Search Results for: hand hdr

Hand-HDR Photography

What: Hand-HDR Photography

When: Thursday, September 3, 2020 at 10am PT. Duration between one and two hours, including Q&A

Where: On your computer or mobile device from anywhere via Zoom. Zoom authenticated registration and a tuition payment of $29.95 are required for enrollment. Seating is limited. The registration link is

Details: HDR (High Dynamic Range) automated software produces results that defy what photographers in the past would have thought possible, but these results are sometimes visually “over the top.” A viable technique to use instead of automated HDR, or sometimes in conjunction with automated HDR, is hand-HDR. Hand-HDR uses layers, layer masks, and the Photoshop Gradient and Brush tools to create composite images from a bracketed sequence that are completely under your control, and can look entirely natural.

In this webinar Harold discussed when to use hand-HDR in place of automated HDR, and when to use the two technologies in conjunction. He shows examples of photographing for hand-HDR in general situations, and also in high-key and low-key situations that are particularly suited for hand-HDR. Finally, time will be spent on the detailed tools used to achieve stunning hand-HDR results.

There will be ample time for Q&A.

Tuition: The tuition for this webinar is $29.95, and requires prior registration. Seating (on a first come, first served basis) is limited. You must register via Zoom to be enrolled in this webinar! The registration link is

A lightly-edited recording of this Webinar will be posted following a time delay on the Harold Davis Photography YouTube channel

Folds in the Earth © Harold Davis

Folds in the Earth © Harold Davis

About Harold Davis: Harold Davis is a bestselling author of many books, including Creative Garden Photography from Rocky Nook, which can now be pre-ordered. He is the developer of a unique technique for photographing flowers for transparency, a Moab Master, and a Zeiss Ambassador. He is an internationally known photographer and a sought-after workshop leader. His website is

New Workshop: Monochromatic HDR in the Big Sur landscape

Friday, September 27 through Sunday, September 29, 2013—Sponsored by the Center for Photographic Art (CPA), Carmel, CA

Click here to register for the Monochromatic HDR in the Big Sur Landscape with Harold Davis workshop.

Workbench © Harold Davis

Workbench © Harold Davis

When folks think of HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography, they tend to have color imaging in mind. But the fact is that HDR techniques are just as applicable to monochromatic photography as to color.

In both cases, the point is to extend the dynamic range of the resulting image beyond what is normally seen in a single exposure—and, indeed, beyond normal human perception. When working in digital black and white, the tonal range is extended from the lightest lights to the darkest darks. This results in images with great graphical appeal that make for splendid monochromatic prints.

In this workshop, Master Photographer Harold Davis guides participants in both aspects of the monochromatic HDR process: shooting and post-processing.

Bixby Bridge, Big Sur © Harold Davis

Bixby Bridge, Big Sur © Harold Davis

Workshop participants will take advantage of Carmel and historic Monterey as well the glorious landscape of Big Sur, photographing subjects as varied as Bixby Bridge along Highway 1, Point Lobos, Mission Carmel, and more. In the classroom, hands-on guidance will explain techniques for extending dynamic range, monochromatic conversion methods, and best practices where the two technologies intersect.

In addition, the workshop will provide extensive coverage of the creative vision required to successfully create monochromatic HDR images as well as the workflow necessary to make art prints from this specialized image-making technique.

Under the Old Oak Tree © Harold Davis

Under the Old Oak Tree © Harold Davis

Tuition: $400 (CPA members); $450 (non-members)

Click here for more information, detailed curriculum, and registration.

Posted in Monochrome, Workshops

Handcrafting Digital Black & White

The motorcycle shown in the monochromatic image below has been created by hand by Ian Barry, a true artist at what he does. You can click here to read my earlier story about the Falcon motorcycle. In much the same way, the creation of a digital monochromatic image is a matter of handcrafting—every step of the way from photography to printmaking takes care and attention to detail, and cannot be reduced to a formula.

Falcon Motorcycle 2 by Harold Davis

Falcon Motorcycle 2 © Harold Davis

To create this image, I started by shooting for monochromatic High Dynamic Range (HDR). This image was created from seven exposures. Each exposure was shot at f/11 and ISO 200. I used a tripod, and manually bracketed the shutter speeds in a range from two seconds to 1/200 of a second.

