I love capturing images in HDR High Dynamic Range. This page will show you some tips and tricks on how to capture some great HDR images.

I also do workshops and lectures on HDR Magic from 1 1/2 hours to full day programs. Contact me for more info

Wayne Miller Photography Tips and Tricks
I wanted to share some of my experiences in Photoshop, Lightroom, and other applications.

“City Lights” by Wayne Miller

The image was captured and processed as an HDR (High Dynamic Range) image. I was asked by several individuals how I created this image, so I decided to do this article.

Update on HDR workflow. After watching a few HDR tutorials and listing to several podcasts on HDR I found a new and improved work flow.  I have tested the theory and found it to be better and faster way to produce your HDR images. This works for me and I want to share it with you.

 The new work flow consists of picking the three bracketed images in Lightroom and exporting them as JPEG’s (yea I know but stay with me). As I understand it that when we bring RAW images into Photomatix images are converted to JPEG by Photomatix so it can process them into HDR 32-bit format.

1-Pick Images in Lightroom export as full size JPEG (bracketed images)

2-Choose the three JPEG the drag them into Photomatix.

3-Do the normal Tone Mapping and save as a 16-Bit Tiff or a JPEG (I chose TIFF)

4-Go back to Lightroom (the three bracketed images in RAW format) and chose to open as layers in Photoshop.

5-Now in Photoshop you should have the three bracketed images in layers with the +2EV on the bottom, 0EV in the middle, and the -2EV on the top.

6-Now open the HDR image (that is the one that was form theses three JPEG’s that Photomatix rendered into an HDR). Place this image on the top of the other file.

7-Now you should have one document with HDR image on top, next down should be the -2EV, 0EV, and +2EV in layers (total of four layers)

8-Next is to ad a mask to the HDR layer and paint with black to revel any of the -2EV that you want in the HDR layer (use a different opacity brush to brink in different highlights.

9-When you happy with it merge down the HDR layer with the -2EV layer.

10-Now mask this layer and bring in any of the 0EV layer.

11-Then merge down this layer and add a mask.

12-Bring in any +2EV (bottom layer) into the image and merge when done.

13-Now you should have one layer with all the best of tones, shadows and lightness into one image.

14-Now you can do the final tweaking with dodge and burn, curves, vibrancy etc.

The images were first captured with a Canon 5D using Auto Bracketing and continues shoot mode on a trip pod with a shutter release (cable release). You basically set the camera for: Auto EV Bracketing for +2, 0, and -2 increments, AV Aperture Priority, Custom White Balance, and Continues shooting (burst mode)Manual Focus. The tech stuff: RAW capture, ISO100, Lens 70-200 f/2.8 @ f/5.6 153mm focal length. I also set this as a Custom function so I can dial in the C (custom function) and shoot HDR on the fly.

 Set up and composition:

Set up a sturdy tri-pod, level, and place the camera level on the ball-head etc. You can purchase a hot-shoe level to keep everything in line. (I have done many HDR hand held in good daylight, but for late evenings you will need a tri-pod). Attach cable release, compose the images. Dry run for the full Pano (if doing a panoramic you pan start to finish noting where you will start/stop and allow a 15-25% overlap). Pick a neutral grey area for your exposure EV then Lock down the camera and tripod.  With the auto align in Photomatix and PS a little movement can be fixed but you want to make the image as good as you can right!

 Capturing the Image:

Were ready to pull the trigger! With the above setting, you hold down the button (cable release) and listen for the three bracketed shots to fire.  You get one normal one -2EV and one +2EV. You then gently reposition the camera 15-25% overlap, lock down camera and do it again.

After the last image is written to the card I check the LCD to see if I go what I wanted. The normal exposed 0 images will be well normal, the -2EV will be underexposed and +2EV over exposed.

 Download the images for processing:

Download to your hard drive (you can import to Lightroom if you have it). Note: Do not do any adjustments to the RAW images as it may make rendering images in your software difficult. I have found the best software to convert these images to HDR is Photomatix.  Photoshop CS4 HDR is ok but Photomatix is presently the best to render HDR as of 2/2009. Screen Clip # 1 is of six HDR RAW images and metadata in Lightroom 2.

1-Photomatix: The Software

There are two versions of Photomatix; one is a standalone (the best) the other is a Photoshop plug in. I use the standalone because it has more control (and we are all about control aren’t we)

Open Photomatix Pro 3.1 (or later)


2-Screen Clip # 2 Click on the Generate HDR bottom on the top, in dialog box Generate HDR-Select source images click on browser…. Find the three (or more of the same bracketed image) highlight and select them, click ok.


Your selection should look similar to Screen Clip # 3.

 4-Screen Clip # 4 Generate HDR-Options: I check Align source images by Matching features, Reduce chromatic aberrations, Reduce noise, Attempt to reduce ghosting artifacts, Background movement, White balance As Shot and Color primaries HDR Adobe RGB or ProPhoto.

 Click OK and after minutes the composite will render on your screen. Now let me warn you that it will not look good because it is a 24-bit image that has a Dynamic range of 10-12 stops, and your monitor can only render at best 5-8 stops.�

5-Screen Clip # 5 Shows the image and when you move your mouse over it look at the HDR Viewer window upper right will show you a rendered version of the image which is better. Trust me it gets better. (Most people give up here, but your not like most are you if you have gone this far I know you have what it takes to be an HDR’er. Hit the Tone Mapping Button:

 6-Screen Clip # 6 Tone Mapping Settings: This is where the magic happens. If you used Photomatix before it defaults to the previous setting (which after you tweak this image will be what you want for the second half of the HDR Pano. So for a new image drill to the bottom and set the Presets: to Default. Now start at the top and work down.

