Royal Palace in Madrid

I often get questions like the one in this post title. How to capture great HDR photo? The answer is very simple. Simply capture great photo. Simple as that.

It might sound confusing at first so let me explain. Too many HDR photographers (mainly beginners) focus so much on HDR technique itself, tone-mapping, choosing right values for sliders in Photomatix Pro, on blending the layers properly in Photoshop that they forget about the photo itself.

They pay more attention to capturing as much exposures as possible or post-processing HDR photo than to the scene and frame themselves. If it’s great, if composition is interesting, if lights and colours look amazing, if the subject is interesting too the final HDR photo will be amazing too. But if the source frames are boring, if the light is flat, the colours are dull or the composition is wrong, HDR won’t help. It won’t turn your photo into great one in such a case.

HDR is just a tool to make good photos look slightly better – by “correcting” the exposure in the darkest and brightest part. You shouldn’t think of it as a remedy to all issues. It will make good photo look good, but it won’t turn bad photo into a piece of art.

So to take good HDR photos, first thing you need to do is to take good photos in general. Sometimes it’s good to practice. Take your camera and capture photos that doesn’t require using HDR. Think of composition, of emotions you would like to convey in your image. Think about light, colours or textures. Think about your images. Not post-processing. This will make you great photographer one day and then you will notice that your HDR photos became much better too.

Technical details:
Camera: Canon 5D MK II
Lens: Canon 24-105 f/4 L IS USM
Focal length: 24 mm
Aperture: f/16.0
Exposure time: 2 s (“middle” exposure)
ISO: 100
Number of exposures: 7
E.V. Step: 1.0
Flash used: no
Tripod: yes
Filters: no
Technique: HDR, tone-mapping, luminosity masks
Software: Magic Lantern 2.3, Photomatix Pro 5 (Details Enhancer), Lightroom 5.0, Photoshop CC, Topaz Clarity