HDR Photography: Tutorials, Tips and Beautiful Examples

Taking amazing photos is something many aspiring amateur photographers strive for. And HDR effects can really make your images pop.

Below is a complete toolbox to get you started with HDR photography on your own. Whether you want to go all out and learn how to take real HDR composite images or if you just want to learn to fake it in Photoshop, the information below can get you started. And, to really inspire you, we’ve also included a showcase of fifty phenomenal HDR images.

HDR – In a nutshell

HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. In other words, HDR photos cover a large exposure range, allowing for deeper contrast in both shadows and highlights. HDR photos are striking to look at, but the effect can easily be overdone.

Amsterdam

There are two basic types of HDR photos. The first are true HDR composite photos, created by taking multiple shots of a subject at different exposures and combining them. The second technique involves using Photoshop effects and adjusting the shadows, highlights, and other settings.

Basic Equipment for HDR Photography

If you’re interested in creating real HDR images, you’ll need slightly higher-end equipment than many amateur photographers have. Here’s a list:

  • A camera capable of taking images in RAW format
  • A good quality tripod
  • Software such as Photomatix or Photoshop

The RAW format camera is going to be the main sticking point for many photographers. There are some point-and-shoot cameras out there that can save to RAW (such as the Leica D-Lux 3), but they’re pricier than most other cameras with otherwise similar capabilities. Most DSLR cameras will let you take RAW format images, but it’s something to double-check before purchasing a new camera. It is possible to create decent HDR images using JPEG or TIFF originals, but they won’t be as striking as those created from RAW originals.

If you want to create faux HDR photos, all you really need is a good point-and-shoot (or DSLR) camera and Photoshop. Everything in this technique is done in post-processing, so you’ll just want a camera that’s capable of taking high-quality originals with a good exposure range.

HDR Tutorials

The tutorials included here are based on combining multiple photos with different exposures into a single HDR image, using Photoshop or other tools.

Faux HDR Tutorials

It’s not complicated to create your own HDR-style images using Photoshop or GIMP. While they’re usually not quite as striking as the real thing, you can use virtually any image to create them. Just be careful of overdoing it and creating something that’s obviously fake.

Great Examples of HDR Photos

Below are fifty stunning examples of HDR photos to inspire you to create your own. Some are “real” HDR, made from composites of multiple images. Others are faux HDR, created in Photoshop or GIMP. Can you tell the difference?

The Cow Whisperer

By caese

The Cow Whisperer

The stair of Carlos V

By caese

The stair of Carlos V

Cadaqués

By MorBCN

Cadaques

Casa Comalat – Barcelona

By MorBCN

Casa Comalat - Barcelona

Creek Walk @ Changi Boardwalk : HDR

By Demarcus Romero

Creek Walk

Dead Tree

By Subadei

Dead Tree

Mist Lifting Off Cedars

By DJSchulte Oxherder Arts

Mist Lifting Off Cedars

Palacio REal, Nocturno

By R.Duran

Palacio REal, Nocturno

G to the G

By Jasen Miller

G to the G

Bremen “Muhle am Wall”

By Maschinenraum

Muhle am Wall

Musee du Louvre – HDR, Museum, Paris

By Al lanni

Musee du Louvre

HDR Landscape

By Paul Stevenson

HDR Landscape

Back to the Crazy HDR’s

By Footloosiety

Back to the Crazy

Hatley Castle

By Brandon Godfrey

Hatley Castle HDR

Evergreen Plantation

By Corey Ann

Evergreen Plantation HDR

Monument Valley

By Chris Isherwood

Monument Valley HDR 2

HDR Barn Door

By Hawleyjr

HDR Barn Door

St. Aidan’s Church, Bamburgh

By Left-hand

St. Aidan's Church, Bamburgh

Victoria B.C Skyline from Mount Tolmie

By Brandon Godfrey

Victoria B.C Skyline from Mount Tolmie

Go Ahead

By Ageel

go ahead

Let there be light

By Philipp Klinger

let there be light

Blooming Apple Tree HDR

By Tambako the Jaguar

Blooming Apple Tree HDR

HDR Kurdi Kurdistan

By Kurdistan 4 all

Hamburg – Speicherstadt – HDR

By Johannes Pape

Hamburg - Speicherstadt

Feneos Valley HDR

By Leonidas Tsementzis

Feneos Valley HDR

BRP_HDR_23

By Sporadic

BRP_HDR_23

Crater Lake HDR

By ArtBrom

Crater Lake HDR

Sierra Juarez de Oaxaca

By Phylevn

Sierra Juarez de Oaxaca (HDR)

Lake Morning

By Iowa Spirit Walker

Sagada Pond

By Jonicdao

Sagada Pond HDR Version

The Tower

By Edbrambley

The Tower (HDR)

La Vista Dal Mio Giardino

By Francesco Sgroi

La Vista Dal Mio Giardino (HDR)

Laveria Brassey – Abandoned mine

By Joep R

Joep R.

HDR Creek

By Peter Pearson

HDR Creek

Tokyo International Forum

By Galactic.supermarket

Tokyo International Forum

Ala Moana Evening

By Madmarv00

Ala Moana Evening HDR

Broadhaven Sunset

By Pemb Dave

Broadhaven Sunset

HDR

By Zero159

HDR

Lizard Point

By Left-hand

Lizard Point

Mountainboarding

By Cest

Mountainboarding

Darmstadtium

By Philipp Klinger

darmstadtium

Houses of Parliament London

By Joep R

Houses of Parliament London

Looking out over the Thames

By Joep R

Looking out over the Thames

Red boat – Venice

By MorBCN

Red boat - Venice

Time travel in color

By Kris Kros

time travel in color

Remains of the day

By Petervanallen

remains of the day ii

Lookout

By caese

Lookout

Stuck in India – Humayun’s Tomb

By Stuck in Customs

Stuck in India

Barcelona HDR

By MorBCN

Barcelona HDR

Further Resources

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