HDR using a single RAW photo

When most people think of HDR photography, bracketed photos at different exposures come to mind. This is still the preferred technique but excellent results can still be produced through a single RAW photo. There are a few ways to do this. Anyone that is half-way serious about trying their hand at HDR photography needs to purchase Photomatix. It's about $100.00. I can't stress how important this program is. Using a single RAW photo is also great for moving subjects as using bracketed shots on a moving subject is difficult at best.

I almost always shoot my camera (Nikon D5000) in a duel exposure mode which I recommend. Most SLR cameras allow the user to shoot using a JPG and a RAW setting. Its the best of both worlds. The only disadvantage is the extra memory being used but with the low cost of memory cards these days it's not really an issue.

There are two basic ways to make an HDR photo using a single RAW shot with Photomatix.

Let's look at this picture I used for the first technique


Raw exposure
Raw exposure

The first way is to take the single RAW photo such as this one, and convert it to a 16 bit TIFF file using Photoshop Elements (another must have program that costs about $70.00 dollars) If you don't have photoshop then there are free programs you can download from Cnet that can do the job.

Basically what you want to do is save the file as a TIFF file at the normal exposure you took the photo with. Then you want to change the exposure setting using photoshop or another program your using to 2-EV or two exposure settings underexposed. You then use “save as” and rename this file something like xxx.under then do the opposite and do +2 EV or two exposures over exposed and “save as” again with a name like xxx.overexposed. At this point you will have three photos, one at the normal exposure, one under exposed , and one overexposed. Take all three photos and load them into Photomatix and let the program perform it's magic. One warning though. Photomatix may not read the photos as being set at different exposures because the program is reading the EXIF info from the photos which means its reading the information embedded in the photo from your camera. SLR cameras attach info on each photo such as resolution, lighting, exposure, ect. If you encounter this problem Photomatix has an override control and you can specify the program to automatically give the photos different exposure settings equally spaced. You need than to tone map the merged photo using the tone map settings on the program. Photomatix also has default settings for tone mappings and shows you what your photo would look like under the different settings. You just have to choose the default setting you want.

Here is the different results

The other way is to simply load the one RAW photo into Photomatix and let the program do most of the work, though I don't think the result is as good.

This may sound complicated but it really isn't. The nice thing about HDR photography is there is no “wrong” way on how your work should look. It's all a matter of personal taste.

More by this Author


Comments 6 comments

RhondaHumphreys1 profile image

RhondaHumphreys1 4 years ago from Michigan

Great information on hdr. I shoot with my camera in raw format only. Most camera's do come with a cd to convert RAW to Tiff or jpeg. Like you said there is alot of free programs online that will convert for you as well. Thank you for the great hub. Voted up, useful and interesting.


redwhiskeypete profile image

redwhiskeypete 4 years ago from Indiana Author

Thanks, I know what camera you have but my most popular hub has been shooting hdr with a Nikon D5000. I should shoot my camera in RAW only but sometimes I'm too lazy but I almost shoot it in RAW/JPG mode in case I come across a picture that I think would make a good HDR photo.


raydevlin profile image

raydevlin 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

Great article! I have to say i love the latest upgrades to Photomatix - the noise and ghosting control is immense!


redwhiskeypete profile image

redwhiskeypete 4 years ago from Indiana Author

Thanks for your comments, maybe I could see some of your work.


raydevlin profile image

raydevlin 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

This is my latest HDR shot, in North Carolina...

http://www.redbubble.com/people/raydevlin/works/93...


redwhiskeypete profile image

redwhiskeypete 4 years ago from Indiana Author

Vernice shot Ray. I was in the Marines in NC

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working