How to Shoot HDR Panoramas

This tutorial will show, how to compose an HDR panorama, then generally cover the post-processing of such images.

Panorama comes from two words that literally mean “all” and “sight”. The purpose of a panorama is to captures as much of a field of view as possible, usually by combining several individual shots into a single image. High Dynamic Range (HDR) panoramas combine High Dynamic Range photography with panoramic photography techniques.

Panoramic images date back to before photography, as there are many panoramic paintings. Panoramic photography is as old as photography itself. The first photographic panoramas were simply shots overlaid on top of one another. More sophisticated techniques were invented to create what appeared to be “seamless” photos. With modern digital photography, this is easy to accomplish with panoramic stitching software, which we will cover later. With this in mind, this tutorial will show, how to compose an HDR panorama, then generally cover the post-processing of such images.

Overlook

April looking out over a valley. This image is (I think) the first HDR I’ve shot with a person. The light was low as the day was nearing sunset, so I bracketed the shot to capture the cloud details and details in the foliage.

How To Make a Pseudo HDR

Pseudo high dynamic range photos are really nothing more than a single exposure processed as an HDR. There are other guides on how to do this but I am going to describe the process I’ve found that I think works pretty well, at least in my humble opinion. This little guide assumes nothing about software, but points out principles I think may help enhance your pseudo HDR experience.

How to Shoot HDR Waterfalls

Final Image
Final Image

There is something about shooting waterfalls that is a lot of fun…Maybe it is because I like to hike around in the woods, and the waterfalls themselves are the endpoint, or maybe it is just the pure beauty of the falls themselves. Whatever it is, I do enjoy it. There are plenty of guides on how to do shoot waterfalls and HDR, so I felt I’d combine two and add my two cents to the collection of wisdom.

First, a little jargon: A High Dynamic Rance image contains more information than image sensors are capable of collecting. The dynamic range of a sensor refers to the range of light intensity a sensor can detect. For any given sensor, any light brighter than the range the sensor can detect is interpreted as white, and anything darker as black. You may have noticed that when taking pictures indoors during the day, windows appear to be white in a picture, but with your eye you can distinguish objects outside and inside. This is because the dynamic range of the human eye is greater than that of a camera. An HDR image is a combination of multiple images taken at different shutter speeds that are then combined to create an image with more dynamic range than the sensor can detect in any single image. HDR softeware combines the well exposed elements of each photo while removing the overexposed and underexposed elements. After the HDR is created, software then attempts to tone map the image–that is compress the HDR image into a form that is usable for print or on-screen display, as both print media and screens like sensors can only display a limited dynamic range less than what the human eye can see.

Waterfalls offer a particularly great opportunity for using HDR, as it is often times difficult to properly expose waterfalls such that the water is not “burned out” or “blown out” (that is completely white) and the content around the water fall is not utterly black or so dark one cannot see it anyways. HDR’s offer a great solution to this as you can expose the white water and the surrounding content and combine these elements for some beautiful landscape photography. So with no further adieu, we’ll begin.