HDR Tutorial Part 3

(Continued from Page 2 – or go to page 1 of the HDR Tutorial)

Step 6, Continued

Stacking and Aligning the Photos

In the screenshot below, look down in the lower right at the layers. You can see the four layers there. I put the Photomatix result on the top layer, and stacked the other three below. The order does not matter. Note that as you become more advanced, you will not need to bring in all of these originals. Maybe just one or two will do the trick.

To import the photos, there are a variety of ways, as there is with everything in Photoshop!  If you read the following bullet point list, I will assume you are a beginner, so I will try tell you the easiest way!

  • After you open all 4 (or your number) into Photoshop, you should have 4 windows or tabs open in Photoshop.
    • Bonus Tip: If you have Adobe Bridge, you can select all the photos, then go to Tools>Photoshop…>Load Files into Photoshop Layers… and voila, all are in one Photoshop window!
  • Go to your Tonemapped photo that was the result of the Photomatix process. Remember this is your “Base Layer”. We will copy and paste all the other photos into this image.
  • Go to one of the original photos.
  • On the Menu, choose Select > All.  Then Edit > Copy.  Then go back to your Base Layer and do a Edit > Paste.  Then you will have 2 layers.
  • Continue to repeat this with all of the other photos.
  • Once you have all the layers in one photo, you can re-arrange them as you see fit. I usually put the HDR result on the top.

I have also made sure to align all the images so they are neatly stacked:

  • Select all the layers with CTRL or SHIFT-clicking them, then use Auto-Align under the Edit Menu – default options are fine.
  • …Or you can press V to get into move mode and use the arrow keys at 300% to nudge them around. This is usually what I have to do with the HDR layer, turning it on and off to make sure it’s lined up just right.

HDR Tutorial

Photoshop – Here we have the HDR image on top with some of the original photos on layers beneath.

If you look closely at the layers on the right in the screenshot below, you can see that I have created a LAYER MASK for the TOP LAYER. If you see those little black and gray marks there, that is where I have painted black to see the layer beneath. I used the Brush, adjusted the opacity to about 30%, and kept painting until enough of the lower layer shined through.

To create a mask and start revealing the layer underneath:

  • Click on the top layer (the one you want to punch through)
  • On the Menu, go to Layer > Create Layer Mask > Reveal All.
  • Choose the brush tool (or hit B).
  • At the top, there are two areas to adjust:
    • “Opacity” –  Set that to 30%.  This means how hard you will be pushing down the brush to punch through to the bottom layer. Multiple brush strokes will make that percentage go up… For example, if you brush over the same spot ten times or so, you’ll be at 100% see-through!
    • Brush – Click that dropdown and make the brush size 100.  You will keep adjusting this size throughout, depending on what you want!
      • Quick Tip – to change the size of the brush quickly use the bracket keys ( [ and ] )
  • Now that you created the mask, you will see a little white box on that layer down in the lower right.  See it?  Click on that little white box it because THAT represents the mask.
  • Make sure your chosen color over on the right is BLACK.
  • Start using the brush on the photo.  Each stroke will make that layer 30% more transparent.  If you stroke the same area over and over again, you will get to 100%, which allows you to see the layer underneath.
  • After you are done masking the two layers together, Merge Layers in the menu or by pressing Command (Ctrl on PC) E.
  • Bonus Tip: Are you still MASSIVELY confused by Masking?  This happens often because of my lousy description.  I suggest you visit this nice YouTube Video on Masking (note that I did not make that video).

You will notice the areas in which I painted. Those areas were blown out and unreadable. So, I chose the DARKEST layer, in which the signs were very readable. I masked those through so we can read, for example, the ticker on the right at the ABC Studios.

Photoshop – Stacking the Layers and Starting to Mask. The gray areas in the white box represent where we have “punched through” to the lower level.

I hope that was easy for you to understand, at least in concept. People sometimes have trouble with Masking, so I hope I explained it okay.

The next thing I do is combine the top two layers by selecting both of them by selecting Layer > Merge Layers. Below, you can see how I have combined the layers top two. Now I only have three layers.

Combined those two (by Stuck in Customs)

Photoshop – I have combined the top two layers after masking.  Now just three remain.

This process of masking and combining should repeated until you are happy with the results.

Moving on, the next step in this particular photo is masking in the pedestrians so that they do not look “ghosted”.  When they are moving around between the frames, Photomatix gets confused.  I prefer to find my favorite of the original shots where the people are in the most interesting formation.  I then use that photo to remix with the original.  Below, you can see I have zoomed in on the pedestrians and created a mask on the top layer.  I have used the Brush on the top layer to reveal the clean pedestrian layer beneath.  Note that the pedestrians are not crystal clear, and I did not mind a bit of “motion” here, since it is Times Square after all.

HDR Tutorial (by Stuck in Customs)

De-ghosting the image by masking through to the layer where the people look best

Step 6 – Noise Reduction and other Tools

You will notice that you probably have a lot of noise in the finished result. The HDR Process does this… it is an unfortunate side effect, but easily cleaned up.

I will not go into the full description of Noiseware here, but you are welcome to go read my Noiseware Review.

The only thing I really have to do is to show you the following screenshot. I mean, are you kidding me? The only tip I can add beyond this, for a full master’s touch, is to create a duplicate layer of your finished product before doing the noise reduction. It may get rid of some details you quite like, in which case you can use the masking tricks above to just keep the details and noise how you best see fit for your own work of art.

As you can see below, this can help make your final product look a lot more silky-smooth.

Noiseware Review
This is the best software I have used for Noise reduction – better than Noise Ninja!

Below, we can see the final image once again! All the hard work has paid off! Behold!

Times Square at Dusk
The final product, after a lot of fun steps… remember… it’s the journey, not the destination…

Now that you are done with that, here are some other tools that I recommend. These are part of my workflow, and I recommend you get these and play with them all!

  • Lucis Pro – I’ve also started using Lucis Pro more and more. It’s a lot like LucisArt, but it’s even better. I’ve written a Lucis Pro Review and a Lucis Tutorial here on the site, which maybe you can save for later. The same coupon code for LucisArt applies here of “TREYRATCLIFF”. She tells me it’s the best one available.
  • Nik Software – Nik makes a great suite of tools I recommend. Use the Coupon Code of “STUCKINCUSTOMS” to save the most amount of money. You can get it from the Nik Software website. I have a full Nik Review here on the site for more info.
  • OnOne Software – This is another great suite of powerful tools that I use a lot. Use the Coupon Code “STUCKINCUSTOMS” to save the most amount of money when ordering from the onOne Software website. I have a full review of the OnOne Plugin here on the site for you.

Bonus Step – Sharpening and adding pop with Lucis Pro or LucisArt

Many of my images get a visit from the sweet lady Lucis.

The LucisArt Plugin is awesome. I suggest you download the trial and give it a run! The trial is nice because you get a preview window that shows what all the cool sliders do. If you buy it, be sure to use this Lucis Coupon Code of TREYRATCLIFF.  If I ever meet you in person, you can buy me a cappuccino or something… You can get the trial or order it at the LucisArt Website.

Note that sometimes I use an even better program, and you can find out more about that at the Lucis Pro Review.  I really don’t mean to overwhelm you with options, just to let you know that there are good, better, and best paths to sharpening.

When you use LucisArt, I suggest the SCULPTURE setting with the top slider less than 12 and the bottom slider above 70 or so. Now, the screenshot below has the bottom slider at 55 original just to show you how it makes the lines “pop”. It’s a bit like UNSHARP MASK, but quite a bit better, in my judgment.

HDR Tutorial (by Stuck in Customs)

Bonus Step – Processing a single RAW file

In Photomatix, go you can simply open a RAW file and then go right to Tone Mapping! This is a new feature, and a welcome time saver… You will get a little warning that it is not a true HDR image, but just ignore that. Many times, I find that it is quite good enough.

People ask me all the time if it is better to use just One RAW or multiple. Well, sometimes you have no choice if the subject is moving… but the result can be quite nice in both conditions. For the record, I always take multiple exposures whenever possible.

To show you how good images can look from just a single RAW file, here are a few examples:

The Place Where Rebekka's Horses Run Free

A Giraffe on the Savannah

This is Nathaniel

The Lonely Road to the Dinosaur Dig

That is an hour of your life you will never get back, but let’s hope you formed some good memories and skills to create more. Best of luck and I thank you for all your comments and feedback. I currently have over 20,000 emails unread in my photography inbox, so I apologize if I do not get back to you… just don’t have enough time I am afraid. But thanks for all your comments and support! I hope you all have as much fun with HDR as I am – again, best of luck to you!

Did You Find the HDR Tutorial Useful?

If you did, please make a little blog post about it and link back here to “HDR Tutorial“!  That would be very nice of you, and it would help more find out the best way to make good HDRs.  Thanks!

Stuck In Customs Textures Tutorial

The video Stuck In Customs Textures Tutorial is only a click a way. Now that you are getting to know HDR, why not move onto the next one? 🙂 Below is an advertisement that talks a little about the content. I think out of all our sales, we have only had ONE return, so people seem happy with it.

Stuck In Customs Textures Poster

The Stuck In Customs Textures Tutorial.  Make your photos stand out from the crowd!

  • Hey.
    Nice webpage and HDR tutorial. I’m working on puting together a new travel site to replace the mess of a site that’s been taking up webspace for the last several years. Keep up the great HDRs on flickr, and thanks for the briliant group of yours and your comments.
    Eric (worldwidewandering on flickr)

  • great tutorial, thanks.
    have ben a fan of your shots for some time now, and had problems with setting photomatix’s tonemapping but these settings work great, thanks a lot.

  • Dennis ‘Syo Belleza

    thanks for the tutorial, bro 🙂
    this means a lot to us, yah know. man, i can’t thank you enough for sharing your creations and tips to us.

  • ChrisIrmo

    Wonderful tutorial! Thanks for sharing. You’ve got some truly stunning work, and it’s great to see how it all goes together. The tips about HDR from a single RAW are great. I’m going to have to try FDR Tools and LucisArt now!

  • Will

    Could you repeat all of that please?

  • Wow, great tutorial! Thanks for writing it! 🙂

    I loved all the detailed information and I think your writing style is fun: German minimalists and unpronounceable compositions of consonants (f.d.r.g.u.i) included! 🙂

    Now all I need is a camera that can shoot raws, and Im going to try out the photoshop High pass part since I dont have the lucisart plugin…

    Thanks again 🙂

  • A. J. Whitney

    Thanks so much for writing this tutorial and sharing all this great information with us. I can’t wait to put some of this info to use!

  • I’m gonna add this to my favorite websites. Your explanation of things is so clear! Thanks for sharing!

  • skip

    Good job.

  • Altus

    Awesome job on the tutorial! Something there for everyone to learn.

    Guess that means I can tell my bro now about LucisArt (he was pestering me, but I kept my mouth shut as instructed 😉

    Commentary on the user(un)friendliness of FDR is apt!

  • I love your description of our memory of a scene being like a quilt. I hate things that become too trendy (and HDR seems headed that way), but your comments inspired my ongoing interest in it.

    I definitly need to come back and read your entire tutorial as soon as I get a chance!

  • Stuck, I’m not sure where you get the time to do all this, but thanks anyway. Your Flickr
    Cabal obviously takes some time. Thanks for your comments on individual images. And now an HDR tutorial? Too much! But thanks anyway..for all of this! …Rgds, Colin


  • What a great job you’ve done on this tutorial. Thank you so much for taking the time to do all this.

    Just a note on the Lucis Art plug in … after reading your tutorial I was just about ready to pay the $169 for this plugin then I decided to email the company with a few questions. I got some very good information from a nice lady named Barbara at ICT.

    First the good news: They are totally OK with a customer installing the plugin on both their laptop and their desktop machine and using the same serial number.

