Bigger looks better

There is one thing about HDR’s different to normal photos. This is that the bigger they are, the better they look. The reason for this is simple. HDR photos have usually so much detail, that in a small view, most of it gets lost. And this holds true even more by cityscapes, like the one I’m posting today. So if you want to see it in the best way possible, I suggest clicking on the photo, to open the one stored on my portfolio page.

What gear I use

A lot of times I get asked, what I used to take a specific photo. So I created a page on this site, which includes all the gear I currently use. You can find it in the sidebar as My gear or directly here. Also each post you expand, includes a description of the used camera and lens under the photos.

Mountains in the distance

This is the view from the top of the Alcazar in Segovia. It really was just beautiful. After it was overcast the whole morning, the sky cleared and we had this beautiful view of the city. The view was great, but the light was horrible. The photos came out colorless, really boring. I edited this few times, until I was at least partially satisfied with the result. If you look at the comparison with the original 0EV shot, you will see what I mean.
Mountains in the distance

Last night in Madrid

This was taken the last night I was in Madrid. My friends decided to visit a gallery, but I preferred a place where I could take photos. This was again a scene like created for a HDR. The whole bottom part is very light, with the building and the base of the statue very bright. On the other side, the sky was dark, and the statue has no lights pointing to it. But with HDR I got both.

Last night in MadridThis was taken the last night I was in Madrid. My friends decided to visit a gallery, but I preferred a place where I could take photos. This was again a scene like created for a HDR. The whole bottom part is very light, with the building and the base of the statue very bright. On the other side, the sky was dark, and the statue has no lights pointing to it.  But with HDR I got both.Get more info about this photo on my blog https://www.hdrshooter.com

Last night in Madrid

HDR tutorial (ver. 1.0)

I have split this HDR tutorial into multiple parts. Now I’m adding the third part, with the others coming later. So at the end there will be all this:

What is HDR?

Let’s make it as simple as possible. HDR is a way you combine multiple shots, so you have no overexposed areas and detail in dark areas. That’s all you really need to know.

A lot of people think about HDR’s as these overdone, unnatural photos, which have nothing to do with reality. I call those photos with a “HDR look”. They can be created from any photo, and have really nothing much to do with HDR. I have seen good ones, and bad ones, it’s a lot about the viewers´ taste and preference. Also some of the HDR results, can be created without using the HDR technique. It’s again the photographers decision what he uses (like he can use a Canon or a Nikon camera, but the result is still a photo :) )

There is a certain aversion against HDR photos. But everyone should understand, that HDR is a technique, a part of the final photo. And it depend’s on the photographer, how the final photo looks. HDR on it’s own does not make a good or a bad photo.

I get quite a lot of questions, if my photos really are HDR’s. That’s because people expect that the HDR mentioned look from them. But that’s not my goal. My goal is to find the sweet spot, between artistic and realistic photos, so I like them.

Old Bridge

Why HDR?

Again, this is very simple. You can’t always set up your light sources. Especially when you only light source is the sun. HDR gives you the option, to capture all the available light and then expose all parts of the photo as you like.

It removes some limitations all current cameras have, and gives you more to work with in post-processing.

At the end it’s your decision. Same as with all photography techniques, starting with HDR is easy, creating a good looking HDR photo is quite hard. So don’t be discouraged, if you can’t get the results you want. It take time and practice.

Feel free to ask any questions and if you find some errors or problems with my HDR tutorial, please let me know.

So lets start with how to take your photos for HDR

And here are few examples of finished HDR photos:
The stunning view
St. Martin's Cathedral at night
Inside the Matthias Church
The blue sunset in Prague
Relaxx and enjoy the sunset

You can check the price for the Promote Control on Amazon StoreB&H photo or Adorama StoreFor more information please visit the Promote Control Website

Promote Control remote – Review

So I just got the Promote Control remote for my camera, and I decided to write down some experiences I had with it.  The decision to buy one fell quite some time ago, but I waited until I get a new camera, so I have it compatible.

I will focus on the HDR side of things, as that is my main reason for this remote.

In the oversize packaging  you get few thing. The remote, manual, remote to pc usb cable, remote to camera usb cable, carrying case, batteries and a neck strap. I also ordered the separate shutter button for my camera so I can use the long exposures. I immediately connected it to my camera to try it out. I seen few instructional videos, so I didn’t bother reading the manual. The first test was a complete failure. The remote could not find my 5D mark II.

So after little searching I decided to update the firmware. Updating to the last version had a partial success, the remote found my camera. But it still could not take the shots. So I updated once more to the latest beta firmware, which did the trick.

