Exploring HDR

This intro to Exploring HDR is a copy and paste from another post of mine. Now that I’ve discovered more about the WordPress interface, here I go with the completed version.

–The year 2011 was my year exploring the High Dynamic Range (HDR) technique. Bracketing 5 shots at 1 stop exposure compensation. Some conclusions after shooting HDR for a year?
1. The thrill is there!
2. Shooting 5 exposures increases my need for more hard drive storage. (Or the free option to delete-something I now do)
3. Overdoing the effect of HDR is tempting and tacky but I do it, and make no excuses about it.

I was able to add texture, definition, and amp the color to what I saw (Or wanted to see) when the shutter was fired.FINAL HDR 201Secluded


Looking at a scene, your vision sees something that compels you to fire the shutter. It’s thrilling seeing highlights, shadows, mid tones, color, detail at the time, yet loads of details are missing after importing to Lightroom. We must re-create what we saw , because our eyes have a brain directing them, and our camera does not. My mind allows me to feel what I see, then create a perception of it from the computer. It’s art.


In order for us to see that range of detail in the highlights (- EV), shadows (+ EV) & mid tones (0 EV) that excites us as photographers, the photography genius’ invented HDR. To execute the technique we shoot various exposures of a scene that are under exposed -EV, over exposed +EV, and properly exposed zero (0) EV. EV stands for Exposure Value: The amount of light the camera uses to make a photograph.

Because we shoot more than one photo of the exact same scene, and will “stack” them later, we’ll need:

1. Shoot with a tripod

2. Continuous shutter release mode

3. A constant aperture to avoid varying depths of field

4. Bracketed exposures (Exposing + EV (Over expose) 0 EV (Normal expose) – EV (Under expose)

* I shoot only in RAW and import NEF (Nikon RAW) files into Lightroom®.

FINAL HDR 175Unusual


Now for the fun part. Let’s see some HDR PICTURES! Exposure samples will follow these HDR photos from 2011.

FINAL HDR 116Brick Bottle?

FINAL HDR 319Junkyard and Me

FINAL HDR 307Vintage Station in 2011FINAL HDR 29447 Cents?

FINAL HDR 351Carmi, IL Burger Joint

2011_October-990_HDR copy2Governor & Louisana

2011_October-1099-Edit-EditUncle Chet’s Hats-2012FINAL HDR 975Grace Baptist Memory

FINAL HDR 66Stranger in the End

FINAL HDR 1746Graffiti


I process HDR’s with the NIK plug-in HDR Efx Pro™ through the host program Lightroom®. Having shot (5) bracketed exposures in (1) stop increments, and choose (3) to represent what I want to see in the final HDR.

Studying those 5 frames & looking for details in the highlights, mid tones, and shadows I select three candidates>right click>EXPORT>choose HDR Efx Pro™. After a few seconds, the interface opens to the HDR image and 33 “recipes” left of screen.

HDR Efx Pro full

I can either choose a “recipe”…

HDR Efx Pro recipes

…or, begin editing with the slider controls on the right side of the screen. Even if a recipe is used, the sliders are used for finishing touches.

HDR Efx Pro sliders

Choosing SAVE brings me back to Lightroom®, a new file appears. A TIF file renamed with the original file name and HDR added to the name.

HDR Efx Pro tif




+2 EV 200

+2 EV0 EV 198

0 EV-2 EV 196

-2 EV



You have the option with HDR Efx Pro™ to process only (1) image for HDR processing, which is okay if you want an HDR but didn’t shoot for it. Below is a comparison of the same image processed from the 0EV exposure.

EDIT 198

The 0 EV image is repeated here, for comparison. I sometimes use this feature to give a photograph depth, but for a true HDR; shoot an HDR.

0 EV 1980 EV

Holding back on the sky, lessens drama-

+3 EV 1385+3 EV

+1 EV 1385+1 EV

-1 EV 1385-1 EV


Long exposure and night-

+1.3 EV 631

+1.3 EV (25 sec. @ f22)

0 EV 6310 EV (10 sec. @ f22)

-1.3 EV 631-1.3 EV (4 sec. @ f22)


Sunset with windy skies-A nice combination

+.7 EV 624

+.7 (30 sec. @ f22)

0 EV 6240 EV (20 sec. @ f22)

-1 EV 624

-1 EV (10 sec. @ f22)


Extreme exposure range=Extreme HDR

+2 EV 221

+2 EV

0EV 2210EV

-2 EV 221-2 EV


Watch for halos: You can see them clearly in “Uncle Chet’s Hats”. They are glowing areas created during the processing stage. Looking at “Former Schmitt Motel”, you can see the light area between the sky and roof top. I had too much time invested in this image when I noticed it, and edited in Photoshop® later. (As I look at the corrected one, I don’t think I used the final edited one for this tutorial-but you get the idea)

HALO 965


Just for fun, here’s the 0EV exposure of “Former Schmitt Motel”.



Now it’s 2013 and time to reflect. No HDR shooting in 2012 gave me a break and now there’s a better feel for reading the scene and deciding while I shoot, whether to bracket (5) exposures or just (3) exposures. Even (7) exposure bracketing comes in handy these days for more choices, whether processing one image normally, or working with an HDR series of images.

I’ve been told bracketing is a sissy way to shoot. Hey, I have 6 terabytes of hard drive space in my computer and more compact flash cards than I’ll ever fill, so I shoot like a sissy! And a happy shooting-sissy I am!

Please post any questions, so they can be answered. Keep in mind, I’m no expert. I’m just a photographer who chose 2011 as her year to learn HDR. I also appreciate any positive feedback about this post.

Thanks for sharing in my HDR adventure.



January 2013-A cold/rainy day at Garden of the Gods. Shawnee National Forest, Southern Illinois

2013_Jan-169_HDRFINAL HDR


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. bill palmer
    Apr 05, 2013 @ 11:59:01

    I like these, sometime maybe we can try this together? at times I really like the depth the photo takes on and a sort of oil painting look.
    Thanks for the link, we’ll try this sometime.




    • Kim J Weber
      May 18, 2013 @ 15:10:34

      It would be fun to shoot for HDR someday. Then, edit in LR & Nik HDR Pro Bill. Let’s make a plan for it.



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