    Now, the maybe not so good news: The current version will not work on Intel Mac once Photoshop is upgraded to CS3 (the Intel binary). It will work right now on Intel Macs running CS2 under Rosetta but would stop working after upgrading to CS3. So the dilemma is: Buy it now and then possibly pay for an upgrade to a CS3 compatible version of the plugin or wait and buy it when the CS3 compatible version comes out? … I might just wait, $169 is already a little steep for a plugin… but paying that and then paying for an upgrade in 4-6 months … I don’t know.

  • GREAT tutorial man, thanks for taking the time to build this… I think I will find this very useful.

  • Georgy Holden

    Very helpful tutorial.. will have to give this technique a try.

  • Thank you so much! Your work is so amazing one could only hope to learn something from you! Thanks again I am off the give it a try.

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  • Many thanks, Trey and thanks for that discount code. I finally decided to pay up and register the product, and 15% off is not to be sneezed at.

    I greatly enjoyed your clear writing.

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  • chris

    RAWs in Aperture can be exported by right clicking (control clicking) the image and choosing Output -> Export Master. Assuming the original file was RAW of course.

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  • Craig P.

    I’m sorry, but the Single Raw conversion using the laest version of Photomatix dosn’t seem to work. It won’t even let me select any of my RAW files (I only shoot in RAW.) When I go to Automate>Batch Processing, it insists on having at least 2 files chosen. No option for selecting a single file. And when I navigate to the Source folder of my RAWs, I can’t select ANY of them!

    Any advice or help would be greatly appreciated! (Using version 2.2.2 of Photomatix)

  • Craig – yes I know what you are talking about… you have to select just ONE raw file. You can’t select the directory. I know… it is confusing… it makes you think you can batch process single raw files, but you can’t. You just “batch” process “one” selected at a time.

  • Orcel Marly

    Does anybody know if the LucisArt plug-in will work in Photoshop Elements 4.0 for Mac?

    From reading the tutorial it looks like all the things that were done in Photoshop could also be done in the less expensive Photoshop Elements.

  • Thank you very much fot this very useful tutorial. I will now go out armed with my camera and tripod with the goal of taking multiple exposure shots for HDR !

  • fantastic tutorial!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    you are great!!!

  • This tutorial came in very handy for me – since I have recently committed myself to learn this technique – HDR.

    Thank you.

    It´s been bookmarked – and that´s a compliment indeed!

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  • Thanks for sharing this!
    My 1st attempt at it turned kinda cool.


    Sincerely, steve GB

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  • bulldog

    can’t take a bit of contructive criticise, eh?

    yet you leave the madonna porn post.

  • Rezwan

    wow, a great website! very cool and awesome contents. keep it up.

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  • This is an excellent tutorial . The pictures are great and the explanation is very clear . I have started using the Photomatix plugin and it is great for producing something a little bit different

  • wjaz


    Please don’t take it as an offense, but your HR photos seem to be overprocessed. I mean for example the inside of the grotto looks great, the people playing in the water are excellent, but the sky is just wrong – the halo ruins everything and makes the photo not-so-believable.

    But hey – that’s just my opinion.


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  • Semi-detached (Flickr)

    Very nice tutorial – cheers. And thanks for your message. Will have a go with some of those techniques.

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  • I wish I had never read this…….Now I have to go out and try this immediately! You’ve created a monster. *grin*

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  • Don

    You are the coolest photographer ever! What’s your myspace? E-mail me! I’m taking photographs nowadays of models and behind the scenes celebrity work and I think this is the coolest thing ever and you are such a humbling, congenial person for sharing this info with us all. You rock!

  • haha thanks…

    I don’t really hang out on MySpace at all, but I did create a page because of peer pressure. It is at http://myspace.com/treyratcliff .

  • Thanks for your excellent tutorial…i have been using both tool for a long while and your technique ever since you first mentioned about it in flickr group…but failed to give you any credit for it. So, here goes – thanks for sharing your technique…like the other guy – you’ve created tons of monsters!

  • I should have gone a little deeper and I would have found the answer to my questions. Thanks you did an awesome job.


  • Brad W.

    Okay I see how this works, but I don’t understand how one can take action shots like this, don’t there have to be multiple images?
    Oh, and is it possible to do the same with a film camera?

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  • Q

    Those first 4 photos are ABSOLUTELY AMAZING. I had always seen HDRIs as useful only for reflection and lighting when texturing in 3D modelling apps. Never really considered the creative possibilities, I’m ashamed to say. This stuff is remarkable.

    The Ebony porn star link above was quite a revelation too(!)

    I’m joking!!!

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  • Dinesh Gurubaran

    Gr8 Tutorial. Gonna wrkout on all the images which till date i considered junk(bcoz of underexposure).
    THANKS for the gr8 tutorial.

  • Abhilash

    thas gr8…a new art form in photography..luvd it..and thanx for the tutorial…

  • Open source is good. I appreciate your effort. You appear to be a great photographer. Why don’t you tone down the HDR over processed look a bit. I’d like to see your style speak it’s volumes, not a technique look.

    You’ve propmted me to play with the trial which I will most likely purchase.

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  • Wow, thanks for the detailed tutorial, I’ll experiment with this

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  • Thanks for the effort to knock this wonderful tutorial, Trey. This did help me to to try out with my first skittish HDR effort… 🙂

    I adore your fotos as well…


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  • I get dozens of spam-comments on my website. So i figured I would send you a serious response to brighten your day, in the event that you also spend time cleaning out the trash.

    Thank you for taking the time to educate other artists in a time when people are hiding talents behind marketable advantages.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • COol 🙂

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  • I’m completely speechless.. your photography is absolutely stunningly breathtakingly gorgeous. I’m completely lost with your tutorial.. but maybe if I read it enough something will start making sense 🙂 Thanks!!

  • Jackson

    Ditto #114

    I feel like you did all the research and climbed the mountain, and now you’re reaching back down to help others.
    Your best pics await you in Idaho!
    Start with Sawtooth Lake.

  • Leicester Jim

    Great tutorial – inspired me to try HDR.

    Is there any chance you can post the three original pics or varying exposure on Flickr so us mere mortals can experiment with them in Photomatix?

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  • Dr LaNovio

    You have a couple of very nice images on this site. It is very thoughtful of you to document your work flow. You have gotten so good at HDR you probably have the time to work on honing your humility (Just practice 30 mins a day or so… It’s fun.)


    Mr Smelly Hands

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  • Eddie Domka

    do you prefer lightroom or aperture

  • phlezk

    waaay too many steps. HDR is easy, but this thing is pretty lengthy and complicated.

  • Jeff

    I think your stuff is amazing…

    Is there a place that I could download full-size images with multiple exposures so that I could try this on my own… I currently don’t have DSLR and would like to try HDR and some other things before I invest in one…

    Anybody care to help me out? It doesn’t matter if you have a big watermark in the middle of it to protect your work, I just want to try it out… Thanks

  • Thanks all.

    Eddie – I prefer Lightroom – it is faster and has better integration with other Adobe products.

    phlezk – I think you did not read this… this is long because there are several examples, not because the process is long.

    Jeff – Thanks! I’m afraid I have no uploaded any of the component shots – I may do that in the future, though.

  • Luke

    Dude, nice tutorial you got there. There’s one problem though. After i did everything(except the lucistart). My images turned out blur. And i tried to sharpen it. But still i cant get a good results. so im wondering, how did u make your images crystal sharp?

  • Blurry eh? I am not sure – did you use a tripod? Maybe they got blurred from uneven shots?

  • Luke

    I did not use a tripod though(my tripod sucks). And all i did was a single raw file conversion.

  • some guy

    interesting and fun, but most of the images just look like Hollywood CG renderings. this is NOT how the eye works. the images just look so fake.

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  • Big Hardcore Drug User

    Anyone ever do mushrooms? The world turns into a big 3D HDR image, haha.

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  • Do you need Photomatix if you have Photoshop CS2?

  • Yes I think so. I don’t think the Photoshop CS2 does an adequate job of HDR.

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  • Kuby :o)

    Trey . . . Just went through this page. Awesome now go try some of the ideas.

  • Thanks a lot.
    The trick of one RAW for HDR is so good.

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  • Paul

    Thanks so much for inspiring me to get into HDR!

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  • Valerie

    Wonderful and breathtaking. Thanks!

  • Just curious to know how you prevent (if you do) comment spam?

  • Frank Gamble

    Brilliant pictures!

  • Thanks all.

    Well my akisnet spam thing gets a lot of spam, but not all of it…

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  • Jon B

    Awesome. Thank you. I’ve been needing a reason to re-learn photography and get back into the art and craft I used to love so much. This has sparked me and lit that fire. I’m excited!

    Jon B.
    Dripping Springs, TX

  • Principal, interest, tax and the borrower on a monthly basis

  • Really stunning photo’s!!! What does photomatix cost? Do you buy a license for a limited period, or is it a once off kinda thing where you only pay for the upgrades?

  • Thanks all

    Photomatix I think is just over 100 or so? Use the coupon code “stuckincustoms” to get a bit off! 🙂

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  • PhotographicKnowledge

    Muahaha – HDR by software ROFL
    You brainers should learn how to SHOOT such impressive photos by brain, camera and skills, instead of laming around in PS and tell the world afterwards how GOOD you are.

    The same effects can be done on the fly with special filters and shooting raw, with a following raw conversion e.g. C1.

  • Chas Conquest

    You are a pal to offer this information up…thanks so much!!!

  • Jimmy

    I have just started trying to use HDR and for some reason my images come out incredibly grainy. I’m not sure if it is my camera or something I’m doing wrong. If anyone can help it would be much appreciated.

  • Try to keep your ISO at 100 – that is a possible problem that some people have.

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  • Boogiefunk

    As Trey has mentioned, you can minimise noise during post processing in photoshop with various techniques. The more you push the limits of your image the more noise you’ll get. As well as keeping a low ISO, it helps to check noise with your zoom tool while tweeking your HDR and adjust your sliders until you find a satisfying compromise.

  • Great stuff.

  • Jimmy

    My camera has a min iso of 200 and the noise is beyond what I can fix in photomatix or photoshop without ruining the picture. Any other suggestions?

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  • Eric Larson

    Great tutorial. Lots of info to play with. I got photomatix a month ago and I am hooked. your tutorial gives me some more ideas to work with it. Have you tried Noise Ninja for the noise issue? I got it as well and am really impressed with what it does.

  • petervanallen

    Thanks for a wonderful tutorial Trey. I have followed both yours and Valpopandos work very closely over the past few months since joining the Flickr community and I would like to thank you both for the inspiration that you bring to us all, thank you, Peter

  • kyle scharf

    how do you do hdr photos of objects that move like horses… also, i would like to know if the d-70 can autobracket on its own… can i set it to shoot all 5 sequential modes without having to manually change the settings and move slightly moving my camera? btw… .these are some of the best hdr photos i have seen yet.

  • Thanks all –

    The moving photos are just single RAWs processed via Photomatix.

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  • Ann
  • Chris

    I’m not sure what other people use but I use Neat Image and I am far more than impressed.

    Man, I cannot tell you how utterly speachless (but inspired) you have left me. If I could be only half the artist you are I’d be proud. Thank you for sharing all of your work with us and taking the time to write this tutorial. It is really appreciated. Take care and keep up the great work.

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  • Beautifully crafted!

  • banjoboy

    There is a lot of photography on the web. Lots of HDR too. Your pix impressed me. Good eye, good after processing. Good everything. Keep it up!

  • Thanks for the wonderfully put tutorial. I’m just starting to get into all the HDR hype. Love them. Thanks

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  • Gray Lensman

    Thanks, Trey! Got some good results. Next stop some panoramas using my 24mm Tilt Shift Canon taking three shots and merging them and then using HDR.

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  • tiansuyan

    Thank you for sharing the photos, i’ve really moving … look at them like be in a fairy tale

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  • Heloo!!!

  • how to contact you? I wanted to see if we could hire you for something…

  • damq

    hello. I am really interested in HDR, but I have no enougth money to buy an DSLR or Reflex camera. instead, I can buy by now just the Panasonic Lumix DCM FZ7, wich is a “bridge” model or also named semi-reflex… you get the idea 😉 so, I would like to know your opinion: will be fine to use this camera or better I wait and save some money to buy one DSLR? thanks

  • It would be best if the camera can shoot in bracketed mode – is that possible?

