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Best Way to take HDR Photos without Auto-Bracketing

Discussion in 'Talking Pictures' started by Ben1989, Jan 26, 2017.

  1. Ben1989

    Ben1989 Active Member

    Hi everyone,

    I have a Nikon D3200 which unfortunately doesn't have an auto-bracketing feature. I'm wanting some advice on how to get the best HDR photos without this?

    I have a tripod and a remote if that helps anyone with their advice.

    Many thanks, Ben
  2. cliveva

    cliveva Well-Known Member

    set to M, meter, then use shutter speed adjustment to take at least 3 shots, under, actual & over exposed. Try with 5 exposures as well, 2 under 2 over,ect. Also set the focus to manual, you can use auto to set focus, then lock. Do not change aperture, only shutter speed. That should get you started:D
  3. Ben1989

    Ben1989 Active Member

    How much shutter speed adjustment? Thanks
  4. cliveva

    cliveva Well-Known Member

    one stop, ie. if metered to 1/125, take 1/60, 1/25, 1/250, the more the better, but I find more lower, of more use.
  5. PeteRob

    PeteRob Well-Known Member

    It isn't something I do but the basic purpose of HDR is to capture a scene that has too much contrast in it for the camera to cope with. Therefore you have to establish the exposure value for the brightest part of the scene and for the darkest part of the scene, then decide on the number of intermediate exposures you will make to cover this range so there is good overlap between each. This is the calculation you do to set the autobracket intervals and range so without a bracketting feature you basically set each exposure by hand using either manual settings or exposure compensation if there is enough adjustment. Fix the aperture and vary exposure time or you'll get depth of field changing.

    As well as compressing the contrast range of the scene HDR affects colour saturation so the number and placing of the exposures also depends on the brightness distribution across the scene and how you want to represent the colours within it.
    EightBitTony likes this.
  6. Ben1989

    Ben1989 Active Member

    Thank you. So do I turn the exposure down a couple of clicks or the shutter speed?
  7. PeteRob

    PeteRob Well-Known Member

    Generally spoken you fix the aperture and change the exposure time ( shutter speed is a misnomer - it is the time the shutter is open) to vary the exposure. The exposure itself is the amount of light that comes through the lens so depends on both the aperture and the exposure time.

    Aperture interval settings are lens dependent. For lenses with aperture rings they may be set in whole, half or one-third stop settings. For electronic apertures the camera can generally be configured to use half or third stops. I don't think I've seen one that only uses full stops.

    Exposure time settings (shutter speed) can also be whole stop (mechanical shutter cameras) but are generally one half or one third stop settings.

    So "a couple of clicks" doesn't translate into a specific change in exposure - it depends on the lens/camera settings.

    Changing the aperture changes the depth of field and hence the picture spatial information. In HDR blending you want this to be the same for all the exposures.
  8. Terrywoodenpic

    Terrywoodenpic Well-Known Member

    It is always better to used a fixed aperture and only change the shutter speeds.
    To do this you Must work in Manual Exposure mode.

    Cameras with bracketing are very much more convenient for this process. I am actually surprised than any camera is still sold with out that ability.
  9. Ben1989

    Ben1989 Active Member

    Thanks everyone.

    So what I've taken from people's advice.

    1) Tripod and remote release setup
    2) Mirror Lockup
    3) Find the 'perfect' exposure
    4) Fix aperture and ISO
    5) Reduce exposure time until useable
    6) Increase exposure time until useable

    Is this roughly the process?
  10. AlexMonro

    AlexMonro Old Grand Part Deux

    For most DSLRs (I haven't actually used the D3200, so I'm not certain about that particular model) the mirror needs to be down for the exposure metering to work, to you might need to do the "Find 'perfect' exposure" (I assume you mean what the camera's meter reads) step before setting Mirror Lock Up.

    Not quite certain what you mean by "until usable" in the last two steps, but I would suggest a good way to determine the limits of the exposure range you need would be to use the histogram - keep reducing the exposure time (increase the numbers on the shutter dial) until the histogram graph clearly doesn't reach the right hand end for all 3 colour channels and then go back to where you started and increase the exposure time until it doesn't touch the left hand end.

    You might find some of this tutorial helpful:

  11. Ben1989

    Ben1989 Active Member

    I mean judge in terms of exposure and what details are revealed.

    To be honest I've never used the histogram and not quite sure what I'm aiming with it
  12. PeteRob

    PeteRob Well-Known Member

    3) should be detemine the range of exposures you are going to use. HDR is for situations where the dynamic range (DR) of the camera cannot cope with the contrast in the scene. You have to figure out a set of exposure values that covers the actual contrast in the scene that, when when you blend the images taken with these exposures you get something that can be displayed or printed.

    5) and 6) should be reduce/increase to match the design exposures.
  13. AlexMonro

    AlexMonro Old Grand Part Deux

    The histogram is probably the most useful tool for assessing exposure and contrast range. Basically, it's a graph of the light levels in the image, usually displayed with the dark tones (usually starting with pixel intensity value 0, i.e. absolute black) at the left, and light tones (value 255, i.e. bright white) at the right. Normally you want the image to have light intensities between those extremes, avoiding reaching 0, which would give blocked shadows, or 255, which would give blown highlights (though like many rules in photography, this can be broken for specific effects).

    Sometimes, the range of light intensity in the scene is more than the camera can handle, which is why you need HDR.

    These tutorials go into more detail:

  14. Ben1989

    Ben1989 Active Member

    I took everybody's advice and took this image of Liverpool Cathedral. Does this look good as a first try?

    Andrew Flannigan likes this.
  15. cliveva

    cliveva Well-Known Member

    That works well :)
  16. Basil Parylo

    Basil Parylo Member

    For me the easiest way to create a HDR photo without bracketing is as follows:

    1. Take one photograph in JPEG.
    2. Import the photo into Photoshop Elements.
    3. Carry out the basic adjustments to the photo then save the photo and give it a name like xxx 1.0
    4. Click the quick adjustment tab in Elements then the Exposure tab. Click the -1.0 box and then save as xxx -1.0
    5. Open the photo saved as xxx 1 and repeat step 4 but click the +1.0 box and then save xxx +1.0
    6. You should now have three images of the same photo with three different exposures -1.0, 1.0 and +1.0
    7. Import the all three images into some software such as Photomatix Elements or EasyHDR and combine all three images and make further adjustments.
    8. Save the HDR image and you should end up with something that looks like the photo below.


  17. PhotoEcosse

    PhotoEcosse Well-Known Member

    That is what is usually called "pseudo-HDR" as it merely uses the data captured during a single exposure which, of course, cannot exceed the dynamic range of the camera sensor. True HDR requires several exposures to be taken.

    In fact, it was this pseudo HDR that was often used to produce the horrific "HDR effect" that became so despised, to the extent that it almost got proper HDR a bad name.

    Let's briefy re-state what HDR (a misnomer as I have explained elsewhere) processing is designed to do. It is intended to allow photographs to be produced from scenes which cover so wide a dynamic range that a digital camera sensor cannot capture both the highlights and the shadows in a single exposure. Used carefully, it should be impossible to tell that an image has been processed with HDR techniques.
    EightBitTony likes this.

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