I combined the exposures to create a color image, then processed the color to black & white using twelve layers. The primary conversion tool I used was Nik Silver Efex 2, but I also used other conversion methods as part of this process.

The key concept is to use Photoshop’s layers and layer masking to selectively convert different areas of the image to monochromatic using pinpoint control.

Want to learn more about shooting and processing monochromatic HDR? You can read my books Creative Black & White: Digital Photography Tips & Techniques and Creating HDR Photos: The Complete Guide To High Dynamic Range Photography or you can get it from the “the horse’s mouth”—that would be me!

I am giving an all-day Black & White Masterclass on Saturday, November 3, 2012 here in Berkeley, CA. The cost is $195.00.

Topics covered in this workshop will include:

  • The monochromatic vision: learning to see the world in black & white
  • The craft of digital black & white
  • Digital black & white workflow
  • Monochromatic conversion in Lightroom
  • Nik Silver Efex 2
  • Working in Photoshop to perfect your black & white images
  • Using Photoshop layers in the monochromatic conversion process
  • Monochromatic HDR
  • Tips & techniques from Harold Davis
  • Making fine black & white prints

In addition, there will be time for selected individual portfolio reviews (registered participants will be given information about how to submit images for consideration).

Click here for more information and registration.

Early-bird special: Note that HDR Bootcamp (Saturday October 6), Digital Black & White Masterclass (Saturday November 3), and Photographing Flowers for Transparency (Saturday December 1) are each discounted by $20 each until August 31, 2012. These three workshops are among my most popular offerings, I do not give them often, and I expect them to fill up extremely quickly in the next few weeks as word gets out. Please register now to avoid disappointment.


Posted in Monochrome, Photography

HDR in an old-time drugstore

What takes eight exposures, a tripod, and a range of 12 EVs? If you guessed a RAW exposure sequence manually bracketed for HDR (High Dynamic Range) with a strongly back lit window display of old bottles in a mock-up antique apothecary (with stuffed and dimly-lit shelves to either side) you’d be right regarding the image below. I shot it at the unique and wonderful Laws Railroad Museum near Bishop, CA.

Apothecary by Harold Davis

Apothecary © Harold Davis

My eight exposures were shot at a 22mm focal length, an aperture of f/8 and an ISO of 200. Shutter speed durations ranged from 1/640 of a second to 2 seconds.

Want to learn how to shoot and process this kind of HDR sequence in a variety of conditions and with a variety of subject matter? You can read my book Creating HDR Photos: The Complete Guide To High Dynamic Range Photography or you can get it from the “the horse’s mouth”—that would be me!

I am giving an all-day HDR Bootcamp workshop on Saturday, Oct 6, 2012 here in Berkeley, CA. The cost is $195.00.

This will be a hands-on workshop in terms of both shooting and processing.  I will demonstrate my unique post-processing techniques that cannot be learned anywhere else. Click here for more information and registration.

Early-bird special: Note that HDR Bootcamp (Saturday October 6), Digital Black & White Masterclass (Saturday November 3), and Photographing Flowers for Transparency (Saturday December 1) are each discounted by $20 each until August 31, 2012. These three workshops are among my most popular offerings, and I expect them to fill up extremely quickly in the next few weeks. Please register now to avoid disappointment.

Posted in HDR, Photography

Creating HDR Photos is shipping

Creating HDR PhotosBriefly noted: My new book Creating HDR Photos: The Complete Guide to High Dynamic Range Photography is now shipping on Amazon. We are very excited about this book—you won’t find garish HDR in my book, you will find gentle and painterly HDR as well as information that shows you how to blend HDR exposures by hand, and puts HDR in the historical context of photography.

Here’s the book description from Amazon: Since the days of the first photographs, artists have used various techniques to extend the range of lights and darks in their photos. Photographic masters such as Ansel Adams and Edward Weston spent countless hours burning and dodging their prints to create images with extended dynamic range.

With the advent of digital photography, new horizons in extending dynamic range are possible. HDR techniques now make it easy to extend the dynamic range of an image well beyond the capability of the human eye.

