HDR Tutorial – How to Make Beautiful HDR Photos with Ease!

Which HDR Software to use – Mac or Windows?

The first thang you’re gonna need is some HDR Software. If you have a Mac, I strongly recommend Aurora HDR Pro then follow the Free HDR Tutorial for Macs.

If you use Windows, I recommend getting Photomatix Pro and use the coupon code “TREYRATCLIFF” to save 15%. If you’re using Photomatix, you can get a huge head start if you grab Trey’s Photomatix Presets.

Once you have the software, I can show you how to use it to make beautiful photos. It’s actually MEGA easy. I also showed my son how to use a BB gun and he only injured his sisters twice.


The Free HDR Tutorial for Windows

I wrote this HDR photography tutorial over six years ago and I update it about every three months. Recently I rewrote it from scratch to incorporate all of the new things I’ve learned and I am happy to share them with you here. If you prefer to watch a video, I have a HDR Video Tutorial for Macs or Complete HDR Tutorial for Windows course that you might enjoy even more than this texty-version!

Hundreds of thousands of people have used this tutorial to learn how to make beautiful HDR photos — I am sure it can teach you too! Remember, anyone can do this stuff. All it takes is a tiny bit of curiosity. You will surprise yourself in no time! Let’s get started! 🙂

Who is the best audience for this HDR Photography tutorial?

This tutorial is great for new photographers as well as intermediate to beyond. We’ll get started slow, and ramp up from there!

HDR (High Dynamic Range) is still a relatively new way to create photos. I’ve traveled around the world and shot with many incredible photographers. After we shoot, we get together to compare techniques and post-process photos late into the night. Over time I’ve crafted a best-of-breed solution that will help you create your own unique art. This tutorial not only teaches HDR, but it will help you create a style that is quintessentially your own!

Interested in a full How-to Video Course on HDR Photography

Grab the complete course now! This is a brand-new video tutorial that is great for beginners, and it also has lots of meat in there if you are intermediate or advanced. It’s over 10 hours long, but you’ll be up and running in half an hour with your first HDR shot!

I edit a ton of photos in every possible situation: Indoor, Outdoor, Sunrise, Sunset, Mid-Day, Mixed Indoor-Outdoor, Action, Movement, People, Nature & Landscape, Architectural, Travel, and more. There are many hours of high-production quality video as you watch me set up in these conditions, and then many more hours of screen capture, as you see me edit the photos you just saw captured in the field. Even better, you get all of my RAW files so you can follow along, step-by-step, and see exactly how I do each and every move.

Here’s a good teaser video for you! 🙂


Would you like to read this tutorial offline?

This same tutorial is available in the form of a beautiful eBook, Introduction to HDR, that you can download and read offline. It’s a great resource to keep with you that you can reference over and over again.

This eBook that will save you a lot of time and trouble!

Get the Top 10 HDR Mistakes eBook right here! This has been a labor of love (and embarrassment)! Why embarrassment? Well, I decided to use my OWN early photos as examples of bad HDR. I made all the mistakes, believe me. I’ve corrected all of them (I think!) and I figured out what I was doing wrong. I explain it all in the book. It wasn’t obvious to me at the time, but now it is. Anyway, this eBook will be a great boon to you!


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What is HDR?

HDR is an acronym for High Dynamic Range. If you use some special HDR software, you can see all the light in the final photo that you can see when you are standing on the scene. Perhaps you’ve been in a beautiful spot and taken a photo and it comes out flat and disappointing. With HDR processing there is no longer a need for that — now the final image can be as truly evocative as it was when you were there.

The human eye can see so much more than a single shot from your camera! I say there is no need to accept the limitations of the camera. You can use the camera in a simple and innovative way to replicate what the eye can do. You’ll be using a combination of the camera and some software to achieve the final look.

The human eye can see about 11 stops of light. A stop is a measurable amount of light. A camera can see about 3 stops of light. This means you’ll be setting up your camera to take multiple photos of a scene, all at different shutter speeds, so you get the full range of light. Don’t worry, it’s easy!

Sample HDR Photos

Here are a few interesting HDR photographs that people seem to enjoy. This shows the sort of style I have arrived at over the years by using the techniques described in this tutorial. You can see many more in my portfolio.

