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By Daniel Dupont

December 2nd, 2020

For a few years now, a new photography technique has been developed: the HDR (High Dynamic Range.)

This method consists of taking a few shots of the same scene at different exposures and merging them in order to obtain optimal exposure for all areas of the image.

HDR is particularly useful when contrasts and light differences are significant. I recommend it also under overcast skies, as it may bring back some vividness to the colors.


Daniel Dupont - Lake Louise
1/4   |   f/11   |   ISO 100
Canon EOS 5Ds + Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM

HDR techniques

Two techniques are available here: the simplest is to set your camera to the HDR option; the second requires more knowledge but also opens up more possibilities: taking several shots of the same subject with different camera settings, then manually stitching the images with specialized software. This is called “bracketing.”

Shooting RAW

High-end cameras allow for HDR shooting in RAW format, but once assembled inside the camera, the image will be in JPEG format when shooting in HDR.

Not all entry-level and mid-range cameras offer the ability to shoot HDR in RAW. Photographers must set the camera to shoot in JPEG, and the assembled image produced by the camera will be also in JPEG.

Daniel Dupont - Peggy's Cove Lighthouse
1/8  |   f/22   |   ISO 100
Canon EOS 5Ds + Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM

Setting the HDR mode in the camera

I suggest that you read the instruction manual of your camera carefully. Depending on the manufacturer, it will be possible to set up a two or three photos to create the HDR image at the end.

PRO TIP: Ideally you should set up a shot of three photos. If this is not possible, I advise you to use the bracketing technique instead.

Choosing a picture profile finish

When setting the camera, you will be able to select different finishing effects and the appearance of the photo will differ greatly depending on your choice.

With most cameras, you should have access to different choices: "Natural, Standard, Vivid, Oil painting, and Relief." I mostly use the "Vivid" rendering.

Daniel Dupont
1/15   |   f/16   |   ISO 100
Canon EOS 5Ds + Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM

Manual mode

Regardless of whether I use bracketing or in-camera HDR, I use the manual exposure mode. It allows me to pick the three parameters: aperture, shutter speed, and ISO value to adjust the exposure.

Finding the baseline exposure

 Before setting the HDR mode in the camera or starting to take the pictures necessary for bracketing, I always make sure to find the baseline exposure, which I confirm by analyzing the histogram.

Daniel Dupont
1/160   |   f/8   |   ISO 400
Canon 5Ds + Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM

Shooting handheld

I have mentioned before that using a tripod is always helpful, but we don't always have a tripod at hand, especially when traveling. Handheld shooting is feasible, but you will have to limit yourself to a series of three photos at most.

When handheld, the slowest shutter speed should be higher than the focal length of your lens. The minimum shutter speed should not be slower than 1/125 sec.

If you use a 70-200mm lens at 200mm, the minimum shutter speed should not be less than 1/200 sec. If the difference between each of the three exposures is of 1 stop, the speed for the basic exposure would be 1/400 sec, the overexposed exposure would be 1/200 sec and the underexposed exposure would be 1/800 sec. It is very important to remain perfectly still when shooting the three images.

Daniel Dupont
1/250 |   f/11   |   ISO 320
Canon 5Ds + Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM


PRO TIP : To make things easier for you, be sure to place your left hand under the lens and stick your elbow to your body. This will help you remain more stable.

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