In Creating HDR Photos, bestselling author Harold Davis covers the complete HDR workflow, from choosing the subjects that work best for HDR through processing RAW files to unlock the dynamic power of HDR. You’ll learn how to photograph multiple exposures and blend them into a single HDR image using various software programs. Best of all, you will find out how to control the style of your HDR images, from subtle to hyper-real, using a range of photographic and post-processing techniques.

Packed with stunning image examples, Creating HDR Photos brings this essential digital technique within every photographer’s grasp.

Click here to order Creating HDR Photos: The Complete Guide to High Dynamic Range Photography from Amazon.

Posted in HDR, Photography, Writing

Harold Davis on subtle HDR per the New York Times

New York Times reporter Roy Furchgott provides tips on High Dynamic Range photography techniques from Harold Davis on the New York Times Gadgetwise blog. The emphasis is on HDR that is subtle and looks realistic, rather than the garish HDR images that are all too common! I’m pleased that the article mentions my new book from Amphoto, Creating HDR Photos: The Complete Guide to High Dynamic Range Photography.

Succulent by Harold Davis

Succulent © Harold Davis

About the image: After giving a workshop, I spent a day relaxing in the hot spring baths at the Esalen community along the Big Sur coast of California. On the way back to my room from the baths I noticed a wonderful garden of small succulents. I wanted to create an image that showed all of the detail of the plant against a dark background. To accomplish my goals I shot seven exposures with my camera on my tripod using my 85mm macro lens. Each exposure was shot at an effective aperture of f/64 and ISO 200. The shutter speeds varied from 1/25 at the darkest end of a second to 4 seconds at the lightest end.

I combined the exposures using hand-HDR in Photoshop and Photoshop’s HDR Pro.

Posted in HDR, Photography

Advance Copy: Creating HDR Photos

Yesterday we received an advance copy of my new book Creating HDR Photos: The Complete Guide to High Dynamic Range Photography published by Amphoto. In keeping with family traditions, this morning I photographed Katie Rose perusing the book. Katie Rose is sitting on our front steps; big brother Julian is helping her hold up the book.

Creating HDR Photos: The Complete Guide to High Dynamic Range Photography

Advance copy: Creating HDR Photos © Harold Davis

Creating HDR Photos definitely has a different look-and-feel from my previous books. I like the way my photos came out. My book is packed with information you can’t find anywhere else. How I would have loved to get my hands on this book a few years back when I was just starting to figure out HDR!

Presumably the bulk of the copies of Creating HDR Photos: The Complete Guide to High Dynamic Range Photography are in containers on the proverbial slow boat from China. My book has a publication date of July 24, 2012. I am looking forward very much to sharing my techniques and insights related to this exciting photographic subject with you when it is available.

Posted in HDR, Katie Rose, Kids, Photography, Writing

Berkeley Pier in HDR

This is an HDR image of the Berkeley Pier, the site of the Free Walk-and-Talk with Harold Davis on Saturday, December 17 at 4:00PM. Please consider joining us.

Berkeley Pier by Harold Davis
Berkeley Pier © Harold Davis

Exposure data: 90mm, seven exposures at shutter speeds from 1/250 of a second to 1.6 seconds; each exposure at f/11 and ISO 200, tripod mounted; exposures combined in Photoshop using Nik HDR Efex Pro and hand-layering.

I thought the birds on the lamps were cool, but one bird was missing so I had to paint it in. Can you tell which one?
Also coming up this week: Free Webcast: Creative Flower Photography on Thursday, December 15 at 10AM PT (sponsored by O’Reilly Media).
Posted in HDR, Photography, San Francisco Area

HDR is technique, not style

Among the many misconceptions about HDR (High Dynamic Range) image creation is a big mistake: the belief that HDR represents a style, or a particular look.

Photographers who subscribe to this particular misconception, whether they are for it or against it, tend to think of HDR imagery as bold, highly colored, and unrealistic—often represented by over-the-top sunsets or hardcore and gritty urban environments.


In fact, HDR is a technique, or rather a set of techniques, that can be used to extend the range from light to dark in an image—and how that range, called the “dynamic range” of an image, is mapped into the final version of your image. Here’s a comparison that may help you wrap your brain around this concept. The world around us is three-dimensional, and it is not physically possible to show three dimensions in a flat, two-dimensional print. But perspective rendering, and the way our brains work, make it so that we visually pick up the cues in a two-dimensional photo (and some paintings)—and “see” the subject of the photo as three-dimensional. In the same way, HDR is a technique that allows image creators to render apparently coherent a greater dynamic range from light to dark than in a normal photo.

