Hello there. I am Terry and I am a full-time undergraduate based in Singapore. I take photos, write a blog and design websites.

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HDR Merging & Tweaking Tutorial

Photoshop & Photomatix Tutorial: HDR

Before we start, here are some software pre-requisites – you’ll need Adobe Photoshop and Photomatix to create your own HDR. One thing to note though – the free trial version of Photomatix will embed a watermark in your resultant HDR if your image is larger than 640*480. One workaround is to have your images smaller than that, or, purchase a copy!

This tutorial will be separated into four parts – Pre-merging preparation, Photomatix tutorial, Photoshop tutorial and then the comparison of the final HDR between two programmes. Now let’s get it started :)

*Note: The Photomatix and the Photoshop tutorial are mutually-exclusive, they’re two separate tutorials and are not part of a single workflow. In addition, this tutorial does not cover the usage of using camera RAW to create HDRs. I’m sorry about the lack of it, because I’m not a dSLR user and have not tried to manipulate camera RAW files before.

Click on the titles to navigate through the pages:

HDR Tutorial - Link to Pre-merging preparation

HDR Tutorial - Link to Photomatix tutorial

HDR Tutorial - Link to Photoshop tutorial

HDR Tutorial - Link to Which is better?


Pre-merging preparation

Things you’ll need before you head off to somewhere to get photos for your HDR:

  1. Tripod – it beats even the steadiest hands on earth. Seriously, you’ll need it.
  2. Camera – that’s for sure!
  3. Enough space for new photos – each HDR requires at least 3 (although 7 is recommended) photos, and we can’t be sure that your first set of images will eventually be the HDR you want, so you’ll actually need to take a lot of photos!

What you have to do when you’re ready to shoot:

  1. Make sure that you’re on steady ground, the tripod is firm and your camera is tightly stuck to the tripod. Although both Photomatix and Photoshop can tolerate small perspective differences between photos, the threshold is really small.
  2. Try to use countdown timers. Most cameras have 2 or 5 seconds and 10 seconds timers. Without timers, your photos may end up slightly blurrish because of the shaking when you hit the shutter button.
  3. Capture the whole dynamic range – i.e. shooting 3 photos 2 EV apart, or if possible, shooting 7 photos 2/3 (aka 0.667) EV apart. For your convenience, start from -2.0 EV and move up towards +2.0 EV.
    *Note for dSLR users – I think some of the dSLR models have an auto bracketing exposure function, where you can take 3 shots of different exposures, usually 2 f-stops apart. You can use that to create HDRs too.

I highly recommend taking 7 photos though, because it provides the best dynamic range coverage without taking up too much time (unlike taking every 1/3 EV apart, which we’ll need 13 photos to cover from -2.o to +2.0 EV. Here’s roughly what you should get after the shoot:

HDR Tutorial - Preparation Photo Collage

We’ll be using this example for the rest of this tutorial. If you’re ready to move on, we’ll proceed to the Photomatix tutorial (which is on Page #2).

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