Shooting HDR handheld

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The need for HDR

If you shoot landscapes in bright daylight, or into the light, you probably have had to choose between washed out skies or dark foreground. This is your camera do not have enough dynamic range to handle both the highlights and the darker areas. Current DSLR cameras have a dynamic range of 11 or 12 EV. You can find the exact measurement for your camera on

One solution is to shoot several bracketed frames (generally 3) and combine them using specific software: Photomatix, SNS HDR, Photoshop and now Lightroom.

Normal exposure: washed out skies

Normal exposure with washed out clouds and background

Underexposed picture with dark foreground

Underexposed picture with dark foreground

Making sure frames are aligned

Frames need to be carefully aligned, even if some of the HDR programs can handle misalignments. So you will generally use a tripod or rest your camera on something.

If you shoot handheld, you might try to use continuous shooting. But you need to press the shutter continuously and tend to move slightly by doing so.

I found another method. It works on recent Canon cameras, but you may have the same function available on other brands: just look for it.

  • Make sure your shutter speed is fast enough
  • Enable bracketing on 3 frames. To handle scenes like the above one, one stop is generally enough.
  • Change the drive mode to the 2 seconds timer

With these settings, your camera will shoot the 3 frames in a row.

You then:

  • Press the shutter
  • Remove the finger from the shutter
  • Brace yourself and stop breathing
  • Wait for the three shots to complete

This minimizes the shake between the frames

Even if I had moved, I was able to recover the misalignment using the HDR function in Lightroom every time.

HDR combination of the above

HDR combination of the above