Poking The Front Of Your Face Through The Veil

The Mist From The Tree Tops Fell On Me From Above And Behind

Downtown Beijing After Rain

Moonrise Kingdom

Reflections on the Eiffel Tower Isn't it romantic?  What could be more perfect than a beautiful sunset here in Paris?There was a big storm all day long, but I could see the clouds were beginning to break up a little to the west, and I knew there was a possibility the sun would dip into an opening beneath the heavy clouds.  So, with that intense possibility, I headed over to the Eiffel Tower area hoping the light would turn out right...I also made a behind-the-scenes video.  Since you guys have been so nice over on Google+, I'll share that video exclusively there first, so be sure to stay tuned... I'm still editing the thing together!- Trey RatcliffRead more here at the Stuck in Customs blog.

Road Trip New Zealand!

Inception Reflection New York

walking alone and being somewhat lost on which way

The Secret Workshop Of Jules Verne

Hobbiton in the Morning

Lijiang at Night

A Neo-Rockwellian Christmas When dad is a photographer, then there is a major degree of pressure to deliver photos on all the requisite holidays and celebrations! So, I decided to try to re-invent the family Christmas photo with HDR. Please note that many of my inventions go down in flames, but, as Winston Churchill said, “success is the ability to go from one failure to the next with no loss of enthusiasm”.Christmas scenes have a lot of light levels. The lights on the tree, the deep greens withn the branches, a roaring fire, lights in the room, reflections off the ornaments, and the like. It’s wild! I’m pretty sure this is why people like Christmas scenes so much - a wonderful treat for the eyes that is rich in texture and rich in light. Traditionally, it’s been very difficult to capture so much richness in a single photo, saving a lucky and heroic combination of shutter speed, aperture, ISO, and lenses.The tree lights made the faces of my three stunt-children (who are also my real children) glow perfectly. No flash could have achieved this, unless you are the kind of Rambo-flash guy that would go bury one inside the tree to hit their faces from the left. But, let’s face it. That’s hard.This was a 5-exposure HDR. You will notice that I often use 5 exposures, but note I could have done it with 3 exposures at -2, 0, and +2. Some silly Nikon cameras, like the D3X I use, will not let you step by twos, so I had to take 5 at -2, -1, 0, +1, and +2. The middle exposure, from which the kid’s faces were masked in and perfectly lit, was shot at f/4 aperture, shutter speed of 1/250, 100 ISO, and at 28mm.- Trey RatcliffClick here to read the rest of this post at the Stuck in Customs blog.

the wet red came from beyond the trees

Hong Kong from the Peak on a Summer's Night If you want to see how I made this (and how you can too!), visit my HDR Tutorial. I hope it gives you some new tricks!I had a long day waking up at 5 AM to take a series of subways and trains up to Shenzen for some meetings. I had a Chinese VISA, which you don't need to get into Hong Kong, but I had to use to cross the official Chinese border after getting off the train. I didn't realize that it was a one-time use VISA, and I had to go to Shanghai the next day. This caused a lot of problems with the Chinese officials, a body of government with which I do not enjoy causing problems.Anyway, after I got back to Hong Kong after a day in Shenzen, I was hot and sweaty and in the sort of meeting clothes that aren't great for being hot and sweaty in. But, everything about Hong Kong was still awesome and I had too look hard for things to complain about. The sun was setting, and I made it up to The Peak just in time for a shot.This was a 5-exposure HDR shot at 100 ISO, and, of course, a sturdy tripod to get all the lights as steady as possible.- Trey RatcliffClick here to read the rest of this post at the Stuck in Customs blog.

The Treetop Temple Protects Kyoto

Step 1: Get your box of 64 Crayons ready!

This works on Mac or Windows. I have converted from a Windows guy to a Mac guy. I used to dislike Mac people and thought they were annoying, but now I’m a changed man. Okay, I have digressed way too early in this tutorial.

By the way, all the steps in the tutorial are the same, whether you are using Mac or Windows.

HDR Software to Download – Required

Optional Photo Software to Download – Highly recommended and fun!

Q&A: Where is the best place to keep your online portfolio?

This is a question I get a lot! I use SmugMug. Read my whole SmugMug Review to get a discount and find out more. There is a lot more Q&A at the end of the tutorial too!

Now that you have some new tools and tricks to salivate over, we can move on to the next easy steps in the tutorial!

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