Follow these tips to capture incredible HDR artwork
1. Choose your subject carefully
Anyone can point a camera and take a photo. But capturing intriguing Louisiana HDR photography takes planning. Think about what every visual component adds to (and as importantly detracts from) the image.
Louisiana is loaded with great shooting locations, but you just can’t go wrong in New Orleans. The historic buildings, and many streetlights and neon signs provide plenty of light with which to work.
2. Use a tripod
The key to HDR is to produce a series of the exact same composition with varying exposures. That means your camera can’t be jiggling around, and a tripod with a good, quality ball head keeps everything stable while you work.
My current setup is an Induro AT214 tripod with a Manfrotto 498RC2 beall head. While there are much more expensive rigs out there, this combination provides rock-solid performance without breaking the bank.
3. Don’t sleep in
HDR photography is possible any time of the day, but nighttime images are the most captivating. Of course, the streets can be packed during the normal hours of nightlife (say, 10 p.m to 2 a.m.). Because you will be working with seconds-long exposures, having people moving across the scene you’re trying to capture isn’t what you want.
The solution is to get up early. My goal is to be working no later than 4 a.m., earlier if possible. That way most people have turned in for the night and I have the area largely to myself.
4. Use a camera featuring mirror lock-up
Exposures will be anywhere from a few seconds to 30 seconds. I’ve even taken exposures in bulb mode where I had to use my iPhone’s stopwatch feature to keep the shutter open for 60 seconds.
To be honest, I’ve got buddies who say this is no longer necessary. I don’t believe them. Call me old school, but the slapping of the mirror just has to produce vibrations that affect the final image.
5. Use a shutter release
In keeping with the use of mirror lockup, a shutter release (either a cable release or remote, depending on the camera) prevents any vibrations caused by pushing the trigger.
6. Use the live view mode to fine tune focus
OK, I have to admit that this is new to me. I always considered the live view a novice feature, and spent a lot of time squinting to see everything through the normal viewfinder.
Some buddies from Texas showed me the error of my ways during an early morning shoot in New Orleans. I now compose in the viewfinder, and then I turn on live view and zoom all the way into the most-important element in the frame and manually fine tune focus. The results are incredible.
7. Bracket exposures by at least 1 stop
HDR essentially stacks images to use correct exposures from each image in the stack to produce a well-balanced final image. Many scenes require only three exposures, but I’ve also taken images that needed six exposures.
Correct exposures of streetlights require more attention, since they are so much brighter than the rest of the scene. I ensure I have badly underexposed exposures where the streetlights are pinpricks of light in the frame. That way when the final image is put together the streetlights aren’t overexposed.
8. Use the lowest ISO setting possible
Low light normally means high ISO settings, but that’s not the case with HDR photography. You want to leave the shutter open for a long time and you’ve got a solid rest for the camera, so keep the setting as low as possible (that’s ISO 200 on my Nikon D300s).
9. Automatic settings should be avoided
Manual settings allow you full control of what the camera does. Set your camera on full manual and do the necessary adjustments for the proper shutter speed and f-stop. Then you can use the auto-bracketing to generate the variances of exposure.
10. Shoot, shoot, shoot
You won’t get great photos sitting in your living room, so take every opportunity to get out and capture a few images. Go before work, wake up early on the weekends. But get out there and shoot.
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