That HDR is technique and not style is made abundantly clear by the wealth of options in the leading automated HDR programs, Nik’s Merge to HDR Efex Pro and HDRSoft’s Photomatix. Automated software is not the only way to extend dynamic range—I often prefer to multi-process my RAW files using Photoshop’s
layers, masks, and blending modes. I’ll also often hand-layer captures shot at differing exposure values rather than letting Nik or Photomatix handle the exposure blending. But getting back to my point, even within each of the automated HDR programs there are literally thousands of choices that one can make that change the visual style of the result.

Glass Medley

With the images of glassware shown along with this story I wanted my final results to look like old-fashioned etchings or pen-and-ink drawings. I shot each image using a mirror placed in front of a lightbox. The technique was pretty similar to what I’ve often used with transparent images of flowers.

I bracketed shutter speed in a wide range, and ended up putting four or five of the bracketed versions through Nik HDR, using a custom preset I’ve developed to enhance the etching look. I also did some hand layering in Photoshop, and some post-processing to add sepia tonality, retouched some problem areas, and bumped-up the painterly effect.

Certainly, these images were constructed in large part using HDR shooting and processing techniques. In look and style, however, they are pretty far from the way HDR is conventionally supposed to look. HDR is a toolset, not the result—with the result only limited by your imagination!


Posted in HDR, Photography, Photoshop Techniques, Still Life

Inside Bodie in HDR

Museum at Bodie © Harold Davis

Museum at Bodie © Harold Davis

This image of the museum at the old ghost town of Bodie was created from six exposures using High Dynamic Range (HDR) techniques. Each exposure as at 18mm, f/22, and ISO 200, with my camera on a tripod. The exposure times ranged from 1/60 of a second to six seconds.

I assembled the images using Nik’s Merge to Efex Pro plug-in and hand layering in Photoshop.

Most people think the point of HDR imaging is to extend the range of lights and darks one can capture in an image, and it is true that HDR works to extend dynamic range. No “normal” single exposure could render both the bright highlights of the daylight coming in through the lace curtains in this image and at the same time capture the dimly lit contents of the vitrine display in the museum, or the shadowy, poorly lit corners shown in the mirror.

But for me the real fun of HDR kicks in when you consider how things are rendered. There’s a glowing and wonderful quality to the glass surfaces in this HDR image, particularly the mirror. In other words, not only does HDR capture more darks and lights than conventional imaging. HDR also allows one to depict elegant, stylized, versions of objects that look almost as if they belong in a photorealistic painting.

Related stories: Gone with the Wind; Arrested Decay.

Interested in learning more about my presentations or workshops? Check out the Photography with Harold Davis meetup group.

Posted in HDR, Photography, Photoshop Techniques

Stonemountain and Daughter, and Ribbons, and HDR

Ribbons © Harold Davis

Ribbons © Harold Davis

This is a portion of the ribbons rack at Stonemountain and Daughter, a very cool fabric store here in Berkeley, shot for HDR in seven exposures. I used a 12mm wide-angle focal length, and shot each frame at f/13 and ISO 100.

Exposure times varied between 1/40 of second (the darkest exposure) to 6 seconds (the lightest exposure). Since the duration of the exposure in digital photography is linear, it’s easy to see that there’s a 240 multiplicative factor from darkest exposure to lightest exposure, leaving aside the range inherent within each RAW capture.

It was kind of Stonemountain to let me and my tripod photograph at will in their colorful aisles. I suspect that the new full-spectrum lighting system installed at the store may have helped the colors come out so vividly.

I processed the seven images laboriously to maximize the effect, using Nik’s Merge to HDR Pro, Photoshop’s HDR toning, and a great deal of hand RAW processing and layering.

These recent HDR images were processed in essentially the same way:

Gone with the Wind
Arrested Decay

If you are interested, here’s the Stonemountain & Daughter blog.

Posted in Bemusements, Photography

Making a Floral HDR Panorama

Garden Flowers Pano © Harold Davis

Garden Flowers Pano © Harold Davis

This is a floral HDR panorama, meaning I shot it in two horizontal pieces planning to stitch the pieces together. The logistics of this were somewhat complex—as with any HDR pano—given that each piece needed six exposures.