 Note: That as you move each slider wait as it takes a moment to render (watch the refreshing box right top of image. Remember this is all subjective according to our vision or taste.

Strength: I like to push this to +/-90, Color Saturation +/-90, Luminosity +6, Light smoothing I keep this a High or the one down from it. Keep an eye on your Histogram to avoid clipping. Micro contrast -3. Now down to Tone Settings: White Balance 1.3%, Black Point 1.3% (usually both white/black point are close to middle and at the same settings). Gama 0.90. Color Settings: Temperature -2 to cool down water and shy, Saturation Highlights -1, Saturation Shadows -2. Smoothing Settings: Smoothing Settings: Micro Smoothing +9, Highlight Smoothing +23, Shadow Smoothing +21, Shadow Clipping +18.

Got back if you want to tweak the Strength and Color Saturation or other sliders. This first few you do will be better as you get the hang of it. I t takes awhile to get use to it so do not give up. Ansell Adams never gave up did he?

OK when your ready press PROCESS. It takes a few moments to render the image into a HDR tiff file.

 7-Screen Clip # 7 is the rendered HDR image.  Click on File, Save As and save as a 16-bit Tiff. Close the image file, leave Photomatix open, and hit Generate HDR.Br

  8-Generate HDR pick the next three images for your Pano then go thought the same steps as 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 leaving all the settings as your previous HDR image. Save the image as a 16-bit Tiff. If you use Lightroom you should save these images in the same folders. Note that you will have to go to the folder in Lightroom and synchronize to import these Tiffs into Lightroom.

We are now ready to merge these two images into Photoshop Merge to Panoramic.

 9-In Photoshop go to File, Automate, and Photomerge.

Click on the two HDR Tiff files, click on Perspective and let Photoshop merge the files into Layers into the image document. I merged the two layers into one, transformed and used guides to level and add guides for cropping. I cropped the image. I then used adjustment Layers to Dodge, Burn, and Curves to Lighten and darken the image.

I also use the Gamma Warning to see the out of Gamma Colors and use Hue/Saturation to sample as de-saturate (bring down saturation) of those colors so the image prints well.

The final image with adjustment layers, signature and numbering text added. I then duplicate the file, close the original, size for final output, place on background boarder, sharpen then convert to jpeg for export to the lab.


HDR is a just another great way to create images and I find it fun as well as challenging.  It takes awhile to get the hang of it but once you do it can help take some of your images to the next level. My advice is to try it, experiment and above all have fun while being creative. If you have any questions on the process of HDR or want to learn more please feel free to contact me fineart@wmphotos.com

Wayne Miller Photography.

 Other resources for HDR:

Software Photomatix: http://www.hdrsoft.com

Videos: http://www.hdrsoft.com/resources/video.html

 HDR Videos on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/results?search_type=&search_query=photomatix&aq=f

 IMAGE FINISHED – This is the final image in HDR after some Photoshop tweaks.

HDR (High Dynamic Range)

After spending some time reading, listing, and watching videos on the internet and U-Tube I decided to do a test on HDR. In Photoshop there are dozens of ways to accomplish the same results, and HDR is no different.

 Several good tutorials are available on “U” Tube and each maker has his/her own way to process the raw to HDR image.

 So I am no different and tried processing three bracketed images that were 0, +2, -2 exposures and mounted on a tripod. I shoot with a Canon 5D, used a 24-70mm 2.8 lens set a ISO 100, at f/18 so the shutter speed was normal 1/40 (1/10 and  1/160).

 The test was as followed:

1-Each image was processed in different software application but all went into Photomatix for the final HDR process and I used the same HDR preset for all images.

2-The pre-process images were done in Lightroom, PS Camera Raw, and Photoshop Merge to HDR.

3-Results of the test were surprising to say the least. Only one application really shined.

 Judge for yourself but now my workflow is to let Photomatix process the Raw files and it does make the workflow quicker.

 IMAGE # 1 This is using Camera Raw to HDR I used the clone tool to remove dust spots, and as you can see  how it turned out.  Besides the spots left from cloning the image is rater flat in my option. You will have to save the file as a radiant (.hdr) in order to work on it in Photomatix.

IMAGE # 2 This is using Photoshop Merge to HDR.  I left the dust spots, and as you can see how it turned out.  Besides the banding left in several places the image still is rater flat in my option.

IMAGE # 3 This is using Lightroom and merge to HRD from Lightroom menu. I like the results from this one more so than the other two images. The dust spot removal worked at little better but still show clone spots. The only draw back here is LR makes a TIFF copy as it is merged into Photomatix. Then you end up with the three original RAW’s, three TIFF’s, and the final HDR. Closer but still no cigar.

Image # 4 This is using Photomatix to process the RAW file without using Lightroom or Photoshop first. Out of all the above I prefer this image. I chose the original RAW images untouched in the Photomatix open menu, let it do the RAW conversion and then apply the Tone mapping to suit. To me this makes the most sense as I just use a browser, Bridge, or Lightroom to find the images that I want. I make a note of the file names, and open Photomatrix.

Conclusion: Do it how ever you want to and have fun. I found this method to work for me and remember to enjoy the photographic journey.