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What is HDR photography?
Do you have a smartphone? Have you noticed the HDR settings on the camera of your iPhone or Android camera? If you have taken a photo with this setting turned on, you likely have seen that the photo seems to "pop" a bit more. You can see details in the darker areas - the shadows. You can see details in the brighter areas (known as highlights) that you would regularly not see in a "normal' photo. And yes, even the colors seem more vibrant. This, my friends is the beauty of HDR photography, or high dynamic range.
When you take a photo with the HDR setting turned on, your phone is doing what many of us who shoot with our larger format cameras do - it is taking multiple images at varying exposures (levels of brightness), combing them, and giving you a single image that blends and balances things out.
If you understand the concept so far, that is really all you need right now. Keep reading as I will be sharing with you some of the resources I used when I got started with HDR photography.
You can learn how to create HDR images too!
When I first started shooting and sharing photos online in 2007-ish, I discovered an incredible photo collection on flickr which had extraordinary colors and details. I read the description and it had some reference to HDR. Since it seemed to be some secret process to get your photos to look really incredible, I just kept on shooting, using all sorts of digital cameras. From 2005 through 2008, I used the following cameras:Sony DSC-H1,Sony DSC-P10, and a Sony DSC-W100. In 2008, I purchased my first DSLR, the Canon Digital Rebel XSi. At this point I began to get a bit more serious about shooting. Click here to see my first creative work from my DSLR.
As I shared more of my photos on flickr, I found that many other photographers were giving me positive comments and critiques on my work. As I look back through my flickr photos, I can actually see where my composition and techniques improved drastically. I felt I now had the right type of camera to do the mysterious HDR photography I had been mesmerized by, so I began to really look for a way to learn how to create art myself. Luckily, I found "the HDR guy"!
It wasn't until early 2009 when I invested a little time and energy to start learning HDR from the one and only, Mr. Trey Ratcliff. Not only is Trey's name synonymous with HDR photography, but he has offered a free tutorial on his site to show people how to take photos, use the proper software and create their own HDR photos. I read the tutorial, applied his techniques, and published my first HDR photo to flickr.
Keep reading below to find out how you can learn to create incredible photos using the same tools and techniques I did...
Time flies when you are having fun! It has been quite a while since that first HDR photo was posted and my technique has changed quite a bit. I have used different software and recently upgraded myself from shooting a Canon 7D for quite some time over to a Sony a7rii - what a machine! It's 42 megapixels of yummy stuff!
If you are looking to get started with HDR, you can certain start with that same free tutorial over on Trey's site.
If you are big in Lightroom and want to simply use some of the best presets I have run across, Trey has ahuge collection of Lightroom Presetsthat are very affordable. Some of these are even titled "HDR in Lightroom" - they give you an HDR look without needing extra software. I will confess that sometimes, this is all I use before sharing my photos on social media.
Luckily, if you really want to get the most out of what Trey has to offer, you can go for one of his complete HDR courses - I have purchased a few myself and they are fantastic! My personal favorite is the Complete HDR Tutorial. If you go over there from one of the links I am supplying you, it helps me out as it is an "affiliate" link which gives me a percentage of your purchase. I do hope you don't mind!
Also, if you are a photographer that has been kinda stuck and want some inspiration, Trey released a video series called "Becoming an Artist". When it was out, you could watch the series free on a weekly basis, or buy the whole thing like I did -- in fact, I have the ability to give you a 10% off code to purchase it - use: SIC-6830 at checkout!
What about software? Besides knowing how to use Lightroom and Photoshop - at least a little, if you want to create beautiful HDR images, the latest software I have been using is Aurora HDR Pro. It simplifies the mystery of HDR, has a ton of presets for you to use, and allows you to mix all sorts of effects on your photos. The best thing, is by getting the bundle, you get the software, plus Trey's awesome tutorial. If you have Lightroom and want to know how to use it, there are tons of free resources on how to get started with it - or you can get the tutorial I got which comes with presets and even how to use Lightroom to get that same HDR effect - without additional software!
If you have more questions, please use the Contact link on my site. I would be happy to help you get answers to some of the questions you might have regarding the awesome world of HDR photography. One final quick note... As you get into this, try to hold yourself back from OVER-processing your pictures. You'll know when you do it! :)