HDR How to Guide

HDR How to GuideWelcome to Captain Kimo’s HDR How to Guide. This tutorial is the foundation of my HDR technique, written for the beginner HDR photographer. Below are five essential chapters to get you started with HDR photography. This how to guide covers everything from digital camera to software like Photomatix and Photoshop. I’ll take you from begining to end of the entire HDR photography process.

I plan on updating this tutorial as well as turning it into a free eBook so be sure to sign-up for my monthly newsletter using the link below…

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To give you a good idea about my HDR processing workflow check out my 30 minute webinar video below sponsored by Topaz Labs and HDRSoft, makers of Photomatix Pro. [youtube]http://youtu.be/VkgKfF1Gpc8[/youtube]

HDR How to Guide

Continue to Chapter 1 – About HDR Photography

Here are a list of other great HDR how to tutorials and HDR images for your viewing pleasure;

  1. Best of HDR High Dynamic Range Images and Tutorials
  2. 35 Most Beautiful HDR Photos to Blow Your Mind
  3. HDR Photo Tutorial: Using Photomatix Pro in Lightroom
  4. 35 Expressive Examples of Stunning HDR Photography

Thanks for checking out my tutorials.

There will be more tutorials coming soon so bookmark this page and visit often. Don’t forget to share this tutorial page with all your shutterbug friends. If you have questions or suggestions please leave your comments.

Cheers, Captain Kimo

18 thoughts on “HDR How to Guide

  1. John S

    Real basic question: do you recommend saving the 3 or 5 images to be merged for the final HDR image as RAW or jpeg? I like the idea of using RAW to include all the data possible, but it seems the RAW images need to be converted to TIF files before software (Nik HDR Efex Pro) can process them into an HDR image. Would like to know what you recommend. Thanks!

  2. Captain Kimo Post author

    You are correct… there is no universal setting that will work for every image. Trying to find one will only make you crazy. Knowing the proper settings for a specific image takes a lot of time and practice. Just keep HDRing and you’ll learn them all by heart.

  3. Salvatore Pedi

    I”m quite new to HDR and am still trying to locate the very best settings in order
    to get stunning (I hope) HDR photos. I would imagine that there really is NO SET RULE for the proper settings. I also think you simply can’t use the SAME SETTINGS on ALL your hdr photos.
    So, the problem for me is to know exactly WHAT EACH SETTING MEANS!..and, yes, I’ve read what some of the HDR authors recommend, but I still don’t know how to put a LABEL on what a certain setting does. And, I also suspect that surely don’t have to use ALL THE SETTINGS when configuring your settings. For instance: I created a pretty decent HDR photo with just only Three (3) settings. So, go figure!..but, I’ve already purchased about six books on HDR and still find it hard to UNDERSTAND WHAT THE SETTINGS REALLY MEAN. There’s gotta be an easier way to comprehend what want you to understand.

  4. Captain Kimo Post author

    3 different exposure is definitely better! As long as it’s 2 stops up and down. I think trying to emulate this with a single file might only get you 1stop up and down without any problems.

  5. Adrian

    Hi Captain
    Do you think you get better results from taking 3 different exposures in field or simply taking 1 raw image and converting to 3 exposures in photoshop/raw?

    I would like to thank you for your time and effort in helping guys like me. Truly outstanding!

  6. Captain Kimo Post author

    Some of the photos that look more natural are experiments with different tone mapping processing and some might just be regular photos. Of course I’ve heard of Trey… I promote his DVD tutorials :-) but I’ve never met the guy in person. I’m sure our paths will eventually cross. I believe that over using the effect is okay as long as it adds to the image. But I know what you mean, a lot of people do over use the look carelessly, or their eye hasn’t been trained yet to see that their over doing the process. I’m glad you enjoy the photos and thanks for commenting, I certainly appreciate it.

  7. AC

    You’ve got some pretty cool photos. A lot of them look great…some though look almost normal…was that the look you were going for? Just curious. I stumbled upon HDR by mistake after reading a book published or at least featuring Trey Ratcliff and his website http://www.stuckincustoms.com have you ever heard of him? He goess all around the world and caputures great moments like you. So far, this is only the second site I’ve seen that’s got some nice HDR photos…although there are lots out there…but some people tend to overuse the effect. It’s probably gonna take me a while to go through your whole site but I’m looking forward to it!

  8. Captain Kimo Post author


    If you want to play around with HDR, I would recommend either Picturenaut (free HDR program) or Photomatix if you’re more serious. Here’s a post I did of the top ten HDR software available, with a brief review of each program.

    I hope this helps. HDR photography is very addicting once you start! Have fun!

    Best regards, Kimo

  9. april

    hi captain. i just heard of hdr from flickr right now. ive never heard of it before so im clueless about it. ive seen the after pictures so i am interested in it. all i have right now is photoshop 7.0, and im not sure if it has it and ive never noticed? or do i download it from online? or do i have to purchase a certain program and have it shipped and then upload it to my computer..? i would really like to start using it for my photography, im just clueless on how to get it for my computer. thanks for your help :) -april

  10. Captain Kimo Post author

    @Richard – I just talked with Eric from Topaz Labs about it. He has advise Ashely to take care of the matter. He also wants you to check the spam filter to make sure your emails aren’t being trashed. Also check out this page for their phone number http://www.topazlabs.com/company

  11. Richard

    Hi Captain
    I don’t have Skpye. I tried to use the Topaz forum and it’s also very confusing to use. Ashley is ignoring my e-mail. I’ve givin up on the Topaz web site. I’m thinking about chucking the $180 bucks as a bad investment,via web site purchase. Can you suggest a big box computer store where I can buy the hard copy, with disk in my hand I should be able to load it and get the license key easier that way from them. I’ve bought 100’s of software programs before and have never encountered anything as hideously hidden as the way they handle their customers. They put Ashley in place to answer thousands of customers questions and they call that service. Their process stinks.

  12. Captain Kimo Post author

    Hey Richard, I’ll try to get in touch with someone there. If you have Skpye I can help you by seeing what your doing. I think every software company that deals with this would benefit by using Skype its such a great program and free.

  13. Richard

    Hi Cap

    Why is the Topaz people so hard to communicate with?
    There seems to be no way to contact them with an e-mail.
    One can only post a comment on some conveluted message board. I am not THAT computer savey. I would love to just pick up the tele and call, but I guess that’s to 20th century. I’m ticked because they took my credit card money and all they MADE me take was a 30 day trial and a license key that won’t even work. Is there some trick to getting some attention from them without having to be a computer braniake to figure out how to communicate with them???
    There product seems cool. I purchased the bundle that they advertised. I tried to enter my license key and it was unacceptable?!!
    Sincerely, Super Frustrated

  14. Captain Kimo Post author

    Photoshop Elements won’t allow for HDR merge. You’ll need the pro version, but I don’t recommend using Photoshop to create HDR images anyways. I only use Photoshop to edit my images, like adjusting color and fix problem areas. There are a lot of HDR programs available now but I highly recommend using Photomatix to combine your exposures. You can find more info here. Let me know how it goes and I would love to see some of your results.

  15. Richard

    I am newbie to hdr process. So new that I don’t have any thing yet except: G1 lumix panisonic camera, tripod, and photoshop elements 7.
    You mentioned that you use Elements to use since it is useable. I don’t think I can use Elements 7 because it cannot merge shots together into one shot.
    When you have time to clear up my problem with your suggestion’s, that would be most helpful.
    Your web page is colorful and thourogh.
    Thanks ………Richard

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