Firstly I must confess that I am not a big fan of HDR images as a whole. I find them to look overprocessed and, at times, garish. You could argue that it’s a creative digital art form to create these images and you would be right it’s just not for me. However, I have seen HDR used tastefully and when used to produce a natural looking result it can really enhance a photo. In particular, landscapes benefit enormously, especially if your camera struggles to exposure correctly for both the land and sky.
There are two ways to create a HDR image, firstly: Bracketing when shooting, sadly my camera cannot auto bracket so I went for option 2: Using a RAW file. I opened up RAW files and saved a version underexposed (-1.0), a version correctly exposed (0) and a version overexposed (+1). I then loaded these into HDR software. I used Photomatrix Pro, I had never used HDR software before and I found it to be very easy to use. I entered my files and it gave me previews of many different possible final images, from the garish HDR nightmare styles, to more subtle natural effects. These could then be fine tuned using slider controls
I was really happy with the results and will definitely be using Photomatrix again. However, I do have some words of warning- when using this software on high ISO images it really brings out the noise and using photos of people can make them appear red and dirty! It also ouputs TIFF files so it may be worth converting to JPEGS for file sharing and uploading.
Here is a before and after shot!
I really like the added definition in the sky and think it still looks natural.
Some other pictures I tried my hand at processing with photomatrix