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How to do HDR photography with a Canon 500/550D

Updated on November 7, 2013

What is HDR photography?

HDR photography - or High Digital Resolution photography is a method used in photography to increase the resolution of a photo, making it more comparable to what our eyes can actually see in front of us, because despite what many believe, our own biological eyes are in fact much better than a digital camera, capable of viewing 10x a bigger range of brightness than a digital camera.

This is because the sensor in a digital camera is not technically advanced enough to capture all the light which is available in any given scene. The range of light intensity in a photo represent more acurately what our eyes see, and is the reason why normal photos do not compare to real life.

In other words, HDR photography aims to expose every area of a picture correctly, rather than in conventional photography where one must choose between different areas of interest in a picture.

An example of this could be a picture taken by a normal camera of the sun setting. One must choose whether they want the sun to be underexposed - in order to capture the outline around the sun sinking into the ocean, or the ocean to be the main point of focus, in order to capture the glistening golden water. In the latter, the sun will be overexposed and not really visible, and in the first example, the water will be underexposed. By editing the photo into an HDR photograph, you will achieve the perfect exposures for both the sun and ocean!

This easy to follow guide will tell you exactly how you can achieve the art of HDR photography, and you will never look back!


What equipment to I need to shoot HDR photography?

- A DSLR camera
You will need to be able to change shutter speeds to do HDR photography, and a DSLR camera is the perfect tool. You can aslo use a DSLR camera for many other types of photography, including timelapse photography, macro photography and star trail photography. As your photography skills develop, you will love learning other techniques!

- A remote timer (available from amazon).

The best HDR photos are produced when the camera is completely still, and therefore, using the timer, you can Control the camera from a distance, meaning you won't have to press the shutter button on the camera. You can use a remote timer for many other techniques too - namely when you want to do an exposure more than 30 Seconds (which is the limit on most cameras), or for timelapse photography. You will come to use this timer many times, and will become one of the most useful tools in your photography kit.

- A tripod (one that must be completely stable - see link from Amazon also)

Again, it is VERY important to ensure the camera you are using does not move at all when you shoot HDR photography. In fact, one of the most important aspects of nearly all photography (timelapse, star trails, macro photography to name a few) is to ensure the camera does not move whilst shooting. Buy a good tripod now, and you'll produce photos that are way above the capabilities of others who don't use a tripod.

- Lens
- For HDR photography it is better to use a shorter lens - 50-200mm lens is perfect for HDR photography. (see Amazon link)

How do I shoot HDR photography?

First, a few essential rules to stick by:

A HDR photo is composed of between 3-7 shots at different exposures. Each image is shot at the correct exposure for the different levels of brightness in the photo.

It is essenstial to only change the shutter speed (for exposure) and NOT change the aperture, as this will shoot the photos at varying depths of field. The depth of field must remain constant.

ISO should be kept constant for each photo, and also as low as possible to reduce noise. You will achieve a sharper HDR photo if the ISO on each picture is low.

1. Pick a scene you think will look good. This can be an object (boat, car, instrument and even person) or a landscape.

2. Set your camera on a tripod. You must do this to ensure you camera does not move (even 1mm) between shots

3. Set your aperture to between 12-16 (you can experiment with this) - but a wider aperture allows greater depth of field.

4. For the shutter speed you can use 2 methods, both are quite easy, so use both and decide which is best for you

What settings do I need to shoot HDR photography?

- Method 1: Switch the camera to AV mode: and use the autobracketing feature (see picture). Most canons allow for 3 different exposures. Set up the three exposures, you will see the three lines move apart. Then put your camera on the automatic timer mode, make sure you have focussed on your image, and press the shutter button. The 3 pictures will be taken automatically. It is important to use the remote timer here, as you will not need to touch the camera inbetween shots

- Method 2: Switch the camera to manual mode and decide on three different exposures yourself. One low, one medium and one high. Again, before you press the shutter make sure the camera is focussed, and again use the remote timer to take the shots.

How do I process HDR images on the computer

You can combine your photos and form your HDR photo using Adobe Photoshop which is available from Amazon.

A simple and effective way of combining HDR photos for beginners and experts, with brilliant results! You can use Photoshop for many other editing processes too, so it is a great investment. Below is a simple video which shows you how to combine and edit your HDR photos.


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