Exposure Bracketing for HDR Images

Last modified on April 24th, 2007

I’ve been experimenting with high dynamic range (HDR) images for a few months now, and so far I really love the effect that you can get with photos. At least in my eyes, HDR images generally seem to look a bit more natural than a typical shot that doesn’t have a large dynamic range. Unfortunately, this whole field is more of an art than a science currently, so getting the perfect HDR shot is a bit of trial and error (and in a lot of cases, the end result isn’t always appealing).

My tool of choice right now is undoubtedly Photomatix, and I use it almost exclusively when generating HDR shots. I’ve played around a bit with Photoshop CS2’s HDR generator, but to be honest, it’s really rather weak.

One of the main difficulties in generating HDR shots is that they usually require a tripod. Since I rarely have a tripod on me, I often miss shots I would love to take as HDRs. However, after messing with my camera for a while the other day, I discovered its auto exposure bracketing feature. Auto exposure bracketing allows you to automatically capture a sequence of shots with varying exposure. For example, if I set a +/- 2EV exposure bracket on my camera, when I hold down the shutter, it will take one shot at -2EV exposure (which is technically underexposed), 0EV (perfect exposure), and +2EV (overexposed). The advantage of this is that I can compose a shot, press the button, and in theory walk away with three images of varying exposure in basically the same spot (give or take a little camera shake).

While not as ideal as a tripod, it actually allows for some pretty decent HDR shots as long as you have enough light to avoid camera shake between shots. A normal HDR shot for me is usually five shots, so since my camera only allows three shots, I don’t think you get as nice an effect. But, it’s actually not that bad. Here’s a sample I took on the way home.

I’m pretty excited about this because now at least I should be able to do some portraits as HDR images, which should be pretty awesome.

4 responses to “Exposure Bracketing for HDR Images”

  1. phil says:

    I’m actually excited to see what you come up with, too. I will be jealous, as well, since I spent about an hour trying to take the requisite photos with my little point and shoot. It boils down to the fact that I don’t enough manual control over my images on my camera. Oh well, I guess someday….

  2. Tom says:

    Awesome shot. They look a bit surreal….almost a painted picture. I’d like to see your future portraits. What a cool thing you have discovered.

  3. S says:

    You made me realize I have this feature on my camera too!!

  4. Andrius says:

    Nice shot!
    I have just found my Fuji Finepix S5000 supports brackets as well. But it comes in max +-1EV intervals, which I guess wont be enough to generate a perfect HDR.

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