The HDR Camera
The fact is, there is no such thing as an HDR camera. Almost any camera can be used for making Perfect HDR photographs!
Any camera that does auto exposure bracketing (AEB) is suitable for your first HDR camera. All DSLR’s qualify as do the new micro four-thirds cameras from Panasonic, Olympus, Sony and others. The point of AEB is to take a series of exposures in rapid succession at pre-determined different exposure values. To translate that; what we want are a minimum of three shots of the same scene, taken at virtually the same time, at different levels of exposure. Typically, that will be -2, 0 and +2 f-stops. Don’t worry what an f-stop is right now. It has to do with how much light the camera lens allows to pass through to register the image on the camera’s sensor. So learn how to set up AEB on your camera. Usually it will be very simple. I just push a button on my Olympus and it instantly shifts into HDR mode with automatic bracketing. YouTube is probably your best bet to get video instruction setting up AEB easily for your camera. Those instruction books are just too hard to read.
The one other crucial camera setting for HDR is to put it into Aperture Priority mode. That’s another simple thing. On most cameras it’s just a matter of turning a dial on top of the camera to the “A” position. Your camera likely has something just like that. If not, then it’s in the menu system and will not be difficult… just google your camera model and the words “aperture priority setting.” Here’s why we do that:
In HDR we combine three ( or more) exposures of the same scene. All the exposures must have the same focus and depth of field. If we don’t force the aperture to remain the same in all the exposures, the depth of field will change between the different frames and then we have a mess. So, for now, all you need to know is to shoot your HDR in aperture priority mode ALWAYS!
There’s just one more “always” in HDR. Always shoot RAW. Do not shoot Jpeg’s. Jpeg’s are already processed and compressed in the camera before you ever get a chance to work on them. They are dead, useless, 8-bit files. You cannot extract anything new out of them like you can a RAW file. I don’t care if RAW files take up a lot more memory, spend $20 and get a bigger memory card for your camera. The reason camera manufacturers default to jpeg output is because they know that the majority of people using their camera will not do any post processing. Jpeg is how they give them the best output for acceptable and immediate viewing. So, shoot RAW, okay?
Here’s a video that explains some other camera things around HDR.
Now let’s go to where the rubber meets the road and watch the free video showing how to process your first HDR photo!