just another technique which allows the photographer to recover details that would be lost in a normal photograph. Taking a picture of a person in front of a bright window can present 2 extremes: the sunlight coming through the window is usually much brighter the the ambient light in the room.


if the camera is adjusted to get the details from the scene outside the window, the fast shutter speed would not allow enough light to show details inside the room, so the person becomes a silhouette (underexposed). If the camera is adjusted to get the details on the person's face the slower shutter speed will allow too much sunlight and the outside scene becomes white (overexposed)


In its simplest form the HDR process allows you to take 2 images: one adjusted for the outside light and the other adjusted for the inside light, and combine them so you get the details from both


in the more advanced form of HDR you'd take multiple shots at different exposure levels and combine the images to get the details from all of them (a more subtle and realistic combination than using just 2 shots)


I usually start with the slowest shutter speed that would overexpose the entire image (the LCD monitor is completely white), take the shot, increase the shutter speed by 1 step (ev) and take another shot, increase the shutter speed again by 1 step (each step will reveal more and more details and darker areas), take the shot, and so on until the shutter speed is so fast that the entire image is black.


this technique was used in standard (film) photography as well, long before the HDR term became popular. The difference between "now" and "then" is the way the images are combined. A program like Photomatix makes the work a lot easier and faster but also allows users to exaggerate or abuse the process.


I believe that most people new to this technique SHOULD experiment with the limits, and a lot of experiments will inevitably end up as overdone images, but eventually common sense and personal taste will help anyone show their creative side (I'm still experimenting :)




in order to form good habits you should start by using a tripod: sometimes even with a tripod the different images are not aligned because of the mechanics of the camera itself (mirror movement) or touching the shutter button.


daytime (or good lighting) 3 or 5 bracketed shutter speeds might be enough


at night (or low light):

- start with the slowest shutter speed that will reveal good details in the darkest areas

(if it's very dark, usually outside city areas like forests, I start with 60 second exposures)

- increase the speed by 2 or 3 steps

- end when the most overexposed areas will show enough details


in Photomatix open all relevant shots

- HDR -> Generate -> Select images [ -> Select the exposure steps ]

- if you used a tripod, and shutter delay, and a remote you don't need (the slower) alignment

- when the image is open, select HDR -> Tone Mapping (Details Enhancer)

- with high dynamic range the Strength and Color Saturation can be set higher, while Light Smoothing stay in the positive range (0 to 2) to avoid the dreaded HDR glow

- Negative Luminosity can be used for higher contrast along with Micro Contrast

- in some images, very low Micro Smoothing (0 to 5) will emphasize interesting textures, where others can show unwanted effects

- images with moving objects from one shot to another can be cleaned up in Photoshop using one of the original images, or blurring


notes about aperture:

- large aperture: f/2=large opening of the diaphragm

- large aperture allows more light in and fast shutter speed

- large aperture reduces depth of field - sharp closer subject, background out of focus

- small aperture (f/22 to f/64) increases DOF - close AND far subjects are sharp, in focus

- another effect of small aperture: similar to starburst filter for light sources (spikes / rays of light)



Orton effect (used more often in nature shots)



- open the image in Photoshop

- duplicate the initial layer

- overexpose the new layer: select Image -> Apply Image

- in Apply Image dialog change blending from "Normal" to "Screen" (Opacity 100%) -> exit

- duplicate the overexposed layer

- blur the overexposed layer: Filter -> Blur -> Gaussian Blur: 20% to 50%

- experiment with different blur setting; more blur gives a more painterly feel -> exit

- In the Layers palette change blending from Normal to Multiply

- flatten the image (and resize for web as necessary)


That's it !


If there is one main subject that you'd like emphasized, you can use the eraser tool with size and fuzziness appropriate for the subject and erase parts of the duplicated layer so the original layer will show through.


or use layers... up until recently the layer concept wasn't too clear to me but the YouTube tutorial bellow helped. the main idea is this: the image is the main layer; if you want to reveal only parts of it, you place a blank sheet of paper on top of it and cut out the part you want to reveal


Other tutorials:


A more detailed HDR tutorial from Sandmania (within Flickr)


And another HDR tutorial from Stuck in Customs (outside Flickr at stuckincustoms. com)


HDR tutorial for GIMP (or Photoshop) using layers and masks (outside Flickr)


Fake model photography tutorial


Excellent tutorials for layer masks in photoshop


A newer HDR tutorial by farbspiel: HDR Cookbook




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Taken on July 14, 2008