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  • Am I missing a crucial part of the “HDR from one RAW file”? I can’t seem to get that accomplished through photomatix. Your screenshot above shows 5 files used in the single RAW section of the tutorial. HELP!!!!

  • To get the HDR out of one RAW file, go to BATCH PROCESSING and then choose the folder the file is in… then just click on the one file and click RUN

  • @tratcliff

    A big thank you! I was sure that was exactly what I had tried before, but for some reason it didn’t work…. surely it was a one in a million glitch in the program, b/c we KNOW it couldn’t have been human error!!!

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  • Gruezi, Super Site betreibt Ihr hier!!! Das kann sich wirklich sehen lassen…

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  • Brian

    Great tutorial!

    For those looking for an easy and free way to do tone mapping with a single exposure, Picnik just added an HDR-ish effect.

    It’s free, check it out: http://www.picnik.com/

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  • I finally decided to give you a little feedback ! well you got it! i love your site !!! no , really, its good…

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  • Fantastic website… Good resources for learning, easy to follow… Keep up the good work!!! Make your opinion about my resources 🙂

  • Hello! Good Site! Thanks you! igubkzpjmrvazm

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  • Thank you for this wonderful tutoral!

  • Hello! Good Site! Thanks you! ntluzznqzpm

  • Hi,

    if you need a tutorial in german, visit my hdr-photo page: http://cedricsuetterlin.jimdo.com/hdr_fotos.php
    Thanks alot!

  • COOOOOOL!!!!!!!! Let’s be friends!!! Go to my site and post your info 🙂

  • Peter Cook

    Well I have to say that I feel that most of the images look very over manipulated. You made a comment that if you overdo things the picture can look manipulated, well I am sorry but your pictures look manipulated, you have gone just that bit to far. I can fully see the prospect of HDR but it really needs to be toned down to look natural. Only my views.

  • You did a great job of covering a selection of options for us to use. I like opptions.

    And you’ve my job easier, my boss has been having me research this HDR for a single image. You have shown me the one thing I needed, “Single image” in Photomatrix.

    I appreciate it much.

    One question, where is Hamilton Pool?
    I was told once, somewhere near east river side or some thing like that.

    Thank you again.

    Paul Strength

  • Thanks all – expect for over manip dude (j/k).

    Hamilton Pool is about 45 mins outside of austin – just google it for a map 🙂

  • This is exactly what I expected to find out after reading the title HDR Tutorial – Featuring HDR 2.0. Thanks for informative article

  • this is so amazing, I’ve never tried this, I can’t wait to trying to start creating, it’s like your creating true art!

  • This is exactly what I expected to find out after reading the title o.us poetry. Thanks for informative article

  • Array

  • WoW!! You are genius!

  • Great work. Ran across your pics on flickr and followed them here. Exceptional work, particularly the Disney shots at flickr.

  • Rik

    I have one issue with something you said at the beginning of your tutorial. You said at the beginning that HDR (High Dynamic Range) “is a software technique for taking either one image or a series of images, combining them, and adjusting the contrast ratios to do things that are virtually impossible with a single aperture and shutter speed.” While I agree about the latter part, HDR specifically refers to extending dynamic range which can only be done from multiple separate pictures at different exposure levels. A cameras sensor doesn’t have enough dynamic range to get the details in the highlights and the shadows at the same time, hence the need for separate exposures. Processing one Raw image by saving them with different exposure compensation values doesn’t add dynamic range because you can’t add information that isn’t there. the exposure compensation in software is simply an algorythm for adjusting the current existing values.

  • James

    is there a way to do all this with just using photoshop…im not one of the those program purchasers and was wondering if there are steps to doing HDR in photoshop

  • You can do SOME of this just in photoshop. However, to do it the right way, it really helps to use Photomatix.

  • I have to say, that I could not agree with you in 100% regarding HDR Tutorial – Featuring HDR 2.0, but it’s just my opinion, which could be wrong 🙂

  • Unreal

    I think they are very nice, but it is not a photography! It is photo montage, and retouch, not real photography.

    I agree with tratcliff, search the real way, not with photoshop!

  • Dave

    All debate and theory of what is and is not photography aside, this stuff is F’ing art!! Take all the tools you have available and create something new and inspiring.

    I’m buying a new camera and kicking my PC to the curb.

    Thanks for sharing your tricks!

  • raf

    I am in the Internationnal education program at St-Jean-Eudes schools. The graduation project in this program is a personnal project. I spare you the details to come to the facts… the concept of my project is a magazine on architecture, fashion, design, showbiz, all that is linked to the art. It would be a issu on New-York. I ask myself if I can use some of your picture that could be in my magazine (will not be published )

    I would also need copyright to use your picture for my teachers!


    Tank you
    Raphaël Désilets

  • Are You Sure ?

  • Its wonderful, Sweet!

  • chromaticlight

    Excellent tutorial! Thank you

  • This is absolutely amazing dawg. I mean, I can’t get enough of this software! I need to email you all the shit I’ve done with celebrity pictures and the background. Paris Hilton recently bought one right now and it’s feautured on her upcoming porn video. LOL. naw, but she did buy one. hopefully soon i will make money like you are. much love dawg.

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  • Thanks for this fantastic article!

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  • You sir, are a bloody genius! Very nice work…very inspirational. A great way to get an old-school Photoshop hack like me off his duff to catch up. Best wishes and luck to you and your endeavors!



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  • Bob
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  • That was a good one! Thanks for sharing this tutorial to us…

  • WOOW One of the things that really impressed and the quality and professionalism in the work Jabbar thank you all creative



  • Yezdi

    An awesome HRD tutorial. Thank You.

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  • Kevin

    Hi, thanks so much for your tutorial, that’s what I need and now I know why the pro(s) can take pictures that cool, thanks again, you’re so cool man, I’m from Texas too, but Houston, cheers

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  • Thanks for your tutorial. It is realy use full for my project in College.

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  • Alan

    Hello there!

    Fantastic tutorial on HDR .You really went in depth for your multiple image hdr’s, which I am very grateful for! However I really don’t think there is enough information to be found on the internet that covers HDR using a single RAW image file. I have just purchased Photomatix Pro 2.5.4 and using the method you discussed, it comes up with an error message that basically states “Could not find 3 files to processs.” I’m assuming this is because it’s the latest version and they have changed the process? Also will you be offering any more information on how to produce and get the most out of ‘single RAW image HDR’s??’ It otherwise very much limits the pictures you can take if you have to find a ‘still scene’ so that you can take multiple exposures needed to get a great looking HDR. I’m sure this will be of great help for people wanting to take portrait or night time shots. Also, a great benefit for Photmatix if people could see there is a much broader use of HDR than allot of people are aware. I look forward to a favorable response.

    Best Regards

  • Sorry I was not clear about the single file deal…. I do use single RAW files all the time in Photomatix – just go to Automate > Single File Conversion. Change the options in there to convert your RAW to a .hdr file. After that, open the .hdr file with photomatix, at which time you can tonemap it.

  • Alan

    Hi there,

    Thanks for getting back to me so quickly…I am new to this and only realy touched on HDR. the part im confused with is “Change the options in there to convert your RAW to a .hdr file. After that, open the .hdr” I have the option to convert from a high to low dynamic range (tone mapping) or from low to high dynamic range” along with other options. Can you please advise on the best way to set these and what each setting does?

    Cheers 🙂

  • No need to choose any special options – just do the basic convert to .hdr, and then you can tweak everything out in Tone-mapping later, after you re-import the HDR into Photomatix.

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  • I couldn’t understand some parts of this article HDR Tutorial – Featuring HDR 2.0, but I guess I just need to check some more resources regarding this, because it sounds interesting.

  • Alan

    Thanks again for your reply. I followed your instructions and converted to HDR. I seem to be getting somewhere now! 🙂 Although still not getting the same results as yourself im afraid :S Guess its all about getting the perfect lighting/contrast etc before you convert your single shot raw to HDR. I would be very grateful if you could state the ‘tone mapping tweaks’ you used on the three pictures featured in your tutorial examples.

    Best Regards

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  • interesting stuff.. perhaps a little over the top at times though.. 😉

  • your works are amazing, really inspire me go to the next level. thank you !!!

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  • Love your Work You inspire Me !!!

  • Wonderful tutorial – thanks for taking the time to post.

    I’ve been doing HDR for a year or so and I was about to call fake at the NYTimes square pic as I couldn’t see how you’d pulled off the moving traffic with 3 exposures.

    Then I saw the missing link – all the photoshop stuff afterwards !

    This is what I’ve been missing !

    I’ve got PSP X so there’s a little conversion to do but I’m right back on these HDR’s now.

  • OstAh

    thank you very much

    you are very talent person

    good luck

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  • Holger


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  • Eugene Lim

    i just cant stop staring at your HDRs! there’s something in it that i can not explain. 😀

  • Luke

    This tutorial ROCKS! Thanks man. Now I need to buy Photomatix

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  • Thanks all – glad you are getting a lot out of it! 🙂

  • Sarah

    Wow. Your work is very inspiring and I really feel I learned something. Shame so many of the comments were from those dumb spam bots. sheesh. I’m so impressed with what the HDR does and the programs do to open up and make the images interesting. Thanks!!!

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  • Andrew

    I am a bit confused with the Photoshop step, where exactly is the RAW importer in Photoshop CS3? I don’t see any option called that. How exactly do I open images with that?

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  • Andrew – look in your photoshop for Adobe Camera Raw. There is an option there inside your File Handling Preferences. Also, in Bridge, you can r-click an picture and then you should see you can open in Adobe Camera RAW

  • Chris

    Check out SpamKarma if you want to get rid of the comment spam – its drag and drop, couple of mouse clicks and the spam goes away…

    Awesome tutorial – thanks for taking the time. Took my first attempt at the Jupiter lighthouse this evening, shooting from the Square Grouper. I added two Margaritas to the instructions for me… they worked great!

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  • Wonderful Tutorial. It’s really clear and concise. Thanks!

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  • tzunky

    Thanks well done

  • John Krizan

    Thank you so much for your input on my photo Skylinephoto)

  • Frank

    Since photos but not one is realistic. This sort of misrepresents what hdr is really about. Although creative freedom is a given you should clearly state that much more realistic results are possible.

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  • Thanks so much for this tutorial! I’ve been wanting to get into HDR for a while, but had trouble finding good help. Your tutorial is awesome. You’re a great writer with an AWESOME sense of humor! It’s nice to see someone who is so good at what they do, AND don’t take themselves too seriously! Thanks for sharing!

  • Haha thanks – glad you liked it! 🙂

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  • anuradha

    Hey thanks:-)
    This is most helpful

  • Get site and tutorial.
    Some of my examples at:

    Thanks / Max

  • holy moly….my intereste in photography just PEAKED…I’ve always wanted to take better photos and now I have a plan to do it.

  • Neil

    Great tutorial, thanks, inspiring!

    One problem through. My Photomatix images dont line up to my other jpgs processed in lightroom.
    I have Goggled and tried different options. It seems the photomatix images are out of line or a slightly different size to the LR JPGs. I cant figure out how to fix this issue. I really want to blend PM with LR HDR RAWs, but this is bugging me.
    Even if i try auto align after its not good enough.


  • Fantastic shots and a wonderful tutorial. How you figured all this out is beyond me, but that’s precisely the type of shot I’ve always wanted to get. Now I have the ability. Thank you!

  • Great job. Love those samples.

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  • El tutorial es fantastico.
    Es una pena no poder leerlo en Español… pero que mas podemos pedirte???



    The tutorial is really fantastic.
    I´d like to read it in Spanish… but what else can you ask???


    Regards and Thanks a lot!!!

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  • Bob the Chef

    I agree with some guy. HDR can work well if used properly, but often (and most of the images above fit this description) come out looking fake, as if they’re either CG circa 1995, or as if someone was playing around with the solarize filter in Photoshop. This effect is particularly pronounced around the edges of objects, such as the windmill pictured above.