So once it worked I went out to take few test shot series. I have to say, it’s a pleasure to use, once you get the hang of it.  What you need to do is:

  • frame your shot and focus
  • have the lens on manual focus
  • have the camera on Manual mode
  • set the white balance (if you use AWB, it can happen that the camera changes it between shots, even if you shot in RAW, this makes things easier)
  • meter your scene (you can do this also in Manual mode, just change the exposure time until the camera shows you, that you have the right exposure, you don’t have to switch to Av for this)
  • enter the time into your remote and select the number of shots
  • start the sequence
For me this was just a little change, as I already am very used to focus my shots manually (so auto-focus is always turned off) and switch from Av to Manual mode is a small one. You can have the remote connected during this, or just connect it when you need it. It takes few seconds after it’s connected, to recognize the camera, but if you don’t disconnect it, it works instantly.

Sample bracket series taken during the day and the final HDR:

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Stupava-IMG_3890_1_2_3_4_5_6_tonemapped

 

When you take your shots during the day, the USB cable is enough. For night shots you should have the separate shutter cable. When the remote detects that the next shot will be longer than 30s, it will stop and asks you to switch into the bulb mode. You should really check your settings before you take a sequence like this, so you have the same aperture and ISO settings in both modes. And definitely turn off auto-ISO.

It’s great that the Promote shows you the times of the slowest and fastest shutter speeds. You don’t have to count in your head, if you are in the 30s limit, as now you have no limit. You can go as high as you need.  I suggest you set (setting 20 of 26), that you can turn on backlight while exposing. It’s nice if you are able to check how long you have to wait (especially by night shots).

If you have the shutter cable, you can also turn on mirror lock-up. I did this only with night shots, and only when I had a lot of time. It requires to turn this function in custom setting of your camera, so I will probably try to create a custom mode to use this.

Sample bracket series taken during the night and the final HDR (longest exposure 60s on bulb):

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The Promote has many more functions, which I will describe here, as I try them out.  So for now:

Pros:

  • multiple functions on a single remote
  • allows for a staggering number of brackets
  • allows shots longer than 30s
  • easy to use (once it works)

Cons:

  • not cheap for a remote
  • for some functions 2 cables have to be connected to the camera
  • bulky, awkward to hold in hand
  • could’t find the camera, had to update firmware before first use

Conclusion:

It’s not cheap. It’s not small. But it’s great for taking HDR photos. If you have a Canon camera and 3 shots are not enough for you, you should buy it.

I planed for so long to add a review of Photomatix and I never got to it. But now with the release of Photomatix Pro 5, I thought I finally do it. Also, you can view my HDR tutorial, where I describe how you can use Photomatix to edit you HDR photos.

Photomatix is currently probably the most popular and most widely used HDR tone-mapping software. If you are only a beginner, you also probably heard that this is the program to start with, and that also what I did.

Photomatix-2

Photomatix is actually a collections of multiple tone-mapping algorithms, each one giving you different values to adjust and much different results. You can start from scratch or use any of the provided presets. Additional to this, Photomatix allows you to add a final touch to the photos, like contrast or sharpness.

In most of the older versions, Photomatix results were mostly towards the artistic side, but with the latest iteration, the new algorithms create a more realistic result.

crazy-skies-photomatix

I’ve been using Photomatix for multiple years now and and it’s still a part of my workflow (even if not such a big as before). From all the tone-mapping programs I used, it can deal the best with extreme differences in brightness, especially photos with sun in them. It also created the most evenly lit image, if you find the right settings. Photomatix can also create a lot of local detail, which is great if you are going for a grunge look for your photos.

Working with Photomatix is not that straightforward. You can’t really tell what you will get when you start with it. It’s a lot about experimenting, and trying all the different algorithms and adjustments. After a while of using it, you will get an idea what the different sliders do, but I don’t think you will be able to predict the result you get.

Another great thing about Photomatix, it’s the ability to light up handheld shots very accurately (in some occasions it’s much better than Photoshop) and also a great way to remove ghosting from images. You can also just select out the ghosted areas, which is much better than having it work with the image as a whole.

Photomatix-1

Of course not everything is great. The algorithms are not the fastest and sometimes you wait few seconds for a change to take effect even on fast computers. The loupe still does not show the real preview and until you process the image, you don’t see the real result. The algorithms also can create a lot of additional noise and make the photo a little softer.

Overall, if you want to use HDR in you photos, this is one program you should have in your arsenal. It takes some time to get good results from it, but the time you spend experimenting is worth it. Also I suggest you never use the result as the final photo. Blending it with original exposures is always advised.

For more info, please check out my HDR tutorial, where I describe how to use it, and the Photomatix page. Also for all those who think of buying it, you can use the code “HDRSHOOTER” for a 15% discount.

View all my other reviews here.

And here are few of my photos where I used Photomatix for the initial blending:

Crazy skies
Sunny side of Paris
On the opera stage

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