Bracketing and HDR Photography

Today I would like to share with you some insights and tips on bracketing and HDR photography. This is one of the most useful tools and skills in photography today I think. Now, while I encourage it, I do not always myself do it as my style of photography isn’t really geared for it. This, however, doesn’t mean I don’t use bracketing in my photography. I just simply like to take one photo and capture what I get and make that work. So lets dive into the art of HDR and bracketing.

HDR stands for high dynamic range. This means that there is a high range of contrast in the photograph. Spanning from contrast in colors, shadows, high lights, whites and blacks. What this will do for you is help you create a more dynamic and rich photo. You will have to shoot multiple exposures at different stops and then blend these images together in post processing. Lets get started and give you some tips!

First make sure you place your camera on a tripod or on something sturdy and level. This is to help prevent ghosting in your image and to ensure the sharpest image possible. Now if you camera has a bracketing option or feature you can select that mode. If not there is a work around for not having that feature. If your camera lacks the bracketing mode then you will have to shoot some test images until you find a balance across the image. This means the highlights are not overly exposed and the shadows aren’t completely dark. This will be your base image to start the sequence.

So there are a few ways to do HDR photography or bracket your shots. Most cameras these days have a built in HDR function or mode. This feature usually will take 3 photos at varied exposures to create your High Dynamic Range photo. The one drawback to this feature is that however accurate it may be, you will have to shoot these photos in JPEG format not RAW. This will compress your image and be more destructive to your overall image in post processing. However, there is a work around for this and I’ll share that tip with you. I prefer to shoot in RAW format and retain all the original information and quality. So what I do is one of two things… I set my aperture to where I want it to be, lock in my focusing point and then find that balanced photo. Once there, I will shoot a series of 5 photos all at varying exposures using exposure compensation of -2, -1, 0, +1 and +2. Sometimes if I need to I will shot at -3 or +3 depending upon the situation and lighting. The other method I use varying the shutter speed to different speeds to create the necessary range of images for the HDR image. This method is less accurate or consistent, however, you can really create a more dramatic image this way sometimes I think. This way you can take more under exposed pictures if the scene is too bright or more over exposed if the scene is dark or heavily shadowed.

Some higher end cameras offer a built in bracketing function at a touch of a button. My Nikon works like this, however, I have set up one of my custom buttons to turn it on and my specific settings I use when pressed. This is a great feature to have because it does save lots of time, especially when you are trying to capture a fleeting moment of a sunrise or sunset. I encourage you to find out what works best for your particular style when it comes to taking photos.

All of your RAW images are editable in lightroom and photoshop. Best thing is to group the sequence together and when you make changes to one, sync it together to all the other images. This will ensure that you have consistent looking images across the board for when you go to piece them together. I would suggest on watching a video on youtube or Lynda.com for how to blend together images into an HDR photo. As that instruction and tips will be in another future post.

Thank you for reading and remember to be creative in your photography. Be your own person and have your own style unique to you. Do check out my Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/jarrodamesphotography and my website at http://www.jarrodamesphotography.com

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