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How to Make HDR Photos - Combine Bracked Photos into one Picture - HDR Programs

Updated on July 17, 2011

Follow the steps below to create your own HDR Photos!

Bracketed Images.
Bracketed Images.

Step 1 - Bracketing

In order to create an HDR photograph you will need to take several photographs of the same image with different exposure values for each shot. Most digital SLR's have a feature called Bracketing, which will take 3 or more shots in automatically adjusting the exposure of each of them for you. Check your camera manual for instructions on setting up bracketing on your particular camera.If your camera does not automatically bracket, you can always manually bracket by using adjusting the expose compensation or setting your camera to manual mode. If you are using manual mode make sure you adjust the shutterspeed and not the aperture as you want to keep the same depth of field throughout your photos. Read the Bracketing Photographs Guide for more information on how to set your camera up to bracket.

For HDR you will need:

  1. One Underexposed Photograph
  2. One Overexposed Photograph
  3. One Properly Exposed Photograph

So grab a tripod and take 3 bracketed shots of the same image.

Step 2 - Combine the Images

Now that you have have your 3 or more photographs you will need to use a program to combine them.There are a number of Free HDR Programs, including Picturenaut and Qtpfsgui as well as paid programs like Photomatrix.

These HDR Programs will take your all of the photos that you bracketed and merge them into one single HDR Photograph.

Step 3 - Tone Mapping

Now that you have your images combined into a single HDR Photograph you can take advantage of Tone Mapping. Tone Mapping lets lets you create a photograph showing all of the details hiding in the shadows from our over exposed image while keeping the detail in the bright areas from the under exposed image. 

A 32-bit HDR Images contains more information than a normal jpg or raw file since it has the information multiple images in it. With tone mapping we will drop out some of the extra pixels we do not want and convert the image back to a 16-bit or 8-bit image.

There are a number of ways that tone mapping can be calculated and your HDR program will offer various settings that you can adjust to get the resulting image you want.

Resulting Image

Tone Mapped HDR Image of the FDR Bridge in Poughkeepsie NY.
Tone Mapped HDR Image of the FDR Bridge in Poughkeepsie NY.


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    • aperturering profile image

      aperturering 7 years ago from Raleigh, NC

      Yes, you can use the bridge merge function in Adobe. In cs5 they added a lot to the hdr.

    • agvulpes profile image

      Peter 7 years ago from Australia

      Wow this is certainly a great effect I will look into it for sure! Would you know if Photoshop has this capability of making HDR Photos ?

    • aperturering profile image

      aperturering 7 years ago from Raleigh, NC

      Thanks Lily.

      As you found HDR stands for High Dynamic Resolution. Which means it has a large range from dark to light.

      I will be posting another hub shortly with more information on HDR and some cool HDR photographs.

    • Lily Rose profile image

      Lily Rose 7 years ago from East Coast

      Very cool - I love the resulting image! I have a stupid question - what does HDR stand for?

      ...never mind - just read your hub on bracketing and got the answer there!