    I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t remember things in the distorted manner many incorrectly done HDR photos present the subject.

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  • @Neil:

    If you’re having problems lining up your photos in Photomatix, try this (it helped me):

    1) In Photoshop CS3 (haven’t tried it with other versions) go to File->Automate->Merge to HDR.

    2) Pick your source images, then follow the dialog boxes.

    3) After the image is merged to HDR (and you’ve optionally changed the levels), save it as a TIFF file.

    4) Open Photomatix and go to File->Open and open the HDR image you just saved as a tiff.

    5) Apply the tonemapping as you normally would.

    6) Save the file as a 16 bit tiff (you can check the radio button for either 16 bit or 8 bit)

    Your images should line up now. That is my method at least. Best of luck.

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  • ChainSmirker

    HDR is so very very very very very overused. It’s going to become the “lens flare” of the 21st Century. Mark my words.

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  • Diego

    Hi, does anybody know if i can do this with a Canon rebel Xti? not sure if it has autobracketing…

  • hi trey, great as usual!

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  • Andres Bonilla

    I love your tutorial but I found out that some photos do not look good on hdr, I have a single exposure done handheld with a high ASA an it looks horrible in Photomatix 🙁 It looks solarized for some reason. I’ll keep trying, hopefully I’ll get some advise.

  • Hi, great tutorial! I’ve bought Photomatix with your discount coupon code.. Thanks!!

  • Thanks all — For that question about the “solarized” – make sure you bump up the black clipping on that first tab just a little bit… if it is all the way on the left, it can come out a bit too bright!

  • Perfect PhotoWork…

    Thanks for this great tutorial.

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  • Thank you so much for this! I love HDR and this will enhance my work tremendously!

  • Thank you Trey! I am giving a presentation on Photomatix and HDRI at my camera club. I’m far from an expert, but I know more than most people in my camera club. I just downloaded the new version of Photomatix (I was using 2.3.1) and your tutorial was very helpful! The new version is so different than the old one, it would have taken me forever to learn it well enough to give a presentation on without the help of your toutorial.

    Thanks again,

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  • Jason

    My kids and I especially likes the porno comments posted here… very helpful, indeed.

    You do know WordPress has a moderation function, right? Might want to look into it.

  • yeah sorry – I do use the filter stuff… but it does not catch anything and I get hundreds per day across all my posts.

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  • MIchael S

    Love the information provided very informative, I went out today and took 100’s of photo’s to try it all out, I will be rather busy I think. GREAT WORK.

  • Chris

    These pictures are spectacular. Can anyone explain how to stop motion in these, given that they are a blend of sequence frames? For example, in the shot of the boats above, how do you get the surface of the water to be that sharp? Thanks!

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  • http://prostitytkiprov.blogspot.com/ ??????????? ???????????

  • Jerry Lin

    I REALLY appreciate this article. I found this extremely helpful.

  • Your pictures are unbelivable!
    I try to imitate you, but it’s an hard work 🙂

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  • Excellent tutorial, thanks!

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  • Simon

    Thanks a lot, first time i have commented on someones work, but this is so useful and well explained I thought I should.

    It is not often you find people kind enough to help others like us achieve something great


  • Being a professional photojournalist I saw the article: “HDR: Not For News, But What About Elsewhere?” in New Photographer and it peaked my interest. While I can not use HDR in photojournalism I can and will use it in nature and fine art photography.

    Great Tutorial thanks for sharing

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  • AA


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  • I just wanted to say my appreciation for all the work you put into creating this excellent HDR tutorial!
    personally I have been shooting with the sigma 10-20mm zoom for sometime now.
    I hope to aspire to the excellence achieved by your skill at photography.

  • BronxLens

    Hi. Can someone clarify the minimum requirements for a digital SLR in order to do HDR photography? I like the Olympus E-510 and the Nikon D40 & the D80, but not sure which one to go for. My budget $1000.00 US for both camera and lens.

    Thanks in advance.

  • drew

    There is no minimum requirement for a digital camera, I have used a small canon 8mp point and shoot to do some decent HDR with although it is more work in the post process. I have an olympus e-500 and pretty much love it. The only thing I recommend when choosing a camera for HDR use is to make sure you have the ability to change your auto-bracketing levels. The e-500 only allows for a +1 0 -1 shooting range. I heard the optimal is +2 0 -2. If I knew about HDR a few years back then I would have chosen another camera. But when it comes to the entry level dslr choices out there, I think people choose the camera by the brand they have an established relationship with. As I did.

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  • Cameron

    Thanks a lot for the tutorial! It really made photomatix easy to use for the first time – here’s an HDR photo of my house here

  • nice job!

  • Roger

    Awesome tutorial and work. Unfortunately the discount link no longer gives you a break on the $99 price 🙁

  • Roger

    My bad, I didn’t see that you type “StuckInCustoms” at HDR Software’s website to get the 8% discount. Thanks so much.

  • Im new at this…….really years of dreaming with a passion that has finally come to life! You are right about…..doing the same ole thing doesnt help you improve on your skills…i have gotten stuck on the same ole thing that has worked for me…..now time to expand my horizons! thanks for the tutorial on the hdr……i will keep you posted!

  • Taylor

    Thank you so much for the tutorial! It’s straightforward, easy-to-understand, and humor filled all at once. I cannot wait to begin experimenting!

  • Beez

    One fine tutorial there my friend!
    not only did i learn some great technique, i also learnt some new words such as crunk, aplomb and behoove!
    Laughed my head off too.
    Now im off to get some shots!

  • Great tutorial and very useful! Thanks so much

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  • David Sirh

    Thanks for the great tutorial, I found the photoshop stuff to be really helpful in fixing streaks and density problems in my images. I was wondering If I could list some of you techniques in my research paper on HDR for my Digital Imaging Class.

    Thanks again


  • Thank you so much for sharing your insight. I am new to the hdr stuff (I still do everything manually with layers in photoshop) and am confused about the photomatix addition. Doesn’t CS3 do exactly what Photomatix does?

  • Thanks All – Glad you are digging the tutorial! CS3 does indeed do HDR, but it is not nearly as good, efficient, or intuitive as using Photomatix as described above!

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  • hi there, great tutorial, but i’m having some issues with my photos, i would like to post a link to my flickr account just for you see them and if you don’t mind tell me what i’m doing wrong…

    so, here it goes

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/

    thank you a lot! ! ! !

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  • clyde

    Hi, Nice site and tutorial.
    However, Although I am a self proclaimed HDR fan, there are limitations that need to be exercised when using this tool (weapon?).

    and it should be used in moderation, if not it will be easy to “date” a photograph.

    There are also dangers that go with HDR such as tell tale signs of Halos around areas of extreme contrast.

    Some of the pictures you have I see have been taken around 2006? They show a lot of HDR artefacts.
    Such as the Boat images showing excessive digital noise (teh red in the boats) due to HDR processing

    Also the Windmill in the last image has both chroma noise and Chromatic Abberations (purple color fringing)-this may have been due to the lenses used.
    But it can be easily corrected in PS3 with the lens correction filters.

    All in all great composition on the Photos!
    and I have learned a lot from these pages.

    (Dubai UAE)

  • thank you a lot for passing by my flickr account and for the comment too! ! !

    Best Regards

    Giovanni Poumian

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  • Wendy

    Wow! your pictures are amazing. Thank you for the tutorial. I have tried HDR once, but need to keep playing with it. I don’t have a good tripod right now, so I am dependent on places to set the camera down.

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  • Beautiful shots and Brilliant colors!
    WOW! Good work

  • This is so cool. Thank you so much for doing this. You and your work rocks!

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  • Charles Curtis

    Hello … I am so impressed with the beauty of your work. I have a few ?’s – If anyone can help?
    1. I’ve attempted to take 1 RAW file in Lightroom, and change the exposure, to -2 and +2. Then save the file as a RAW image. I use these 3 files in Photomatix (or other HDR programs). Unfortunately Photomatix suggests that the exposure of all images is the same. (Wondering why I can save a -2 and +2 file in Lightroom that doesn’t register with Photomatix??) Still … no worries. Photomatix allows me to manually recalibrate the exposure of each file. Hence I ascribe -2,0 (original), +2.

    Problems with HDR noise. I find that I have noise problems, when I create an HDR file. Especially with skies!! Wow. My fix is to create layers o the HDR file and the original raw file in Photoshop, and to erase the noisy stuff in the HDR file. – Any suggestions.

    3. Any opinions on other HDR software? – I have Dynamic Photo HDR, and I am thinking about purchasing Easy HDR.

    Many thanks.

  • Praveen Verma

    Thank you so much for sharing your insight. I am new to the hdr stuff (I still do everything manually with layers in photoshop) I have Nikon D70s but i have not tried HDR or RAW file This Will help me a lot for that to start, and i am confused about the photomatix addition. Doesn’t CS3 do exactly what Photomatix does?

    Thanks & Regards

  • wynny

    i just want to say that this is just GREAT work!
    thats art my friend!

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  • reza

    You are the greatest photographer of all time.

  • Beckett

    Vinnie Vumbaco is hot.

  • Jess

    I have to put my hands up and say I’m a HDR hatah *but* having read the tutorial and looked at the work you do to the photos I have a lot of respect of the work you do.

    Still think some of the original shots are more amazing than the result, but that personal preference and my preference to get the last word 😉

  • Cheekygeek

    I have seen very few people who can use Photomatix without making the picture look like it was produced by a computer or is some CGI frame from a movie or game. If that is the effect you are going for, great, but I hate to see it labeled HDR. Ansel Adams shots gave you a feeling of intense reality, not unreality. I’m going to resist blaming the tool (Photomatix) and instead blame those who just like to turn the dials too high.

    An excellent HDR Tutorial WITHOUT Photomatix can be found here: http://backingwinds.blogspot.com/2006/10/how-to-create-professional-hdr-images.html

    He knows of what he speaks. He was featured in a UK Photoshop magazine on the subject. He achieves what I think HDR should be, which is capturing everything your eye did in the scene, but which you aren’t used to seeing in a photograph. Think color Ansel Adams.

    Also, this is in some ways more advanced, but HDR bracketed exposures are not possible with many inexpensive point & shoot Canon cameras using CHDK (an alternative firmware that you install on your cameras CF/SD card. It also gives you other advanced capabilities, like RAW, etc.

  • I think your stuff is amazing…

    Is there a place that I could download full-size images with multiple exposures so that I could try this on my own… I currently don’t have DSLR and would like to try HDR and some other things before I invest in one…

    Anybody care to help me out? It doesn’t matter if you have a big watermark in the middle of it to protect your work, I just want to try it out… Thanks

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  • reistarz

    Hi, thanks for sharing your “receipe” for creating great HDR photos! 🙂
    I am stuck at the MASKING part. I tried to use paint brush to paint as taught in the tutorial but when i merge the first and middle layer, the layer becomes my middle layer. Nothing changes. Any help please?

  • Thanks all!

    Very strange there reistarz… Try this
    1) Put the HDR layer on top and the original raw on the bottom
    2) Create a layer mask on the top one
    3) Click in the mask part (white box)
    4) Paint with black to “poke through”
    5) Merge the two layers

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  • Ryan

    I’ve been trying to learn HDR for a little while now, using my Canon XT. It seems that most people either won’t tell you how to make the conversions, or tell you only enough information to frustrate you. Yours has been THE only tutorial I have seen yet that actually goes through the whole conversion process.

    I’ve even had the correct programs all along, just never knew how to use them correctly. So tonight I freaked when I finally was able to generate an HDR with the “look” I’ve been wanting. Thanks!

  • Ottimo tutorial, complimenti veramente 🙂
    Ho appena fatto una foto ed è venuta abbastanza bene.
    Grazie 🙂

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  • dario

    My Dear, first of all Ciao from Italy
    Thank you very much for your lesson, I will read more carefully than today and I hope to start as soon to do some HDR shoot.
    Do you think it will be possible to use this technique for portrait?
    Have a nice day

  • tiokliaw

    Wow !!! I like this tutorial. Am still going through HDR stage. Would be glad if you can advice or please write me a testimonialon my flickr page.