The idea behind HDR is to extend dynamic range, usually by shooting multiple exposures and combining the dynamic ranges of the individual exposures in the final result. Proceeding this way with each portion of a panorama leads to a fairly intricate workflow.

In this case, I arranged the flowers horizontally on my lightbox and shot straight down with the camera on a tripod. I used a 50mm macro lens set to f/14 for some depth-of-field with maximal lens sharpness.

Each of the two panels was captured using six exposures at ISO 100: 1/6 of a second, 3/10 of a second, 1 second, 2 seconds, 4 seconds, and 10 seconds.

I primarily processed the captures using hand-layering, starting with the brightest capture to promote translucency, as I explain in Photographing Flowers. I also blended in at about 20% opacity a layer of automated HDR processing via Nik’s Merge to HDR Efex Pro. I created presets, and made notes, and was careful to process both sides of my incipient panorama in exactly the same way.

In a “real-life” panorama—mostly outdoors in the landscape, or an interior architectural shot—one does more than 2 panels to be stitched. These are usually best executed vertically, not horizontally, include considerable overlap, and pivot around the nodal point of the camera and lens—not, as in this situation, created by physically moving the camera on its tripod from left to right to capture the other half of the flower-laden lightbox. My overall idea in making a two-panel lightbox panorama was to create the sense in the viewer that there were more flowers in the image than could be visually absorbed in a single glance.

Garden Flowers - Left Panel

So it is no wonder that when I came to put the two halves of my floral pano together that I ran into severe continuity and parallax problems. To give you the idea, with one flower stem lined up, then the rest would go out-of-register. Photoshop’s stitching software was an abject failure when I tried it; clearly, the algorithms had no idea what I was trying to do.

When the going gets tough, the tough get going. With a little help from some caffeine. When automating software fails, it is time for the human beings to get back in control. Cloning, warping, resizing, duplicating layers and moving, and correcting perspective on small pieces put the two panels together—hopefully in a way that looks completely natural.

The final result is an image that is close to twice as wide as a normal horizontal capture, roughly in a 2.8:1 proportion. The original file size is very high resolution, so there would be no reason not to print it, say, ten feet wide by about 30 inches high.

Along the way, I created versions of each of the two frames, and added some “calligraphy”—shown above and below. My idea is that these two “half images” work individually, as a pair, or on either side of the panoramic version.

Garden Flowers - Right Panel

Posted in Flowers, Photography, Photoshop Techniques

HDR Wringer

Wringing Mangle

This is a side view of an old industrial clothes washing machine of the type that used to be called a “wringing mangle,” or sometimes simply a “wringer.” I’m thankful for many things in life, and one of them is that we do not use a machine like this in our house. We’ve been averaged three or four full washer loads a day, seven days a week, for years now—and I just can’t imagine what it would have been like in the old days using a wringer, or even by hand.

The wringer was in a small vineyard museum in California’s wine country. Covered with cobwebs, in dim light, it was clearly a subject that called out for HDR: parts of the machine reflected light from an open barn door, but the lower portion of the equipment was in deep shadow.

With my camera on my tripod I got down fairly low to the ground so that I could be parallel to the wringer’s mechanism. Using my 105mm macro lens, I made three exposures, all at f/36 and ISO 100. The shutter speed durations were 8 seconds (the darkest version), 15 seconds, and 30 seconds, with long exposure noise reduction turned on.

In my pre-visualization of this image, the thing that interested me most was the contrast between the soft, white dust and cobwebs, and the hard edges of the old machinery. With this contrast in mind, I knew I wanted to create a monochromatic image.

Back at my computer, I started processing the images by loaded the RAW files into Nik HDR Efex Pro. I created two versions with Nik, one a fine structured color version and the other an HDR monochrome, which I put aside for the time being.

Using the color version as the background layer, I then layered in by hand dark details (from the 30 second exposure) and light highlights (from the 8 second exposure).

I converted the color version to monochromatic using several Nik Silver Efex presets as well as Photoshop Black & White adjustment layers. I then blended the HDR monochrome created from the RAW files over the top of the monochromatic conversion at about 20% opacity.

This kind of HDR wringer is not always a trivial process, but then neither was washing clothes with a wringing mangle in the good old days.

