How To Do HDR Photography Canon 60d

Create an HDR with the camera - these options are available

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HDR stands for "High Dynamic Range", ie high dynamic range, which refers to the dynamic range that can be represented.

Modern digital cameras easily cope with a contrast range of 10 - 12 f-stops (light values ​​LW or Exposure Value EV). If the contrast in the motif is too high, there is a risk that the drawing will be lost in the shadows and / or highlights. A common procedure in such situations is to take a series of exposures consisting of several shots. Here the first picture is underexposed so that even the brightest lights in the picture are not overexposed and the last picture is overexposed so that the subject has good shadows even in the darkest area of ​​the picture.

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The respective other area of ​​the photo may then be mercilessly overexposed or underexposed, which is not a bad thing, since you only ever use the areas of the image that are well exposed for an HDR. These images were then converted into an HDR manually or using special software. As more and more cameras have an integrated HDR function, we want to introduce this function to you and show you what it can do.

The HDR menus

The names for such an HDR function are different.

In some cameras it is also called HDR, in some HDR backlighting or just backlighting and this can be reached either via a special button, the camera menu or the camera's program selection dial.

Basically, it makes no difference how you achieve the function on your camera. It is only important that at the end you remember to switch it off again (if the function does not do this by itself). Nothing is more annoying than a spoiled photo because you forgot to switch off HDR, because in this state the camera is not really capable of snapshots.

What and how much you can set on your camera depends not only on the brand, but also on the individual model.

We have shown you how different the range of functions can be based on three Canon models:

  • Left the EOS 650D has HDR back light as a function. But you can practically not adjust anything, the camera does everything automatically.
  • The EOS 70D in the middle offers a little more options.
  • The EOS 5D III on the right has the most extensive menu for the HDR mode, where the happy owner has almost complete freedom in choosing the HDR options.

Even if you do not have all of these functions, we would like to explain the settings to you in detail using the options of the EOS 5D III, because they partially coincide with the functions that Photoshop and other software offer for calculating HDR images.

Adjust dynamic range

In the basic state of the camera, HDR is deactivated. To activate HDR, you have to select either Auto or one of the values ​​+ / - 1 EV to + / - 3 EV in the “Set Dyn Range” option.

The function is easy to explain: Auto determines the exposure values ​​for the three shots itself based on the measured values ​​of the exposure metering, the other three settings expose the first and second shots by the set value above or below.

Actually, you can always use the maximum values ​​here (if you don't stick to "Auto" anyway), because afterwards only the usable parts of the image are used in the image processing anyway, because we want the maximum reserves in the border areas of the image "tickle" the picture. The setting 1 EV has so little effect that a good RAW development of a single image will probably achieve the same, if not even better results.


This is what HDR can look like

If you ask five photographers what they mean by HDR, you will likely get five different answers!

There are photographers for whom an HDR is only good if you can't tell from the photo that it is an HDR. Others only use HDR to reduce the range of contrast to a printable level for a later print of the motif, without losing details in the highlights and shadows. And finally, there are photographers who understand HDR to be brightly colored photos with strong contrasting edges and unnatural colors (which are created by the so-called tone mapping).

The effects mentioned here as examples basically represent exactly these five answers graphically. Using these 5 options, we have taken a small series of photos so that you can see what is possible. Everyone really has to decide for themselves what they want. In order to illustrate the differences between the individual modes, we have photographed them all once. The motif itself would not have needed HDR now, but you can see the effect very nicely in this example

Resume HDR

Here you can find the function that we already mentioned above. Depending on the setting, exactly one HDR is made and the camera then returns to "normal" mode. Otherwise, the HDR function remains active until you switch it off (or switch off the camera, then such functions are usually deactivated again.

Automatic image comparison

HDR is actually a classic tripod topic, since the recordings are made one after the other and should be as congruent as possible. However, many manufacturers now advertise that the HDR function also allows handheld shots. In fact, it does not promise too much (within certain limits).

As long as you are in a range of shutter speeds that can still be held with your free hand, HDR also works excellently for freehand photography. Incidentally, it doesn't matter which operating mode you have set. Once the shutter release is pressed, the camera takes the three necessary shots as quickly as possible.

Movements cannot be avoided in spite of a steady hand, especially with long focal lengths. The "Auto image alignment" mode brings the three images into congruence, but then cuts the result by the parts that are not in congruence due to movement / displacement.
The resulting photo then has the full number of pixels again, but appears somewhat larger than the original photos. If the camera shake is too great, ghosting will result, as well as if parts of the subject turn out to be too big during the recording.
If the interference is too strong, it can also happen that the camera reports that a calculation is not possible and that no HDR can be created. This automatically means that you should deactivate the auto image alignment option if you are using a tripod because the shutter speed is too slow anyway.

Save source images

This is about what is being saved. The smaller cameras deliver a JPEG at the end. Larger models often make it possible to save not only the final result (as JPEG), but also the source images on which the HDR is based. The advantage is: If you like the motif but not the result, you still have the originals and can use them to build an HDR by hand.

HDR in practice

After all the theory, here are a few practical examples to explain the function of the HDR in more detail.

What happens with the settlement?

In order to be able to use HDR correctly, it is important that you understand what exactly happens during the calculation. In the following considerations, we assume that the subject has a contrast range that exceeds the dynamic range of the image sensor. With a single shot, you have to decide whether you want to forego drawing in the highlights or in the shadows (or both).

Depending on how you decide, you would have to choose a correct exposure, underexpose a little (loss of shadows) or overexpose (loss of highlights). In HDR mode, on the other hand, you simply take all three possible recordings:

  • a correctly exposed
  • an overexposed
  • an underexposed

All recordings created in this way are aligned in the first step in order to get optimal pixel coverage for the subsequent comparison. In the subsequent comparison, the image processor uses the correctly exposed first image to check which areas of the image have sufficient drawing and which areas have shadows or highlights with little drawing. Areas with little drawing in the shadows are replaced by parts of the overexposed image, areas with little or no drawing in the highlights are replaced by areas from the underexposed image.

The calculation then takes place with soft transitions so that there are no hard jumps in brightness in the image.

In the example above, it cannot be seen at first glance that it is an HDR. But that is exactly what is often the point and purpose of such: to preserve the natural image impression and still get more drawing in the border areas.

In the two image sections you can clearly see the differences: the decrease in brightness on the ship's hull to the right is less pronounced and the ladder integrated into the pier can be seen much better in the HDR version of the photo.

The previous example shows a case where the HDR technique can be used, but does not necessarily have to be used. Even without HDR, the result would be acceptable. In the following I will show you some pictures that I took in a castle castle. The lighting conditions are much more critical here.

Very bright daylight falls through the windows into an otherwise darkly paneled room. The differences between the originals and the result as HDR are clearer than in the example with the ship. In this case, the gain in details is at the expense of the natural representation, a somewhat experienced photographer will recognize the HDR.

Finally, we will show you a comparison: a landscape scene that was recorded with the camera function as HDR and the subsequent processing as HDR with Photoshop. You can see very nicely: The camera function is not that bad and suitable for everyone who does not feel like editing images, but still want to use HDR.

But if you really want to get the most out of it, you can do HDR on your PC.


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On the left you can see the software version, on the right the variant directly from the camera. In addition, all possibilities such as lens corrections and contrast and color improvements were exhausted on the PC.

Continue reading?

In this article we will show you how you can implement an HDR with the software.

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