    Good Day to you and your family.

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  • francesca

    hi .. i was just wondering if the Canon 450d would work with the HDR? .. Cuz some cameras were recommended above and i just wanted to know before purshasing the program.

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  • Brandon Dykes

    Im just starting to get into the whole world of HDR and your website was great. I have been using film for 5 years Digital for 3 and justy got into hdr its amazing what you can do. Thanks again for the great post.

  • Hey! Thanks so much for the tutorial! Very excited to get started!

  • Fantastic.

    This makes me want to take landscapes again…

  • A.J. Wilder

    Well put together!

  • Gary Brridgeman

    Hi Great tutorial

    But I tried this on some old HDR exposures that i had but when I opened the raw files to combine with the HDR jpeg.

    The size of the Jpeg from photomatrix was different than the size of the raw file, thus making the layers line up difficult or impossible.

    Any ideas why this is so?

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  • Thanks!

    The photomatix result SHOULD be the same size as the files that went in to create it.

    Try saving from photomatix as a TIF file. I remember a prob several versions ago when the jpg would only save as 1024×768.

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  • Gary Bridgeman


    my input files are raw NEF at 2592 x 3872 pixels

    the output file size is always 2613 x 3900 pixels, which means that when i want to use the NEF under the processed HDR the layers dont match up..stumped!

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  • Thierry

    I really like HDR photos when it’s subtle.
    You’re applying a harsh treatment to most of these example photos making them look totally unnatural.
    The horse is terrible and we can feel the photoshop soft brush everywhere.

    Get some decent eyes dude !

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  • Great work! Thanks!


    To make the initial exposure for HDR, do you set the, camera for center weighted or other settings?

  • Center weighted yes… typically – other settings are flexible and you can learn to play with them in time.

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  • paul

    i reallydont understand this painting through method? why would you paint it black? that just literally paints the layer black??? surely you mean use the eraser to erase parts of the top layer so those parts on the middle layer are visible? Im really confused!!?

  • Painting black on the MASK part is just like erasing through the layer… But I usually use a light opacity on the black so that it takes several strokes to poke all the way through (if that makes sense)

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  • Thank you! A most excellent tutorial!

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  • paul

    Ahhhh! I see now, I dont know what i was doing wrong before,it makes perfect sense.
    Thank you! your tutorial is excellent and your pics are out of this world 😀

  • Anand

    Thank you for this wonderful site. I just started using HDR and man! what a world of difference. It was mainly your pictures that inspired me.
    Wonderful site and wonderful pictures

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  • Pseudoname

    Great tutorial!

    Just wondering one thing, is there any free alternative to Photomatix? I don’t have any budget left after I bought my new CS3-bundled pc.
    Can CS3 do the hdr job?

    And one more thing, how do I shoot a noiseless photo? I find my Canon30D at ISO 100(lowest) not clean enough. Any other tricks?


  • Thanks! You can use free stuff or CS3 — I think Photomatix is far superior, however….

    As for noiseless photo… I can’t suggest anything more than ISO 100! If noise is still bad, I suggest NoiseNinja…

  • Pseudoname

    Thanks a lot. The program was helpful. Hoping it was free though.

  • Pseudoname

    Well, the noise ninja certainly rocks… only on jpeg and tiff.

    I do get a lot of noise in the hdr-processed file.

    Is there any good program that reduce the noise in the raw, or do i just reduce noise after I process the file?

    Thx a lot man. you really helped me.

  • maek

    Your images are awful, and if these are good HDR images then it is time to pack it in. They are completely oversatured, you have banding and artifacts all over the images. You say you want the images to represent what you saw. I’m sorry. but there is no way that church looked liked that.

    Nearly all of the images that I see using hdr make me question the standards of the people creating them.

    I’d advise you to ditch HDR, get a tablet, and simply blend different exposures using layer. It is more time consuming but the result are in a different league.

    And tone down your images. Get away from that saturation slider.

    Very Very amatuerish.

  • adoadoo

    Many thanks, I am looking for so long time, it just the one I need, thanks sharing.

  • Pseudoname

    maek, what’s wrong with getting away from realism? If he wants to represent the image this way, much like how an artist want to paint a painting, then let him.

    You don’t like it, that’s fine, but please don’t get offensive. Nobody wants to be offended.

    Hope you enjoy exploiting the anonimity of the internet giving negative criticisms everywhere.

  • tm

    Thanks. Nice work. Nice ideas to play around with and find my own way with. Surprised at so many a-hole posts, though. A lot of thin-skinned people out there. Don’t let it deter you.

  • Pseudoname, there’s a very good (cheaper) alternative to Photomatix called Essential HDR (ImagingLuminary.com). The community edition of eHDR is free, but only outputs 1 MP images. The full version is $50 (Photomatix is $100). I still use Photomatix because I consider it slightly superior, but at least one of my HDR’ing friends has switched to eHDR because he likes it better.

  • maek

    It is nothing to do with getting away from realism. I have no problem with that. Read my post carefully. I was pointing out the huge problems with his images in terms of quality. Look at the halo effect around the windmill, the horrible clouds, the patchy sky in time square. The nightscape of the sky scrapers looks like a godo photo that has been spoilt. Look at the clouds. They are awful.

    These images have major flaws with them that immediatley give the game away.

  • maek, you are a photo snob. Shut up and get out. Go make your own pictures if you are dissatisfied with Trey’s.

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  • Trevor Kloeden

    Hey Trey.
    Fantastic wed site and some amazing pics. You have inspired me to have ago myself. Thanks for the advice and suggestions. Thanks Dude…..
    Big T

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  • Cool tutorial man.
    I mostly generate 16-bit tiffs in five exposures from one RAW, which gives me excellent results.

    What I miss in your tutorial, is what every HDR starts with: a perfectly exposed image, perfectly being “exposed to the right”. It forces you to not think the way you would think in the analogue world. Think Digital, Think Catching Bits ‘n’ Bytes! 81,25% of all the bits you can get are in the right half of your histogram. 50% of the total is in the right fifth. So exposing your image as “right” as possible will fill your bucket of bits to the max. And that makes all the difference when generating an HDR from one RAW.
    Apart from that, your tutorial on how to fix your HDR in Photoshop is wicked! I will start doing that as from NOW!

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  • Simply breathtaking and being a creative designer and photographer and having used Photogshop for over a decade or so since the veryu first version i simply had never done or converted or processed my shots in HDR. Your tutorial truely does give an immense amount of helpful information.

    Do keep up the good workj and would like feed back so I can imrpove my ways of photography. I am tryin to invest in a good camera high end mysewlf for i have been using my Canon 300 D and Canon 350D and I am a canon man sorry no disrespect to the great Nikon D3 heheh but i am tryiing to go for the Canon MarkIII D2S but more over I need so helpful tips on how to set my camera into the autobracketting mode for my DSLR Pls.

    Best regards


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  • adoadoo

    if only one photo,how to get the result?

  • Chris Davies

    Fantastic to say the least. THANK YOU.

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  • Tim

    Man, have you seen this in Safari on a Mac ? The text is way too big. Really headache inducing – it takes away from the advice.
    I’m going to get photomatix and give it a trial, see what I can get my little Canon to do …

  • Tim (oct. 9), your resolution is set wrong. Trey your work is awsome. And THANK YOU for not being a photo info snob. So many appreciate it. You ROCK!

  • Thank you very much!! Finally I know how to make HDR pictures. Can`t thank you enough for this info and exellent photos, you enlighten us who are new to this. THANK YOU!!!!

  • I just kind of wanted to see if anyone would read this far.

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  • Alex


    That was a fantastic tutorial.
    very amusing at the same time 🙂

    Great work!

  • Dom

    Hey…amazing site and photos. Gives some definite ideas and more. Thanks.

    Go Mustangs.

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  • Tom

    Oh My God! Amazing.

    I have never seen anything like this before and just happened to see your work browsing through flickr the other day.

    I am a complete newbie and would love to get into to HDR photography.

    Where would a good place be to start?

    regards Tom

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  • Wow man … wow

  • Rob

    nice tutorial
    when i import photos Raw to get HDR, they have this weird colour – purple or other and the final HDR is also very similar
    any ideas pleae

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  • You did a great work for all. Thanks.
    My last work is a downloadable calendar in HDR for 2009. Just enjoy it. Hugbee

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  • Padraic

    hi, i am absolutely blown away by the cityscape images. i have been searching for days for suitable images for a short film i am editing together to highlight my music.

    I’ve been thinking, if i just knew someone who gone up a skyscraper & took a picture…..

    Unfortunately, I cannot offer any payment for your compositions but woud you be interested in allowing me to incorporate your photogrpahs in the films. I would of course give you full credits at the end.

    Considering the work & money, time you have put in i hope its not too rude to ask. I would be posting the films on MySpace, YouTube, digg, sharenow, livevideo, & others.

    I am trying to get more work as a composer & maybe you could get some work out of it.

    Look forward to your reply.

    Padraic Lynch. Composer

  • Just posted on my blog HDR tutorial: Create HDR photos with free software. Qtpfsgui and GIMP can give you more impressive results than commercial HDR apps.

  • `a_hEwLeEy

    oh wow! oh wow! thank you so much for sharing this tutorial.. i sooo love it..! (^ ^,)

    thanks so, so much.. (~ ~,)

  • Rick


    Thanks for taking the time to create this HDR tutorial. I’m in the process of starting my own travel photography business and I’m looking forward to playing around with HDR a bit! You have some captured some beautiful shots, really great stuff!


  • Abinav

    trey…awesome work..can you please teach me how to do those harley pics like in ur flickr.pls,i’m dying to know.will you help me out?

  • mixey

    i always wondered how ppl did this to their images and now i know… makes great print out and posters for the wall!!!! awesome.

  • Abinav

    and i have one more doubt.can these kind of images be done with pics from a close-to-dslr [canon sx10] cam???

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  • Thanks for many good photos.Excellent colors!

    regards Petra from germany

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  • Thanks trey for the amazing tutorial !
    Love your images , thanks for taking us all on so many wonderful vacations …

    Appreciate the HDR discount too …

    John Piercy

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  • Really remarkable stuff.. I wish I didn’t have to use Photoshop for Post after Photomatix.. but I guess I’ll break down and get it…

    Wonderful shots and too kind of you to share.. thanks!

  • Caleb Evans

    It would be really great if you put up some other tutorials on other techniques, such as composition, lighting, etc. Your photography is amazing and I would love to know just how you do it.

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  • Josh Gidlewski

    Trey – You have absolutely OUTSTANDING photos. I am an amateur photographer and would like to do more with HDR. I am a veterinarian and believe through photography I could provide an interesting perspective on life/animal medicine/human animal bond etc. I read in one of your posts you made mention to a workshop or seminar you gave on HDR. Do you have any such plans to do this in the future? I live in Boston, but I would literally travel ANYWHERE in the country to attend a seminar. Please, please, please help us who want to learn more about how you produce your photos beyond your tutorial on the web.
    Boston, MA
    [email protected]

  • Josh Gidlewski

    Trey – I’m not sure if my initial email went through, I got some kind of error message. Anyhow, I’ll be more brief this time. I am a veterinarian and amateur/hobbyist photographer. I have read your tutorial on HDR and really appreciate the basics. However, I would LOVE to attend a seminar/workshop of yours about HDR photography. Do you have any plans for something like this? If not, could I convince you to do one? I’ll travel ANYWHERE. I believe you have the most consistently amazing photos anywhere I have ever seen.
    Boston, MA
    [email protected]

  • pcordes

    Rik (comment 233), I was wondering the same thing about how you get HDR from a single file. Information theory says you can’t get information that isn’t there, etc. It turns out camera sensors (and RAW files) typically are 12 bits/colour channel, so they do have high(er) dynamic range already. http://www.cambridgeincolour.com/tutorials/RAW-file-format.htm
    RAW files really are raw, not just losslessly compressed. That’s a must-have for my next camera, although most manufacturers only put interesting features on expensive high-end cameras. 🙁 I’m no pro, just a computer geek who likes to mess around with how things work.

