HDR Tutorial

speed

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#1
INTRO
First off before getting into anything HDR related, the most important thing about photography is composition. You can have a $5,000 SLR and still take crappy ass photos if you don't compose your shot well. Likewise, you can have a fantastic photograph with a run of the mill Point and Shoot (P&S). Composition is a little more than I feel like typing up, but here are two decent articles with good tips:

http://photoinf.com/Golden_Mean/Michael_Fodor/Photo_School_-_Compsition_Basics.htm
http://www.photography.com/topics/basic-composition-for-photography/





HDR? wtf?
Too much to type out. The wikipedia article on it is pretty good though. Its pretty technical, but the basic gist of it is that you combine multiple photos of different exposure giving an evenly exposed image.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_dynamic_range_imaging



YAY OMG PHOTO EFFECTZ
No. Please, please don't. HDR can create some really funky looking photos, such as these two:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/dlmorris/2343118959/in/pool-hdr
http://www.flickr.com/photos/offthewall214/2341556641/in/pool-hdr

Yes, thats neat and different, but its just too much. It looks fake. Please don't use HDR to get the craziest output. Use it to create a cleaner photograph. Such as these,
http://www.flickr.com/photos/47054465@N00/2340450237/in/pool-hdr
http://www.flickr.com/photos/unpro/2343072371/in/pool-hdr

While I'm posting flickr links, they have a fantastic gallery of HDR shots. Yes, some of them are just awful and make my head hurt, but most are very well done.
http://www.flickr.com/groups/hdr/pool/



hay hay hay what gear yo?
Any digital camera that you can change the exposure with. Exposure is typically referenced in shorthand by "EV", and can be adjusted in steps of 1/3, 1/2, or 1. YOU MUST BE ABLE TO MANUALLY ADJUST EXPOSURE!

Luckily, pretty much all cameras can! Since post people have P&S cameras, I'll start off with them first.


POINT AND SHOOT CAMERAS


1) Get it the fuck out of "AUTO" mode.
2) Set the ISO as low as possible.
Especially at the brighter exposure, darks can become grainy. A low ISO will reduce that as much as possible.
3) Find the setting that allows you to adjust exposure. My p&s is a Canon PowerShot A85 thats easily 2-3 years old. I put it in either M or Av mode, both allowed me to manually adjust exposure. Once in Av, I pressed FUNC and was able to adjust EV from -2, -1, 0, 1, 2. This is suitable, as all we need are shots at -2, 0, 2.
4) Put the camera on a tripod. Don't hold it by hand, the shots will be too blurry and the resulting photo won't look good at any size bigger than 50x50 pixels.
5) Take photos. Take at least three, one at each exposure. You will have to manually adjust the exposure for each shot. Be careful to not bump the tripod, or take a blurry shot. It can't hurt to take 3-4 versions of the same photo just in case.

This is what the A85 looks like when you manually adjust exposure:







DIGITAL SLR CAMERAS

1) Get it the fuck out of "AUTO" mode. Pretty much all entry level (sub 1500$) cameras have some presets. Don't use these. At all. Ever. For anything. I always shoot in either Aperture priority, Shutter priority, or full manual. For taking HDR shots, I recommend Aperture priority (you want your DOF [Depth of field] to be the same for all shots)
2) Set the ISO as low as possible. On some cameras it'll be 200, on others 100, on others 50. Just go as low as you can. Mamba! *does a little jig*
3) Now this is where advantages of SLRs come in. Depending on your camera, you have 3 different ways of taking HDR acceptable photos.
  1. Manually adjust exposure
  2. Take a series of bracketed photos
  3. Take a single RAW photo
(3.1) On Nikon dSLRs, there's a button right next to the shutter release that has a +/- on it. I think its labeled the same on Canons as well. Hold that down. With the scroll wheel things, you can then manually adjust exposure. Remember, keep the camera on a tripod!!

(3.2) My old Nikon D50 used to have this feature, but i think they nicked it in the D40. Basically, some cameras will have this, some wont. If yours has it, play with it, its pretty neat. Basically what it does is takes a certain # of pictures at various Exposures. On mine, I can set it to take 3,5,7, or 9 photos at exposures of +/- 1.00, .5, or .33. For HDR, what we're most interested is -2, 0, +2. So, use the 5 shots at EV spacing of 1. (we'll get -2, -1, 0, 1, 2... then just discard -1, 1 as they wont' contribute anything to the HDR image.)

And here's the joys of auto bracketing for you all to enjoy:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uyJAifRisNk


(3.3) Take one shot in RAW. Nothing special to do on the camera, just shoot a single RAW photo.




*** Thats it for getting hardware set up and actually taking the photo. Next post will be about using the software to get the desired HDR output ***
 

speed

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#2
HDR Tutorial - Part 2

SOFTWARE
You will NEED Photmatix.

