Dark Style HDR Photography - bracketing images

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// The method of Dark Style HDR photography//

1. Shoot a series of "bracketed images"
2. Combine the images & create an HDR image
3. Tweak levels (ps)
4. Add Curves / contrast (ps)
5. Add Black & White + Bleach bypass filter(ps) + (tiffen plug-in)

// Full Steps with explanation //

1. Bracketed images
You will first need to start by capturing a series of bracketed images (of the same subject)
to do this you will need to use a tripod, so that the camera does not move between shots.

I will be showing you how to do this using my Nikon D300.

Nikon D300 Exposure Bracketing

1. (a)
You will need to press and HOLD the 'Fn' button as indicated in the below image.
(this is done while holding the camera and pressing the button with you 4th finger).

D300 function button

1. (b)
When the Fn button is held in the exposure bracketing screen will appear on the Top Panel.
similar to the image below.

Tip !
Hold down the Fn button while rotating the rear
command dial until [BKT] appears in the top LCD. When
this icon is displayed, exposure bracketing is active

My current settings shown will take 3 images (denoted as "3F"), bracketing at 0.7
which will give me 1 image correctly exposed, 1 under exposed by 0.7 and 1 over exposed by 0.7

Turning the rear command dial to the right when (0F) is displayed will bracket either side and
include a correctly exposed image (which is what we want).

If you turn the dial to the left you will get variants of over exposing or under exposing only
(which is not want we want).

D300 image 1b

1. (c)
By rotating the front control dial to the left with my index finger I can increase the
bracketing to 1.0 (which will give a greater range between the bracketed images).

D300 image 1c

1. (d)
By rotating the rear command dial to the right with your thumb, as seen in the image above.
You can change the amount of images to be taken, I have now selected 5 shots (5F)
to be bracketed as seen in the image below.

D300 image 1d

1. (e)
You can now release the Fn button and the display will now show
the exposure bracketing gauge along with the other camera settings.
As seen below.

D300 image 1e

1. (f)

// Additional camera settings //

You will need to shoot in RAW format and not JPG as you want to
record as much information in your image as possible.

Always shoot in "Aperture Priority"

Set focus to "Manual" so that the camera does not refocus between shots.

Set your aperture to "f 8" or larger to get a deep DOF (depth of field)

Select a low ISO setting (e.g. 200)

Select Continuous Low (CL) shutter release (see image below),
so that the camera will automatically vary the shutter speed and shoot
the scene at the different exposures automatically when you fire the shutter.
You can either use a remote release or set the self timer to take the shots.

Note: if you select (S) single shot you will have to press the shutter button
for each of the bracketed images you have selected, i.e. as we have selected
(5F) in image 'e' above we would have to press the shutter 5 times to complete
the bracketed shot set. (which is not what we want to be doing).

D300 image 1f

2. Combine images into an HDR image
Once you have done this then you will need to create your HDR image.
Please click the following link to see how this is done using PhotoMatix.

Photomatix tutorial link
(Please note: this will open up in a new browser window).

Photomatix Settings I used for this tutorial image

Below is a screen capture of the Photomatix settings I used for the sample image
used for this tutorial.

Dark Style HDR Photomatix settings

As no two images are the same the settings for your image will probably be different to mine,
and you will need to just tweak the settings to suit.

As you change the settings keep checking the image to see how the changes affect it.

Try to avoid too much of a "Halo" (localised brightening to the extremities of and object),
around objects within your image i.e. tree lines against the sky. You can see a mild Halo
effect around the power pylon in my image.

Tips !

Adjusting the Strength slider to a value below 100 should help lessen the Halo effect
(The actual value you will require can only be decide by trying different values until
you are happy that it is not too apparent.)

Light Smoothing
Also, I try to keep the Light Smoothing set to Medium (or higher) to avoid creating Halo's.
Once again you will need to just try the different settings for light smoothing to see
what best suits your image.

A higher value will brighten the shadows and increases local contrast.

As you can see from the histogram the image has a full tonal range.
i.e. the black graph fills the whole of the histogram window. If yours does not fill it fully,
you can adjust the White Point to move the right side of the graph to the right edge of the histogram window.
Then do the same with the Black Point to move the graph to the left edge of the histogram
window. Which will give you the full tonal range for your image.

Adjusts the mid-tone of the tone mapped image, brighten or darken the image globally.

So now you know how to adjust your image just play with the settings until you are
happy with it then click the ( Process ) button then save the image out as a 16bit Tiff image.

After you have created your HDR image please click below for Step 3.


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