    BTW, so many of these photos are just awesome, and really make me stop and look at them. Wow.

  • Hello Trey, I love all of the work but I have to ask how do you get the cartoon-like effect?..I have been trying for a while and cannot achive such look..

    Thanks and congrats..

  • Peter


    my first steps with HDR.. that works! THX from germany.

  • herrydb

    wooo… so this is how to combine it in photoshop…really awesome…i am so thankful for such inspiration.. :))

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  • Great tutorial and inspires a lot to enter in to the world of HDR, which I am planning.Thanks a lot for such a powerful simple tutorial

  • Emanuel Torre

    Fantastic Tutorial, very good, but I have a problem with the single raw conversion, the image seems to be corrupted and I don’t know why is happening. If someone can explain…

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  • I like the update already, can’t wait…I started following your work more closely this summer and it’s so inspiring to go through, thanks for all the fotos you share

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  • Dynamic range comes from audio…
    and was adapted to image…
    it’s not an effect it’s a resource to imitate the humen eye
    it’s not only a software technic…it’s more than that..
    If you all want to call this effect of gray sky and transform a photo in a paint you can call…
    but HDR it’s not that

    in that 100 best hdr, minus than 10 are really hdr
    and all are not same as a painting.
    a suppose you ‘ll not agree but that ‘s true
    I was banned from a group just only i want explain what is HDR…

    good luck

    and I make a HDR with only one image…just one…
    in any software that works with layers….
    thanks for your attention
    sincerly my best regards
    ricardo galvao

  • andrew

    thanks for the insperation and tutorial

    here u can find my 1st HDR shot ever and so far the only one i have produced

    I plan on getting some better gear also to help master this

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/3130008283/

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  • Hi, I am new to photography and am using a point and shoot..but a good point and shoot, I think you have to just love any camera you are using and it will be translated in your images..as far as HDR you LOST me at hello, but I’m going to keep reading until I get it..I know know what auto bracketing is at a minimum..that’s one new thing I’ve learned today about photography..so thank you for that..I will watch your blog, and this site in the future..I am awaiting the arrival of my new PC..and will be a photoshopping for sure..thanks again..

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  • love the new look! now for a happy new year! many blessings…

  • Love your images.

  • Susan

    Just wondering what you could possibly be changing on the wonderful tutorial that’s out here already???!!!???

  • dude, i don’t even know what to think, much less say. i’m a bit embarrassed to say i’ve never even heard of hdr photography (not that i’m a photographer but a designer). you’re work is good. i use good because trying to pull out the thesaurus for a more interesting word still wouldn’t even come close to how ‘good’ it is. thanks for the new view on photography (and the world as we can’t see it).

  • Thanks all! Very nice of you there Mr. Grace! 🙂

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  • Hm…:) I like this tutorial is so clear…don’t remember what colors were before but this are horrible as for me…so unreadable! I can’t read it comfortably. If all text color were like links color it would be nice 🙂 This is my opinion after a glance. Only cosmetic one 🙂

  • Jacques (fotofreq on flickr)

    Trey! This is just fantastic! Love the many new refinements to the tutorial. I particularly liked Step 4 of the process and “Trey’s Undeniable Truth of HDR Photography #76”. No more trying to blend/merge 7 or more exposures for me! Undeniable Truth #34 will save me from pulling out my hair as I could not figure out how to keep the sky looking normal (oh wait, too late for that as I have already done that from not knowing that truth before). I feel like the scene in “Enter the Dragon” where Bruce Lee says to his student (after slapping him on his head), “It is like a finger, pointing away at the moon. (insert head slap here) Don’t look at the finger, or you will miss all the heavenly glory!!”

  • Arne

    Hi Trey! Excellent update of the tutorial. I was hoping you would add the part about noise/grain reduction since that is my biggest problem with Photomatix. Thanks for this great tutorial!

  • Paul

    Trey, can’t begin to thank you for your efforts on this. My good friend and I are just beginning in the world of HDR and our inspiration was/is your site. You asked about spelling/grammer errors in your rewrite so I humbly present the following.

    You write:
    So, now click on “Tone Mapping” (not this is also available via the menu system.

    Should probably read:
    So, now click on “Tone Mapping” (note, this is also available via the menu system.)

    Thanks again for your work! Paul

  • Trey,

    Excellent tutorial. You asked for notification of typos, and I found 2 on this page:

    In step 5, in the paragraph that starts, “You will soon see a strange looking image on the screen…” after the ( it should be “note”, instead of “not” and you forgot to close the parenthesis at the end of the paragraph.

    In step 6, in the paragraph that starts, “In the screenie below, …” you have “6 laeyrs” which would still pronounce like “6 layers”.

  • Hehe, Paul and I were on the same page at the same time.

  • Thanks all!

    Yes Titter – there was a font problem before that is now fixed.

    Arne – yes I hope that helps!

    Paul and Wayne – thanks for finding those – they are fixed now! 🙂

  • Eddie

    Hi, i am rather new to photoshop and donf understand how did you get all the pictures from raw importer to the layers, when i open them all from raw importer then they are all as single pictures in photoshop.

    And how the masking layer makind goes? New layer? and then?

    very cool tutorial so far if i only wolud understand all of it.

    By the way Happy New Year

  • I will add a little bit more there… I mentioned it a bit up there when I talked about shift-dragging each them onto one of the original photos.

  • MattY

    Awesome tutorial Trey! But the black text on a brown background is horrible for readability. Please change them!

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  • Any advice for those of us who have DSLR’s that do not have auto-bracketing? I purchased a Nikon D60 last year before I even knew what HDR photography was. Now, I’m finding out that it doesn’t support auto-bracketing.

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  • Best tutorial i have seen by far on any HDR techniques. Well written and definitely not boring (like some others ive attempted to read).

    Much thanks. keep it up :]

  • Great tutorial, many thanks.

  • Jacques

    Trey, my friend! Was at a Barnes & Noble today browsing the photog section and came across a good book on HDR. Imagine my surprise when, while thumbing through, I came across a few ages of your great images. I had always been a huge fan of your work, but seeing them in high quality print in a book… wow! They really popped out of the page. Nice!!!

  • Hey cool! Thank you so much –! 🙂

  • Bryan

    Epic work. This tutorial made me realize just how much I don’t know about HDR. Now that you’ve mentioned some nifty tips and trick and some pretty handy software I can’t wait to try it out on my next batch of photos. Once again thank you so much, It has been a privilege learning from you. ^_^

  • Great! Thanks – glad it helped you out.

  • This is a great tutorial. I have not yet started HDR but it is clearly something I would love to learn. I like astrophotography but do mostly macrophotography. I have learned to avoid high contrast shots. Perhaps learning HDR would open up my ability to photograph scenes that have defied my best efforts to shoot.
    I would also like to learn how to stack photos for my astro photography. Do these techniques apply?
    Thanks for this great tutorial.

  • Let’s also remember that it works well for B&W images too. The grays are so smooth and more subtle than a normal B&W.


    or you can make it just a true enhancement of what apepars to be a normal photo. But normal photos do not have the detail in the shadows…


    Great tutorial, thanks!

  • Bilbo

    Just wanted to say top tutorial.
    and i kinda wanted to have comment no. 600…

  • hehe thanks all!

    You would have had 600 but got held in my spam approval box for a few hours first! 🙂

  • Bob

    Hi, Thankyou so much for this tutorial. Its really helped me along the way to understanding all this HDR mystery.
    You stacked the HDR layer above the Darkest layer to paint in the signs. I get that bit.
    But then you say “Now, we are going to do the same thing again, but we are going to use a different layer.”
    Do you first have to flatten the image and start again with the HDR layer above the Brighter layer? because if I just change the stacking order in the layers the effect of painting in the signs is lost.

    Thankyou for your time.


  • Aha – I need to make that more clear – thank you.

    Select the two layers you were just working with and turn them into one… I think it is command-E ?

  • Bob

    Thanks Trey, that helps heaps.

  • Solar Man

    In your instructions, it states:

    To create a mask and start revealing the layer underneath:
    Click on the top layer (the one you want to punch through)
    On the Menu, go to Layer > Create Layer Mask > Reveal All.

    On CS3, these options are separate. You can choose from:
    Layer > Layer Style > Create Layer
    Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal All
    When I select the top image, “Create Layer” is grayed out. So, I just went directly to Reveal All. Is this the same thing?

    Thank you,

  • Bisma FS

    How about photos for HDR that was taken in daylight? I noticed your setting in Photomatix and RAW Setting in Photoshop for this tutorial works great for photos taken in the night. But when it is used for photos taken in daylight it becomes a little bit ugly to me. And it doesn’t yields the same result as your HDR photos that was taken in daylight as some samples above. I wanna be like you Trey…so pls help me 🙂
    Btw, your HDR tutorial is the best HDR tutorial. Great works! 🙂

  • I have been working on HDR for about a year now, and always felt my creations were lackluster, however, having read your tutorial, I walked into my living room tonight, took some photos from a incandescent lit room into a non lit room, and worked on those, and WOW!!! What a difference reading an in depth tutorial helped so much, definitely need to get you a cappuccino…..



  • Jacob – cool! Keep up the good work!

    Bisma – Right – my slider settings were good for that photo. Actually, every single photo has different sliders. Even if I gave you a sample for daylight, it would not be appropriate for every one. Remember that trick about masking in the original blue sky, however… HDR usually will mess up a blue sky.

    Solar – Yes reveal all should make that mask white. Then you can paint grey/black on there to reveal the underneath. I will endeavor to make that more clear soon.

  • Noreaga

    Hi Trey,

    Excellent tutorial, Im glad you added the masking info as well !

    Question on that though: as a photoshop newbie, it wasnt all 100% clear to me. When dealing with layers, do you have to select the HDR image and the other image that you are working with manually ? So let’s take your first step where you worked with the HDR image and the darkest image to get the ABC ticker to pop out … did you have to manually select the HDR image and the darkest, and then create the layer mask ?

    And finally, when you were done with that first step (HDR + darkest image), do you save it, and then use THAT image and work with the Brightest to get the people to come out ?

  • Josue M

    Great tutorial. First one I’ve seen that talks of taking the image to Photoshop. I like your humor, too.

  • Matt B.

    Kudos to the very well written and very insightful tutorial Mr. Ratcliff. I, myself, am an aspiring photographer and am trying to ever so slowly improve my skills. Up to now I have been stuck trying to make do with a real basic P&S and ‘pushing the envelope’ so to speak with manual shutter speeds, neatimage, and photoshop.

    Now I have been upgraded to a Canon Powershot A590IS which, while still not a DSLR, is fairly close (and almost indistinguishable with the CHDK firmwares). So in addition to this, I have been looking for some great tutorials like yours to get me on the right track.

    Thanks. 🙂

  • Tray, i’m one of your fans. I discovered you on flickr last year, and your fantastic hdr tutorial was a big help for me.
    Now your revisited tutorial it’s much better, and I’m grateful about that. Thanks for share your talent with us, master.

  • Tray, I’m from Chicago and was throughly impressed with your work from our town. Cudos!!!
    Also, I’ve been dabling in HDR for a short time and came across your website today. I began following the tutorial modifying your HDR image with the original RAW files. I completely understand what your saying except for one area. For example, I notice that you have Overlay choosen in the layers dialog box along with the opacity reduced to I think 65% on the first masking job, but you don’t say anything about that. Is it relevant? Also, once you’ve completed the masking with the darkest layer (ABC ticker etc.) how do you accept those changes before moving to another layer. Because when I moved the next layer into position I lost all the changes I made with the first layer I was working on. If you do Control ‘E’then it’s combined and the masking work is accepted, but you lose the layer. Perhaps I’m just missing something, however, I read your instructions word for word several times and I keep running into the same problem. Thank you.

  • Aha – I need to make that more clear – sorry!

    The overlay is not relevant… all mix levels should be Normal. I don’t know why that says Overlay.