Posted in Bemusements, Monochrome, Photography, Photoshop Techniques

First Look: HDR Efex Pro

Zion View

I made this image from five bracketed captures shot in the autumn of 1997, combined primarily with Nik Software’s new HDR Efex Pro. Taken near sunset, I was standing on the narrow neck of land leading up to Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park, Utah, above the set of switchbacks known as Willy’s Wiggles. This is the kind of location that is great for photography but gives one a feeling of vertigo because of the drops to the valley floor in several directions. I used a tripod to make sure the composition of each image was identical, and bracketed shutter speeds using Manual exposure mode.

I’ve tried a couple of times to combine these images, and HDR Efex Pro is the first software that has let me get results I am happy with. In other words, Nik Software has done a great job. I am very impressed with this program. Like the leading HDR competitors—Photomatix from HDR Soft and Adobe Photoshop’s Merge to HDR Pro—there are strengths and weaknesses. A detailed review and analysis must wait until I have more time, but my first take is that this software is more intuitive and easier to use than HDR Soft, and more powerful than Merge to HDR Pro.

I’ll probably use all three, depending upon the specific set of images I want to combine. My further understanding is that any automated HDR software is going require further tweaking following the image combination and tone curve application. You can read more of my thoughts on this issue in the context of Photomatix in Tone Poem.

In other words, there is no one-size-fits-all magic HDR bullet. That said, if you are interested in HDR you probably won’t go wrong with HDR Efex Pro.

Worth noting: I am often a proponent of using layers and masking to create hand-processed HDR images in place of automated HDR processing. My methodology for multi-RAW and hand-HDR processing is explained in The Photoshop Darkroom and The Photoshop Darkroom 2.

Disclosures: Nik Software kindly provided me with a review copy of HDR Efex Pro. Also, I am in the process of planning a book about HDR photography.

Posted in Landscape, Photography, Software Reviews

Multi-RAW Processing Versus Automated HDR

How do you work with landscapes that show an extravagant dynamic range? I was down by the Bay photographing sunset. It was clear to me that the scene had great dynamic range, from the blown-out highlights in the clouds to the deep shadows in the rocks along the shoreline. My normal approach to this situation is a kind of ad-hoc HDR (High Dynamic Range) processing, although whether it really is HDR is a matter of definition. I’ll explain what I mean in a moment.

This time, I decided to take a set of different exposures and see how well the Photoshop CS3 HDR automation worked to automatically combine the exposures (hopefully exposing correctly for both the shadows on the right, the dark ocean, and the bright sky).

To set the HDR merge up, the camera was of course locked down in position on a tripod. I held the aperture constant (f/22), and made ten expsoures, varying the shutter speed between two seconds (the rocks) and 1/10 of a second (the brightest part of the sky).

By the Bay

View this image larger.

I tucked the set of exposures in a single folder (so I could add them all to the HDR automation in one fell swoop). When I looked at them in Bridge, I felt that the dark rocks were still too dark, even with the two second exposure. So I opened all the images in Photoshop, using a generic color balance setting for the RAW conversion, and opened (and saved) several versions of the exposure outliers, manipulating the RAW conversion to create an even greater dynamic range between the files.

After all this fuss, the results of running the HDR automation weren’t terrible, but I wasn’t thrilled. Photoshop also sent me up a notice saying I’d do better with straight, unconverted RAW files, so I tried the experiment again, doing it Photoshop’s way this time. These second results really were terrible.

I tried some pretty wild approaches to fixing the automated HDRs, including combining them and/or combining in some of the original images. However, Photoshop’s image alignment when it did the HDR automation had me very slightly out of register with the original images, so this didn’t really work.

OK, so I’m coming to the conclusion that I’ve come to before: combining images and image variants is something that humans do better than software (at least for the time being). I created the version of the image above using four layers processed at various exposure settings from one of the RAW “negatives” calibrated for the sky, and adding a layer from the two second version (calibrated for the dark rocks). A steady hand and the Photoshop Paintbrush tool is crucial for this kind of thing.

Is this really HDR? I’m not exactly sure: while it does extend the dynamic range of the original capture, it’s really more like a digital version of the zone system: exposing for the the highlights and processing for the dark areas.

Posted in Photography