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Shooting for HDR

Of course cameras can't actually record any more dynamic range just because Adobe came out with a new release of Photoshop. In order to create an HDR image, you will need a series of regular images shot at different exposures that can be merged together.

This means the first thing you will need is a good tripod no way to do this hand held. There is an option in the "Merge to HDR" dialog that will attempt to automatically align the source images, but you don't want to rely on it. Set up your composition on a tripod so things will line up correctly without help. Trying to convert the same raw image at different exposures won't really cut it either. You need individual, actual images shot at different exposures.

Adobe recommends that you shoot a minimum of three shots, but preferably between five and seven to cover the entire brightness range of the scene in question. You want to make sure you have shots ranging from essentially a completely black exposure on up. Don't stop shooting until you have a frame accounting for each part of the final image without clipping the highlights. Use the histogram to be sure. You will pretty much ruin the resulting HDR image if have any portion of the image that has burned out highlights throughout all the frames. Don't worry that most of the frames will look down right lousy as-shot. Once you assemble them all together you'll be taking the best parts from each, so don't let the fact that each one individually looks awful bother you.

The images you shoot should be separated from each other by somewhere between one and two stops. This rules out the auto-bracketing function on most cameras. My new Nikon D2x can automatically shoot a series of from two to nine exposures separated by up to one stop each, but even that seems barely adequate. Instead, it seems better to simply set the exposure for each shot manually.

Adjust the shutter speed to create your different exposures. Significant changes of aperture would result in noticeable differences in depth of field that would make it difficult to merge the frames effectively. You may be able to use changes in ISO as well, but be careful that you don't introduce unwanted noise by doing so. So long as subject motion doesn't become a problem, shutter speed changes are your safest bet.
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