    Second, after you mask in the layers, you can combine the two by pressing Merge Layers or Ctrl (command) E.

    Hope that helps — I will go back and clarify.

  • i dont shoot in raw and i got as far as processing my 3 images (canon 50d) in photomatix pro 3.1. i got lost in the tutorial because i dont shoot raw. what do i do now that i have my hdr jpg and my 3 originals?

  • this time i got as far as this….

    Now that you created the mask, you will see a little white box on that layer down in the lower right. See it? Click on it because THAT is the area on which you will use your brush.

    doesnt work for me…i cant use the brush in that little white box, only on my image and when i do, nothing happens (that i can see)

  • pogi

    wow, 3 years of comments, and rightfully due for such an in-depth tutorial. My attempts at hdr have been very crappy for the most part, but now i understand why. You are more than an amazing photographer, your are an unselfish person and excellent teacher. you have inspired me to be even more persistent.


  • Hey, thanks for this thorough tutorial. I just had my first go at this…
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/3290463876/
    Better keep practising huh!?

  • Thanks!

    Nomeus… hmmm… well. you are only supposed to click in that little white box but paint on the actual photo. Make sure your brush is BLACK — then it should work okay.

  • ok my first attempt… no layers though in PS just matix and slight tweaking with PS


  • mdpepin

    Merci beaucoup de partager vos travaux et votre experience. C’est tres genereux de votre part. Votre travail et vos realisations sont fantastiques…awesome!!

  • Great tips !!
    Will try to upload a nice try into flickr soon.

  • Cool tutorial, great!
    I wrote a tutorial how to create HDR time lapse movies.

  • Whoaaa, a big thanks for this very excellent tutorial!!
    Regards from Malaysia.

  • rosalie

    a fantastic tutorial with plenty of smiling whilst reading, making learning fun. but but but i am stuck on the masking. i must be so very thick… please help. when i try to use the brush nothing happens!!!

    thanks so much

  • Aleksi

    Awesome tutorial.. already made some awesome looking HDR photos with help of this tut.
    I really want autobracketing for my camera now.. manually adjusting is so much more difficult :/ Hopefully someone will complete CHDK for my Canon SX110IS.

  • Angelo

    Very very very good, finally a photographer who together with Ferrell McCollough, say as things stand, and how to really have to be done in HDR photos! Bravissimo!
    Regards Angelo

  • Thank. You. So. Much.

  • Allen Dave

    Nice. Thank you…

  • Did you ever tried the Dynamic Photo HDR software?
    What do you think?

  • Very nice tutorial, indeed.

    So, your process basically is: Produce an HDR through Photomatix, and then “fix it up” using photoshop. Granted, I ignore the denoise and the sharpening, but follow me for a little bit.

    The fix up that you are doing in photoshop, in my mind, works around the HDR creation; somehow you weren’t able to get the right effect through Photomatix.

    In your opinion, what is missing from an HDR creation tool in order to get things just right, so you won’t have to use photoshop to do a manual merge?


  • Bob Guildford

    Fantastic, I have had a go before and not got the result I wanted. Will try harder this time.

  • Malcolm

    I found interesting, feel like go back the old days we did in darkroom with chemicals.

  • Eddie French

    Brilliant! One question..was the white balance of 7.746 wrong?
    I have the 3.1 version, the white balance will not go that high..

    Besides that a really great tutorial, Thanks.

  • Danny Perreras


  • John Richardson

    Very well written tutorial, although the true test is when I actually try and follow the steps you outline. As a newbie to digital photography, I find your work an inspiration and it has helped me target the kind of photography I want to achieve. Now, to convince the wife to let me buy all the software I need….(already got the camera)

  • Trey,
    Love the tutorial, I have taken some pretty good HDR’s following this, and some…not-so-good ones. Any tips on taking an HDR for sunsets? I have been getting this red noise in darker areas of my image when I compose them in photomatix. How can I Eliminate them?


  • George

    Very nice……
    Question when in PS. do you do the 5 layers as jpegs or is it
    best to use the raw files?

  • Thanks all.

    Brad – the darker areas – just mask in one of the raws

    George – I do recommend the RAW files indeed.

  • You deserve even more comments on this. This post taught me HDR, and I’d have to say I’m pretty darn good at it. Not anywhere near you, but I like my pictures

  • Im sorry to state that the masking process DOES NOT WORK. As others have pointed out, what you describe does Nothing At All. The white box is there, but when you paint over the picture NOTHING HAPPENS. The white box never gets filled with the painting you are doing. It is really frustrating, as everything seems so marvelous.

    Specs: VISTA 64 bits, Intel Quad Core, 8GB RAM, CS3, Photomatix Pro 3, if you need some more info to try to figure out what is happening please just ask.


  • Manuel – hehe dude you are a nut. I don’t usually say that to people I teach.

    Look, I probably didn’t explain masking all that well. That’s my fault. But, from your description, I suspect:

    1) You don’t have BLACK color selected. Are you painting white on white?

    2) You don’t have the BRUSH selected (b)

    3) Your BRUSH Opacity is at a low number. Try it at 100%.

    Last, if all else fails, find a “masking in PS” tutorial on YouTube.

  • Trey! hi there… 🙂

    I have BLACK selected, I do paint with it
    I have BRUSH selected
    I can put the BRUSH at 100% and nothing happens!

    As “Solar Man” pointed out, in CS3 there is no option for Creating a “Layer Mask” and then choosing “Reveal All”

    Quoting him:

    “””January 31st, 2009 14:53 | Solar Man

    In your instructions, it states:

    To create a mask and start revealing the layer underneath:
    Click on the top layer (the one you want to punch through)
    On the Menu, go to Layer > Create Layer Mask > Reveal All.

    On CS3, these options are separate. You can choose from:
    Layer > Layer Style > Create Layer
    Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal All
    When I select the top image, “Create Layer” is grayed out. So, I just went directly to Reveal All. Is this the same thing?

    Thank you,”””

    So far, my bet is that the version you use is the MAC version, and that the instructions are not the same.. that, or several of us your readers, have a defective CS3 working… it is not that any of us are capable to understand your instructions… I guess..

  • Trey, I was expecting your answer, but anyway, just to let you know, I managed to fix the problem. And I post this for the other ones who were having problems.

    If I do EXACTLY what you say in the tutorial the masking DOESN’T WORK. Reading here and there I understood that the masking uses Channels, so I clicked on them and discovered that the lower box (the white one) was not selected… I clicked on it to make it visible and what do you know.. now masking works!!!!

    So.. maybe some of us have a Photoshop that doesn’t automatically make visible the white box, try it guys and girls, and let me know.

  • Trey, thank you for giving back, this is the best tutorial I have seen on the subject, I have been toilling with masks and layers to try to create my “look” when all the time the tools where right here in ps. I wanted the punch and got pretty close with selective sharpening (you can check out my early efforts in the gallery page)and wanted a cross between that and HDR but didn’t want the fake look. The Chritmas tree photo is the best I have ever seen. That one should also be in the museum.

  • monk

    thanks for the tutorial ! its simple to understand….

  • Thank you so much! This has saved my life! I’ve been getting into HDR recently, but haven’t been able to find any tutorials out of the monotonous norm. Amazing!

  • Cool! Thanks so much! 🙂

    I added a link to a “Masking” video up in the tutorial… because I think people like Manuel can get kinda confused… no problemo.

  • Brad Truxell

    I think I might be getting the hang of this! Check out one of my favorites, http://www.flickr.com/photos/btruxell/3490152416/

  • You describe that tutorial as “an hour we won’t get back”.

    May be true, but It is time well spent. I may even read it again some time!

  • Very kind of you to put the link to that video… which I’m sure will work 100% for almost every individual.

    But not for everyone.

    Let me tell you something. Again. It might be an installation problem I don’t know, certain combination of software or hardware, but PHOTOSHOP CS3 will not do the mask as you say it will, nor as the video implies. Let’s get this straight, IT WILL SIMPLY NOT WORK.

    In order for the masking to work you have to manually select “CHANNELS” and then click on the Layer Mask to ACTIVATE IT, as I said in my previous message to the few of us who are having problems.

  • I don’t know what to tell you dude. I’m not Adobe Technical Support. I’ve spent over 25 hours putting together this tutorial for you, which assumes that everyone has a normal, working version of Photoshop. I can’t do anything else for you.

  • I’m sorry you take it this way. All I’m doing is stating that for some of us the masking does not work. You have done a terrific work and WE ALL appreciate it. Now, for the few of us who have this problem I believe it is important that someone address it. That’s all I’m doing. ok? chill man.

  • Misael

    Hummm…I just tried all of the steps and I can see that im going in the right direction, but…

    I came a slight “speed bump” if you will.

    After Photomatix, when I open the JPG and the 5 RAWs on Camera Raw, I notice that the JPG that PM made, is slightly larger than my original RAWs, in fact, the raws are 12.2 Megapixels and the JPG is 12.4 MPs, or more accurately speaking the JPG is 4320 x 2868 pixels and the RAWs are 4288 x 2848 px.

    Really weird, Ive been doing my best to follow the tutorial step by step and im clueless here.

    Any help would be gladly appreciated!

    Oh ,by the way Manuel, I have PS CS3 and the masking steps work perfectly well for me. Even though I chose the ereaser instead of the brush (I dont know why, but I kept painting black with it :p ) , but my results were the same.

    Im no genious, but I know a little bit of PS and on all the PCs ive worked on, at least those with CS3, the steps are the same. Maybe its a problem with your hardware, maybe PS is not configured properly, it could be many things, so keep that in mind when searching for a solution.

    PS: Im really looking forward to your new tripod setup short review!
    PS2: Im also really looking forward to seeing wich bags ( if any ) you use Trey.

    Thanks for everything!

  • Misael – I am not sure about that. It just sounds like you have a big JPG — but that does not seem to be a problem… just maybe a bit slower…

    Photomatix may be trying to align, and in so doing, it might align the 5 pics all caddywumpus and make the final image bigger.

  • Misael

    Hummmm, could be Trey. Ill have to test it some more.

    Its not that annoying because I can get a final image, the headaches come whene I get to the masking part, as the images are off by a few pixels, which is quite obvious even at %100.

    Thanks for the help, ill get back to you!

  • Trey, though I’m sure you hear it every day from someone, you do some of the finest work I have ever seen. Your work is a daily inspiration for many of us I’m sure.
    Coincidentally, two days ago I went out to take some shots for the purpose of creating some HDR. To my surprise as I was looking through some of your photos on Flickr today, and I discovered we had taken the exact same picture from the exact same spot, of Science World in Vancouver (from the docks, waiting for the Aquabus to Granville Island). Here’s the shot in case you’re interested….
    Keep up the good work!

  • Jacqueline

    i’m SO glad i came across this. i’ve tried a few HDR images recently and came to the conclusion that i would have to mask in parts of the originals to get something i was satisfied with. but i kept wondering if there was some magical step i was missing to get a great hdr without doing that, some error in shooting or in settings since every other hdr tutorial has made it sound like you can get a great image with just a quick in and out in photomatix and photoshop (or lightroom even). no one ever made much mention of the artifacting or horrible noise that seems to be present no matter what. your tutorial confirms i’m not crazy! thanks so much! 🙂

  • adnan

    hi i tried working in photomatix pro with a single raw file but when i open the image it looses all its colors and becomes dammage is it because the the raw file is like 20mb and my camera is 15 mega pixels or how can i do …need your help pls…thank you

  • Check Out my website for video tutorials!

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  • nice i just tried this with my nikon d40 in manual mode and a can of sprite.

  • Gurminder Bhogal

    Thank you for this i love the Hong Kong image as i was just there last week trying this…. fantastic tutorial, thank you for sharing your knowledge…appreciated !!! …. this will HUGELY improve my HDR skill 🙂

  • A comprehensive tutorial on HDR. Thanks

  • Great tweaks you’ve made to the tutorial. I know you mentioned in one of your Bonus Tips that one can open all the files for masking in Bridge at once and have them open in one window in separate layers, but some may not realize you can do the same with Lightroom (if Lightroom happens to be you’re preferred RAW processor, as it is mine). In LR, the command (at least on the Mac, is: Photo —> Edit In —> Open as Layers in Photoshop.

