HDR Using a T2i/550D


TPF Noob!
Feb 15, 2012
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Arlington VA
Hello everyone! Please do not bash me as I am still a beginner but learning quickly. Does anyone know of a step by step guide on how to achieve HDR Photos with a T2i. I know the T2i doesn't have this feature built in but I have heard that with the correct exposure and software you can get some decent looking photos. Thanks Muah! :sexywink:

To achieve a good quality HDR image you shoot a range of images using a tripod, exposing the darkest area of a scene to the lightest. Using Photoshop (file> automate> merge to HDR) or other HDR software it will merge the images into one, then you can play with the exposure, contrast etc.. My Photography teacher taught me the difference in quality from using a few bracketed images and using a tripod with 10-20 images. If your software has HDR processing, look up on youtube step by step guides.
I also have the T2i/550D and have no problems taking shots to be used for HDR. The key is to bracket your photos based on the Histogram. Usually -2,0,+2 is sufficient to gather all of the data between the bright and dark ends of the histogram. Sometimes very bright lights or contrast in your photo will require an additional shot to capture the mising information that is outside the histogram, usually requiring additional underexposure. In the menu of the T2i is an option for bracketing so that the camera automatically takes the prior stated exposure ranges in succesive shots. You can either manual hit the shutter button or set to multiple shot mode and hold the button down.

You almost always have to use a tripod to make sure the subject matter in the photo will remain aligned for each shot. Although I have sucessfully taken a few handheld HDR shots when I did not have a tripod with me, the number of keepers is very low.

After you have taken the images the next step is to process the photos with software specifically made for HDR. This requires stacking the three or more photos and combining the information from all three to illiminate or minimize the dark spots and blowouts. Photoshop has this option but I have not been thrilled with photoshops HDR results. It leans toward a more natural look which is not how most people envision HDR shots when taken. Photoshops option is under the automate function. My favorite HDR software is Photomatix. I have been very pleased with the results I have gotten from this software. After processing with your software of choice you can then further process the final product with photoshop or other program to polish the final product.

Here is a shot I took a few weeks ago while hiking out in the everglades. Without HDR the skies would have been white and blown out. Also, it enhances the sun glowing through the bromeliad leaves. This shot was processed using the painterly setting in Photomatix which produces an extreme result and different look.

Everglades, Big Cypress and Florida Keys Photography www.stephenshelleyphotography.com
Glowing Bromeliads.jpg
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Take 3+ shots at different exposures (-1, 0, 1 for example), and then use a program that will combine the image into a composite that includes the complete tonal range. Then you use tonemapping (which usually opens up automatically with the software) to get it to look less flat, because when the program combines the photo it usually has low contrast and washed out shadows. Tonemapping "brings it back to life" so to speak.

Photoshop does give a more natural look, Photomatix is more stylized.

(To the poster above, HDR was not originally intended to make the viewers eyes explode with unreal and fantastic colors. It's original purpose was to make scenes MORE realistic by making them more similar to what our eyes see. I'm not a big fan of images that are blatantly HDR. Just a personal opinion)
Done right it's a fairly technical process. The following is just some basics to get the exposures and doesn't delve into merging the exposures or doing any of the post processing.

Put the camera in the spot metering and manual shooting mode. Set the lens aperture to f/8 to f/11

Meter the darkest and lighest parts of the scene to determine the total dynamic range of the scene.

You also have to evaluate if the dynamic range distributuion is fairly even, but that is more of a judgement thing than something you can measure. If the distribution is unbalanced, you would also need to unbalance your exposure brackets.

Yout T2i can capture a dynamic range of 11.5 EV. If the total dynamic range is 11.5 EV or less, it is not a good candidate for the HDR technique.

If the scene is 13 EV. You would then need to bracket at -1, 0, and +1 EV.

If the scene is between 13 EV and 15 EV you would bracket at -2, 0, +2 EV.

If the scene is more than 15 EV you would need to do more than 3 brackets.
THANK YOU GUYS SO MUCH! This is very clear and useful information. I plan on taking my camera out with me tomorrow to play around with it a bit. Wish me luck. I will post my results in here. :) Thanks again!!

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