Advanced Photography: HDR & Panoramics



        So you’re not an amateur photographer and you want to introduce yourself to some new things. HDR is the perfect next step. You go out on photo-walks with your friends and you see this amazing scene but your camera can’t seem to take the picture exactly how you see it, leaving some areas overexposed with others well lit. Well this usually happens when you encounter a high dynamic range scenery. What that means exactly is the difference between the lightest and darkest you can capture in a photo. Once your camera exceeds the camera’s dynamic range, the highlights tend to wash out to white or the darks become blobs of nothing. This is where HDR photography comes in handy.


              HDR is a specific style of photo that has an unusually  high dynamic range that couldn’t be achieved in a single photograph. It’s the combination of multiple photos with different shutter speeds. The most simplest HDR has three photos: One underexposed by one stop, one metered “correctly” and one overexposed by a stop. Of course you can always play around and do way more than just one on each spectrum, so play around with it next time you try this. Keep in mind that HDR photography isn’t complete the second you take the photo, you also need to input these photos in a software to merge them together. The software I will be showing today is Photoshop CC 2017 and Adobe Bridge.  Let’s begin.

Step One: The first step in creating an HDR image is going out and taking photos! Find a location that has high dynamic range with lots of contrast. A helpful tip is using a tripod for consistency in between your photos.

Step Two: Take a look at your settings. For HDR it’s best to shoot in RAW rather than JPEG. I recommend shooting in Aperture Priority mode simply so that you can set your aperture to one constant setting, having the same depth of field in each photo you take, making it easier to combine. Set your camera metering to Evaluative (Canon) or Matrix (Nikon).

Step Three: You’ll want a camera that has Auto exposure bracketing (AEB) just because it helps you indefinitely. For example: -1,0,+1 is the simplest and is considered a “three bracket”. Also it is best to put your camera on burst mode for quick fire. Go out and shoot!


Step four: You’re back home now with a card full of photos, excellent. Like I said earlier, I will be using Adobe bridge and Photoshop for creating my own HDR example. When opening bridge you will see a similar screen. Find where you stored your photos.bridge-opening

I’m positive that when you located your photos you noticed (if you took a lot of photos) that it seems a bit messy. This is why I like bridge, cause I get to stack my photos together to keep myself from confusion.


I am an organizing freak, and I like things to be as clear as air. In the above image you can see that I have a stack for A,B,C,D,F and G. There’s a number 3 at the left corner meaning there are three photos in the stack I created.  I left E out to show you the difference between stacking and leaving all your photos laid out. So open your photos in bridge and stack the same photos together for your own sanity.

Step Five: So you organized your photos like a good organizing human being and your ready for the next step. The next step is so easy you wont even believe me. First, click on a stack that you are ready to turn into a HDR photo. With that stack selected, click toolsPhotoshopMerge to HDR PRO.about-to-merge

Step Six: After you press that, Photoshop will open and begin to create a HDR photo for you.This is the screen that should pop up for you:


As you can see on the bottom left, those are the three photos I used to create my HDR. It doesn’t stop there, and on the right side you see a panel that enables you to further edit the final HDR photo it created for more effect. I went along and played with the saturation and other tools to make it pop more. After you do your final edits and click OK, you officially created your first HDR photo! It really is that simple.

Here is my final product compared to the individual photos :



As you can see in the below images, to expose the tree I had to let the sky be overexposed and vice versa. This is why HDR is useful since my final product has both the sky and tree nicely lit.


Admit it, you took a photo and then realized oh my it’ll be so much more dramatic in black and white and i’ll seem so much cooler, then went into a software program and clicked a button to convert it into black and white. Nothing really wrong with that but truth be told there is a formula for black and white photography. There’s also do’s and dont’s.  Here’s a list of tips worth following :

  1. Find subjects with intriguing lines, shadows and shapes.
  2. Look for contrast, which adds interest to your scene
  3. Interesting textures
  4. Find Patterns, they pop out more when color is gone
  5. Try long-exposure black and white shots
  6. Don’t go to black and white for substitution of bad lighting
  7. Shoot HDRs for exaggerated dynamic ranges

With the absence of color things like lines, shadows, shapes, and patterns tend to pop out more without the distraction of color present. Next time you go shooting, try finding scenes like that and it will take your black and white photography farther than before. Try not to result to black and white to just fix an issue you had, black and white photos have meaning behind it besides just a fixer-uper. Long exposure photography alone is beautiful, but long exposure – B&W photography is ten times more beautiful! The contrast is exaggerated and textures pop. Like in this photo by Andrew Preble below



Lets face it, the world is a beautiful place with lots to appreciate. Sometimes you see a scene and experience a great feeling of awe and your first thought is “let me photograph this!” Then you take the picture and it’s only 1/4 of the actual scene, frustrating. This is when panoramic’s come in handy. Now a days lots of smart phones have a panoramic mode that makes it super easy to take, but if you have a nice DSLR there’s some things to keep in mind. First off, putting your camera in portrait position while on a tripod is the best way to go, keeping you away from distortion and allowing you to crop the top and bottom sections without messing up the subject. You should pan from left to write to make editing easier and always make sure your camera is leveled in each picture. Lastly, remember to have about 20-50% of overlapping between each shots. I’ll show you my process for the panoramic photo I took. 

Step One: The same as we did above with the HDR, open your photos in bridge and stack together your photos for the panoramic you are ready to take.

Step Two:  After selecting the stack you want to turn into a panoramic click tools – Photoshop – Photomerge.20170227-screenshot-6

Step Three: After you select that, this screen will pop up :


I would select auto, because I much rather have Photoshop do the thinking for me, and then press OK.

Step Four: Photoshop will then start to merge your photos to create one big one. This then will come up:20170227-Screenshot (8).jpg

As you ca see the photo isn’t done right after you merge them. There’s rigid ends and it looks funny. This is where you come in and do some editing of your choice. What I did for this photo was grab my crop tool and crop the image. Here is my final Panoramic :


I hope you enjoyed my tutorial of HDR and Panoramic’s, and next time you go out don’t forget to bring your camera and experiment!

Photo by Noah Hinton …



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