The Truth About HDR Photography

The truth about HDR photography is that every photographer uses it in one capacity or another. Now, I can hear many photographers getting angry already, so let me clarify that slightly. Not all photographer use HDR all of the time, but they will use it at least some of the time. Is that better? If not, you can stop reading, or you can keep reading to discover why HDR photography can get a bad rap and how you can use it in some capacity to shoot better photos!


HDR is the process of combining multiple exposures together to create an image that covers a larger dynamic range than you could normally shoot. Hence the name “high dynamic range.”

There is no concrete way to use HDR. Even if the standard definition is to shoot multiple exposures in camera either manually or through bracketing, that’s not the only way you can do it. You can also achieve the same effect in Photoshop using curve adjustment layers.

So, just because you didn’t shoot multiple exposures in camera, you are still altering a photograph using exposure techniques in post processing some of the time.

Better Technique

HDR photography has received some criticism over the years because of its misuse. Sometimes too many exposures are smashed together to create a photo and the image turns out looking grossly fake and altered. That’s why it’s always important to keep your exposures to three.

Using a three exposure technique for HDR photography (remember, that’s either in camera or in Photoshop) will provide you with enough dynamic range to receive wider dynamic ranges than normal without created an image that looks fake. Just shoot or edit one photo in a normal exposure, one slightly under exposed, and one slightly over exposed.

Easier Editing

You used to have to combine exposures in software like Photoshop or Photomatix to produce really professional HDR photos. However, Lightroom has just produced a ridiculously easy way to combine your HDR photos with just a couple clicks.

OK, so that’s great an all, but there’s an even better option for easy exposure combination that I want to tell you about. Trey Ratcliff, someone who made a name for himself through HDR photography, recently released an HDR software that he designed to be super easy to use, and even edit those photos with presets and sliders once the exposures are combined. Here’s an overview video of the software, followed by a deeper dive into how to use it. It’s called Aurora HDR.

Is HDR Making a Comeback?

I think so. But I think that it’s being approached with slight caution. You see a lot of inexperienced users damaged the name of HDR in the past with photos that had unnatural halos or wildly saturated elements. Soon there after, people were rejecting the idea of HDR.

However, I’ve recently seen people pick the technique up a little more. HDR looked like it was going to be a flash in the pan fad in photography. Now, with more photographers taking a respectful approach to HDR, the uses are being more widely used.

Do I always use HDR? Absolutely not. I prefer to shoot one photo and try to get everything right in one shot. However, that can’t always be done. That’s why I don’t close my mind to the techniques of HDR. It will always help me get a shot that I can’t necessarily capture in one range of shot.