Photoshop is optional, you can use it for touch ups, resizing, etc.. however for that I use my favorite program ever, Adobe Lightroom.



HOW TO USE IT
**IF YOU TOOK 1 RAW CAPTURE: You can either load that file directly into Photomatix, which sometimes gives good results, but the better way would be to open it up in lightroom or photoshop, and create 3 individual .jpg files from the RAW. Mind you, this still won't have as much information as shots taken at different exposures, but if you're photographing something moving, this is pretty much your only option.
[thumb]http://www.timduganphotography.com/other/HDRtutorial/lightroom.jpg[/thumb]

If you have an older computer, I also recommend resizing the photos.. photomatix loves to gobble up CPU.


Ok, now onto photomatix:
1) Open the program and go to HDR -> Generate. yes, the splash screen says to load them into the program first. I see no real reason to do this, as doing this brings up a screen to load your images.
[thumb]http://www.timduganphotography.com/other/HDRtutorial/photomatix1.jpg[/thumb]

2)Select your 3-5 images all at different exposures
[thumb]http://www.timduganphotography.com/other/HDRtutorial/photomatix2.jpg[/thumb]

3)Specify the EV Spacing. By default, Photomatix gets the reading from each photo's EXIF info. However, sometimes this is off. In my doddlings with HDR, I've noticed that if you input incorrect values, it drastically alters the image. If you feel like getting squirrely, try it and see what it does.
[thumb]http://www.timduganphotography.com/other/HDRtutorial/photomatix3.jpg[/thumb]

4)Uncheck align source images. If you weren't a retard, and put the camera on a tripod, you'd have no need to do this. Sometimes when checked it caused my program to crash, so i uncheck it always. Leave everything else to default.
[thumb]http://www.timduganphotography.com/other/HDRtutorial/photomatix4.jpg[/thumb]

5)You'll get a shitty looking picture. This isn't HDR, its just some wackjob of a photo. Take in how crappy this looks, it'll make the actual HDR image seem that much more impressive!
[thumb]http://www.timduganphotography.com/other/HDRtutorial/photomatix5.jpg[/thumb]

6) Go to the HDR -> Tone mapping. This is where we start to configure the HDR image, and you'll see an semi accurate representation of the final image.




***EXAMPLE IMAGE NOTES: I didn't work real hard to find a good shot to make a HDR photo from. The weather isn't the best outside, so I had to make do. The results from this shot won't have the "HDR Pop" that others will, mainly because there isn't a bright light source, all the colors are fairly uniform, and its in general fairly calm. Settings do need to be different for each shot, so don't mimic mine, you'll have to play with the settings to get the desired output.


Tweaking Settings
Honestly, I could try and explain each one, but it'd just be worthless ramblings. So here are some tips:
- Always keep the method as Details Enhancer
- Try and keep the strength around 60-80% unless its a particurally weak image such as my example
- Same with color saturation.. it can easily be overdone, be respectful to the image, and don't go nuts.
- Always keep micro contrast slider all the way to the right
- BE CAREFUL OF NOISE! Its very easy to introduce a lot of noise into HDR photos, so be careful!


Saving
It used to be that you couldn't save directly from photomatix to jpg (because HDR images contain a lot more information than can be stored in a 8bit JPG).. but now you can, so cool beans.
[thumb]http://www.timduganphotography.com/other/HDRtutorial/photomatix7.jpg[/thumb]




ZEE RESULTS!
I had the tripod at the same position, and used the same settings in photomatix to give the most accurate comparison possible

Point and shoot:


RAW Conversion:


RAW -> 3 differently exposed JPGs


Bracketed shots






Again, because my particular photo isn't that exciting, the differences aren't that pronounced. If the weather clears up I'll try and snag some more to better emphasize the difference in how you take the shots. TRY to take 3 different pictures with varying exposures, but if you can't, RAWs can yeild some decent results.
 

suprakid24

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#4
Cool write up, my mom has a D40, and then a more advance Nikon (don't know the model, but it is alot more complicated than the D40). Maybe I will take it and try to do this, very interesting.
 

speed

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#6
Here are some more I took today when there was a break in the clouds. The left photo is with exposure at 0, and the right is a HDR from a series of bracketed shots.





Give it a shot! If you've got any questions, or want to post up some tests, go ahead!
 

AF1JZ

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#10
That is just amazing. I'm going to have to get the camera out this weekend if it decides to finally get sunny. I've barely used it because of working the grave shift and shitty weather. Soon enough though.
 

shaeff

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#11
This is a great writeup. I'm going to give this a shot. ;)

Oh, and I stickied the thread for everyone. Thanks!