  • Keep fighting the good fight buddy!

  • Thanks for the inspiration.

    Très bien fait!

  • SteF

    Hi, i wonder. Is it better to do HDR images with 3 jpegs or with 1 raw file. Thanks in advance…

  • Thanks all —

    It’s a little better to do it with 3 JPEGS… but… sometimes a single RAW can be better… There is no for-sure answer.

  • SteF

    Ok, thank you 🙂

  • Facebook User

    Have you ever experimented with DRI (digital blending)? I Can’t really distinguish the difference between HDR and DRI.

  • Tater737

    Great tutorial. I’ve been experimenting with HDR for about 6 months. The real key for me is the “post-photomatix” processing via Photoshop. This has encouraged me to go to the next level. Thanks for the info!

  • Damn… how can I thank you? You not only teached me very well how to create HDR’s as you made me laugh in all the process!
    Thank you very much, I have a wedding to take pictures off and I’ll take some HDRs, I hope people don’t get to strange “HDRed”.

    Thanks again and keep the awesome job you’ve been doing all the time.

  • Hi, thank you for this wonderful tutorial about HDR, i just done my very first HDR, hope to get your comment.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/3820798318/

  • Christy

    I found this tutorial by accident. I haven’t tried creating an HDR yet, but reading this really got me excited about it and made it sound fun rather than overwhelming. Definitely bookmarking for later!! Thanks!

  • superbbbbbbbbbb
    dank je wel.


  • Bre

    Hi! I found out about your website when I bought the book Complete Guide to High Dynamic Range, Ferrel McCollough which has a lot of your work in it. (I haven’t read it yet) I have also just purchased your new book and I will be waiting not so patiently for it’s arrival in Dec.

    I have a question that I hope you can answer. Right now, I am just using Photomatix Pro with PS Elements 7. I don’t understand what you are doing in PS as far as combining (layering) HDR and the 3 to 5 original images you used in Photomatix and putting them together (masking?) Do you have to do this to get the results you have? Maybe I should re-read it but I thought by just using Photomatix that would result in an HDR photo. I only use Elements to do some color correction.

    Thank you for your time! I truly enjoy your work!


  • Mitchell Watt

    Wow! I cannot thank you enough. I absolutely love HDR, and yours is definitely the best I’ve come across. I only bought my camera last week (Canon 500D) and I have already exceeded my expectations thanks to your tutorials! I will definitely be buying your book. I am only 21 I am looking forward to learning a lot about HDR and hopefully one day I can create something like you!

  • Roxana Negreanu

    Wow… Thank you very much for such an amazing tutorial! I finally got to read it… I’ve seen your work on flickr and I’ve always admired it! I love your work 🙂 While I was reading your tut I went to their website and finally upgraded to photomatix pro and used the academic discount for that… Thank you for such an inspirational blog 🙂

  • great stuff!!!
    thanks a lot!!!

  • Chris

    Very nice tutorial – have been admiring /\ltus’s work for years, and his post about your visit brought me to your site. Thanks – will give it a try!

  • very nice tutorial well made !

    I have a video tutorial in french and english on HDR,
    you can check it out at


    and see the portfolio at :
    Hope this can help also

    I use hdr in day to day work as a pro photographer in Paris


  • Gerrit

    Awesome tutorial, i like it sooo much.
    after this i “checked” it,

    i´ve a question: this tutorial is in english and a lot of people can´t understood it so well, so heres my question: may i can translate it into the german speech?

  • Gerrit,

    That would be great — I’ll have to ask that we host the german version here on the site, though. If you can send me all the text, that would be great.


  • Gee S

    A thoroughly brilliant and enthralling read. Thanks so much. Went off HDR for quite a while now I am so keen to do it all over again!!

  • Paul

    Thanks Trey this was REALLY helpful. Love to come on your course in Austin but having a problem finding the right bus from England!!! What I’m not sure about, do you apply Lucis Pro to Tone Mapped images before maybe after – Love to know just in case I miss the bus…. What about your new book, does it contain this amount of tutorial detail?

  • Greg

    I’m sort of confused with the layer masking, but only slightly. In the first mask, we are erasing the dark parts to get the brightest parts from the “darkest layer”; in your photo, the digital monitors in times square. We then compile HDR layer with the darkest layer.

    So what about the next layer? do we erase the darkest parts of the brightest layer? then compile HDR layer with the “brightest layer”?

    Then are we done, or do we do anything with “our favorite exposure”?

    Thanks for the help!

  • BearTrap

    Thank you for this excellent tutorial. Seems to me, though, that this process negates the essence of the Times Square shot, i.e. the richness of neon signs. They’ve gone bland and appear completely out of character in the processed shot. Neon lights should be vibrant, colourful and bright, quite the opposite what the end result is here.

  • David Snyder


    Nice site. Your images are magnificant and the tutorials are well done.

    I was all set to pre-order your new book but, having seen your images here, I am now hesitant. Please let me explain.

    While I do and enjoy the ‘surreal’ technique you do so well in Photomatix, I much prefer using HDR to extend the dymanic range of my images. Most of my work is natural in appearance but covers a much greater range than the 8 Exposure Values captured by the typical DSLR sensor. I use Photomatix and a new program, HDR Photostudio 2, plus a number of plug-ins. (I would comment to Bear Trap that extended dymanic range HDR would produce the Times Square image he desires)

    I would be most interested in knowing if your new book will include all aspects of HDR and programs other than Photomatix.

    Many thanks

    Dave Snyder

  • Dave,

    Thanks for the note.

    No – in the book, I just cover Photomatix. That is what I use all the time, even though I have tried the others. If you think most of my images are too unnatural – you may not enjoy the techniques I describe in the book — it’s hard for me to say! you can take a gander when it hits B&N, Borders etc! 🙂

  • David Snyder


    Thanks for the quick reply. One of the things we should all be ever mindful of in our photography is being open to new ideas and to be always expanding our skills.

    Yes, I prefer the extended dynamic range look when it comes to HDR. However, I have asked our daughter to get me your book for Christmas so I can become better acquainted with what you do so well. I will have the raw images so why not learn to do both interpretations well.

    Good luck with the book.

    Take care.


  • BearTrap

    I may have expressed my thoughts a bit poorly. I quite like some of the overdone HDRs for their artistic values, but in this case (Times Square example) the technique doesn’t bring anything extra that is more worthwhile than the richness of the neon signs, which has disappeared during the HDR processing.

    David, do you have any samples of your more natural HDR images?

  • Jeff

    Thanks for the tutorial Trey, I love your work, and look forward to the book.
    I haven’t read all 642 posts here, so hope this isn’t a repost. I see you convert from RAW to jpeg, and some other people convert to Tiff. Does it matter? Is there any quality is lost in jpeg compared to tiff?

  • SK

    Wow, I am speechless. Nice & detail explanation about HDR Photography for someone as new and dumb person like me. Loved every moment of your explanation, It was easy to understand, Funny, Humorous and well written article. I truly appreciate you took your precious time to explain everything. I had purchased Photomatix yesterday and the result was not so impressive, but I understand there’s more to it than just Photomatix…your shots, imaginations, creativeness, other software combination and so forth. Thanks again, Your article help me understand lots of things and open my eye’s again. Your pictures are awesome, I definitely did not wanted my pictures to look like my drug addict friends created them while they were high 🙂 Now go back to work and get some more great shot…cause I am not getting enough of your pics.

  • Trey,

    I am only confused by one thing. After I copy and paste each image into my base image I then have the original 3 image layers and the copy and pasted layer images. Which ones do i keep? If i go by your example above it looks like I delete the copy paste layers – yours shows your original images after the copy paste step. But that doesn’t make sense to me. Shouldn’t I be keeping the copy and paste ones?
    Just in case you did not follow all that…
    I import 4 photos into CS3. One of these is the Photomatix one. I do the copy paste of each one into the Photomatix one and I end up with 3 new layers for a total of 7 layers now. Which ones do I keep?

  • Thank you very much for these tutorials. Speaking generally you have helped me a lot making my life more beautiful. However I have still a problem that I cannot resolve. I use to have a light tripod and I couldn’t shoot a descend underexposed photo. After your tutorial I bought the Manfrotto 190 CX PRO 3. with the Manfrotto 322 RC 2. But still when I import my photos to Photomatix I see double lines at the edges. And generally the night shots with long exposures (ISO 100) are not sharp, they look shaky. My camera is Canon 400D with 17-85 lens. I even bought a remote control, but the problem remains. Have you any idea that might help me?

  • So, after your great video (http://vimeo.com/8165600), I understood what I was doing wrong: Image Stabilization and Auto Focus,must be OFF. Thanks a lot Trey !!!

  • Kim

    Hi Trey!

    I have been following you for a few years on Flickr and have finally decided to take the plunge with HDR. Thanks very much for this tutorial- really easy to follow, clear and simple- just how I like it!

    All the best for a Merry Christmas!


  • Daz

    Thanks Trey for a great tutorial. Very easy to follow, even with my lack of Photoshop skills (I must try to improve). Thanks again and Happy New Year !!!!

  • Pingback: One Shot HDR - Torrey's Peak Reflection, Colorado | Chester Bullock Photography()

  • Christian

    Hi Trey,
    just wanted to say i do teach about HDR the next days and found your site while research.I will show some of your work to the students to show “the good way” of using it! Good Job.
    Greetings from germany.

  • Gilles

    I found this tutorial by accident. I haven’t tried creating an HDR yet, but reading this really got me excited about it and made it sound fun rather than overwhelming. Definitely bookmarking for later!! Thanks!

  • Gilles

    I found this tutorial by accident. It’fantastic!

  • Gilles


  • This is the best HDR tutorial I’ve ever read so far, thank you so much!

  • Shamouna

    Amazing O_O

  • dbltapp

    You might want to revisit “Step 6, Continued Stacking and Aligning the Photos” and address the sequencing of steps. I may confuse easily, but as an instructional designer this section seems scrambled.

    Other than that, great job and thanks.

  • Marco

    I didn’t know of the existence of HDR until a year ago or so. Since then I’ve read and watched every single tutorial on HDR I could find (and I found many). This tutorial is by far the most informative and detailed of all.
    Thanks so much for sharing, motivating and promoting this revolutionizing way of experiencing the world around us.

  • Gareth

    Hi there – I seem to getting unwanted dark vignetting on images once processed through Photomatrix. I have tried adjusting sliders etc but doesn’t help. Any suggestions? Thanks for such great tutorials.

  • sam jackson

    just wanted to thankyou, the best HDR tutorial i have seen.
    although, where is the topaz adjust step? or do we replace the bonus step using lucis software with the topaz?

    thankyou very much

  • Hi Trey,
    I really admire your work! You inspired me to take HDR pics on my own. Thanks to your tutorial I think I even managed get decent results.
    I have one comment about the way how you work the pic in PS. I recommend to put the photomatix HDR-pic in the bottom, put the original pics with a black layermask on top of it. If you do it this way you can mix together all your pics destruction-free.
    Keep up your excellent work and in case you are in Vienna/Austria give me some heads up that I can join you in your photowalk 🙂

  • jojo

    First – love your work. congratulations.
    Second – For a middle range hobbiest like me, i think this tutotial wasn´t very good.I get lost while reading this tutorial.
    Thank you anyway.

  • Thanks for sharing your knowledge and experience …

  • Luca

    First of all – Tank you realy much to shared these skills…
    and than… the best tutorials I’ve find on the net…and the funniest too!! ;-))

  • I am headed to NYC this week-end and will certainly be trying out your technique and hope to recreate your magic!

  • Dennis

    Thanks for the tutorial. I’d prevously just cleaned up the output of photomatix but mixing it onto one of the originals is a gem of an idea! Love your photo too!

  • Dennis, you were the evil commenter! 666 lol

    Oh about the tutorial… I had already used it plenty of times on my photos, and even got a comment from the master! thanks Trey, for this excellent tutorial!

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