PICSPIRATION SUNDAY: I often use the HDR technique in my landscape photos. Here is the step-by-step guide to how this particular photo was created.
I am currently exhibiting a selection of landscape photos from my home commune Ås at Ås Stasjon, a cafe in the the old train station building. One of the photos is this one, showing a farm field full of straw bales.
Readers of my blog will know that I often use HDR to create my photos. HDR stands for High Definition Range – and it is a technique to make sure all parts of a high-contrast photo is correctly exposed.
In this article I will explain in detail the editing process. A similar process is used on many of my landscape and city photos.
Step-by-step video: Using HDR in landscape photograhy
Here are the five starting photos
My Canon 5D Mark II allows me to do bracketing of three exposures at the time. For a photo like this my first decision is to choose the aperture. The aperture has to stay the same on all exposures.
I usually choose a small aperture to get sufficient depth of field when taking landscape photos. In this case it is f/16. Also I choose a low ISO to have the best technical quality possible, in this case ISO 100.
As I am always using tripod for photos like this I usually do not have to worry about blur caused by long exposure times. The only exception is if there is strong wind. In that case I may see some movement blur in the trees or in the clouds.
I take two series of bracketing. The first is the default shutter speed suggested by the camera in addition to +2 stops over-exposure and -2 stops under-exposure. In the next series I choose +1 and -1 for the alternate shots.
I now have six exposures, but two of them will be the same. So I delete one of these – and from here on work with five exposures: Default, +1, +2, -1 and -2 stops.
Here are the five original and un-edited exposures used for this photo:
What I do with the five exposures
The editing process is explained in the video above.
Basically my editing process consists of three steps:
- First I make some rough batch edits in Lightroom. I select the five exposures, and typically will crop them and adjust the white balance if needed.
- The five exposures are then exported to HDR Efex Pro 2, the software I use for HDR editing. I choose the preset I want and make some adjustments before hitting “Save”.
- The final adjustments are usually done in Lightroom. This can typically be fine-tuning the contrast, clarity and saturations – as well as doing the sharpening.
In a few cases I might decide to do some edits in Photoshop. However, for landscape photos I usually find that I am able to do what I want in Lightroom.
Using HDR: Summing up
High contrast is a typical challenge in landscape photography, especially during sunrise and sunset.
Photographers solve this in different way. A popular method is using graduated density filters. These filter allow less light into half of the frame, typically where the sky is.
Personally I prefer the HDR method as described in this article. But it has to be used by caution. Unfortunately there are many HDR photos out there where it is just too obvious that the photographer has gone crazy with the effects.
Good luck in trying it out!