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Using the Nikon D5000 for HDR photography

Updated on November 29, 2012

HDR with the Nikon D5000

I became interested in HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography when I saw the work of a photographer I know. It's difficult to describe what a properly developed HDR photo looks like so here are some examples on Google pictures.

Basically A HDR Photo is made up of three exposures merged into one. An underexposed shot, one normal shot and one overexposed shot. You then use a program to merge them together. The program I recommend is Photomatix Pro. Its super easy to use. Photoshop css also does the job but the program is much more expensive and I don't think the quality is as good.

I use a Nikon D5000 camera which is outstanding but low-cost. My first mistake in trying to do HDR work, was first buying a Nikon D3000 which I soon found didn't have Auto-Bracketing which is essential to this type of photography. Bracketing is the ability to set the camera up to do multiple pictures with different settings.

To use the Nikon D5000 for HDR a few settings must be changed. First put you camera in aperture mode and set the aperture at around 8 or 7.1 then set your ISO at Lo1 (other ISOs will work but the lower the ISO the better) Lo1 is the equivalent to an ISO of 100.

You then need to set the camera to AE bracketing . You will find that setting on the main camera screen on the lower right hand side. From the custom menu setting you then need to change it from off to AE 2.0 which means One shot will be under exposed by -2 one normal exposed shot and one over exposed by +2.

You MUST have a tripod and not necessary but helps a great deal is to get a Nikon remote (cost is between $10.00 and $15.00) so you can mount the camera on the tripod and click the shutter three times using the remote for the three shost you will need for your HDR picture. Using the remote will make sure the camera isn't moved.

The Subject must be still since you will combine three shots, if anything is moving in one of the three shots than it's just isn't going to happen when you combine them.

Here is a simple tutorial on what settings you should use on Photomatix Pro. I find the strength and gamma settings can make the most different on how the picture will look. Great thing is you can experiment with the different setting so you get exactly the look you want.

Below is a couple of first time HRD photos of mine, Im still learning.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Apple liteApple darkGrungy lookHouse
Apple lite
Apple lite | Source
Apple dark
Apple dark | Source
Grungy look
Grungy look | Source
House | Source

My Other Articles on the Nikon D5000



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      Chris S. 5 years ago

      The point of HDR is to allow the camera to capture the darkest and brightest details. A good example would be a picture of a bridge against a bright sky. You goal is to show details in the sky and in the shadows under the bridge while getting as close to the image actually seen with human eyes.

    • profile image

      gogogo 6 years ago

      Photography is my hobby, but I never heard of HDR before, I am going to try it, if it works with a Canon EOS 50D. Yhanks for a very interesting article

    • redwhiskeypete profile image

      redwhiskeypete 6 years ago from Indiana

      Peter, after your comment I did some research and you may be right. Most articles I read stated the lowest iso is the best as in film photography but I did find one article that said the Nikon D5000 default or base iso was the best which is 20o. From what I gather the D5000 defauly ios 300 and anything below that or above that uses software to make changes. The same article said in everyday shooting its very difficult to tell the difference between iso 100 thru 800 but after your coment I may use iso 200 more often.

    • profile image

      Peter 6 years ago

      It's a nice descrption. Only one remark: you are wrinting the low ISO is the best. It's not true. Nikon D5000 gives the best quality at ISO 200, it isn't accidental this is the ground ISO speed.

    • photographybyar profile image

      Addie's Momma 6 years ago from Bakersfield, California

      I have always wondered how people merged the exposures, now I am going to have to experiment myself!

    • tom_caton profile image

      Tom Caton 6 years ago from The Desk

      that's a really nice picture, good combination of colouring, good hub!

    • redwhiskeypete profile image

      redwhiskeypete 7 years ago from Indiana

      Thank that was actually my first photo Any tips would be appreciated.

    • Steve 3.0 profile image

      Steve 3.0 7 years ago from Cornwall UK

      I like the first photo. Started using Photomatix Pro and it's great.