Up until last week I had never shot or considered shooting a HDR photo. The reason was because there are so many bad HDR photos that have been processed just that little too much. Anyway Creaceed the makers of HDR sent my out a copy of their Aperture 3 plugin and also the stand alone software (for those not using Aperture). By the way if you have Lightroom they have a plugin for that as well. The best part about the plugins is that it isn’t a watered down version of the standalone software, so it’s fully functional with only some minor layout changes.
Since never shooting a HDR photo before I wasn’t quite sure what to look for in a scene. So I went out armed with my Canon in Aperture priority mode (this is a bit of a novelty because it rarely leaves Manual mode) and after searching through the menus worked out how to turn on Auto Exposure Bracketing, something that I had used on previous cameras but never had the need with my dslr up until now.
I searched high and low but couldn’t find a suitable scene to shoot for some reason. I could be that I was having a bit of a creativity block or that I just didn’t know what to look for. Thinking back I should have just started shooting to see what came of it, but thats not my style.
I had read somewhere that you can use one RAW image you can generate the multiple exposures and create a HDR image. I thought I would give that ago. One thing that could be a bug in the Aperture plugin is that when you generate the 2 extra exposures from the master image and load all three into the plugin you just get three versions of the master. It doesn’t seem to load the versions of the original file. At this point I thought it would be a great time to try out the standalone version of Hydra. Unfortunately it was the image that was possible not right for a HDR. It resulted in big blacked out areas, which I haven’t quite worked out what that is and how to avoid it just yet.
The Saturday just past I was out on a fashion shoot and while the mode was getting changed I thought I would take advantage of the setting sun and the jetty we were shooting on to give it a try. Shooting hand held I shot a variety of 3 exposure images some even including the model to see if I could get something to play with. The ones including the model didn’t work. I think I will need to master a HDR from one RAW image to pull that off. However one image of the jetty with the sunset and some mean lens flare looked like it might just work as my first every HDR conversion.
I selected all three exposures and edited using the Aperture plugin since it is exactly the same as the standalone I see no reason to move out of Aperture then have to import it back in once I was finished. Once all three images were loaded I couldn’t really see much difference. So I fiddled with some of the controls. and within a few minutes had an understanding of what each slider did and before you know it I was processing the HDR. To finish it off I added some contrast a vignette and some minor colour correction to bring out the yellow in the sunset.
Before you say it yes, the lens flare is a little too much, and it’s probably not the best example of a HDR but when you consider that this was shot into the setting sun I managed to get a quite a bit of detail in the sky and on the jetty. I have possibly darkened the jetty a little too much but personally I think it looks quite nice for my first attempt.
Well with a little bit of practice it could become a fun plugin/standalone app to play with. One thing I want to mention again is that taking a good HDR shot is actually very difficult. So many aspects need to be right but when you get it right the results are amazing. The user interface is pretty easy to use along with all the controls, all thats left to do is get the right scene and everything should be a breeze. You can pick up Hydra here. Give it a shot it’s a lot of fun.
UPDATE: Hydra can actually create HDR out of single files. Just select the file and your off and running.