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HDR Tutorial – How to Make Beautiful HDR Photos with Ease!
Which HDR Software to use – Mac or Windows?
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.
Would you like to read this tutorial offline?
This same tutorial is available in the form a beautiful eBook, Introduction to HDR, that you can download and read it 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.
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
- Photomatix Pro – You can save money if you use the coupon code “TREYRATCLIFF” at checkout from the Photomatix website. There is also a free version that leaves an ugly watermark available.
- People also enjoy my Trey’s Photomatix Presets that will help give your photos many looks, from dreamy to grunge and everything in between.
Optional Photo Software to Download – Highly recommended and fun!
- Adobe Lightroom – The final bonus steps of my tutorial have you using Adobe Lightroom for some finishing touches.
- I have about 80 Trey’s Lightroom Presets that are downloadable and also great for HDR and other kinds of photos!
- Nik and OnOne – These are two great packages to have with you. Once you start post-processing, you’ll want all the crayons in the box! Download the Nik Collection and download onOne Software at those links. As usual, the STUCKINCUSTOMS discount code will save you money. I have reviews of both here: Nik Review, onOne Plugin Review.
- Topaz Adjust – Download Topaz. It will help bring “pop” and sharpness back into the final photo. The whole Topaz Bundle on the site is also a good option if you want all the tools they offer.
- Noiseware Professional – This is the best noise reduction software. Download Noiseware for Windows or Download Noiseware for Mac. The STUCKINCUSTOMS (link to Noiseware) code saves money as usual.
- Adobe Photoshop or Elements – Anything that allows you to work in layers is fine really, and these are the most popular. Elements is much cheaper if you are on a budget! You can download Photoshop right from the Adobe website or you can download Photoshop Elements.
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!
Page 2 of the Tutorial
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