HDR Uncovered: A Simple Tutorial for the New and the Curious @ Meleah Reardon Photography

HDR Uncovered: A Simple Tutorial for the New and the Curious


If you’ve spent anytime pursuing the photography circles of Google+ or Flickr, you more than likely have come across the enigmatic term “HDR”. Maybe you don’t know the first thing about HDR and want to know more, or maybe you’ve learned to recognize HDR images by their unique quality and are interested in creating your own HDR photos. In either case, you’ve come to the right place.

What is HDR photography?
HDR means ‘High Dynamic Range’. HDR images are created by combining a series of images with different exposures, and then adjusting contrast ratios to produce images that represent more accurately the range of intensity levels found in real scenes. Non-HDR images are taken at a single exposure level with a limited contrast range. This results in the loss of detail in bright or dark areas of a picture.

My Philosophy
The goal of HDR photography is to capture a scene as the human brain remembers it. The human eye is an incredibly powerful organ that is capable of adjusting levels of light across a scene, creating a fully exposed image in your memory. As you are standing in front of a beautiful sunset, your eye is capable of processing not only the light from the sun as it reflects off the clouds, but it can also see a fully exposed foreground. Cameras, on the other hand, can only capture a single exposure. Either the sky will be correctly exposed and the foreground is under-exposed and dark, or the foreground is exposed and the sky is the over-exposed and blown out. So in a sense, HDR attempts to capture a scene in its entirety, rather than a single moment in time.

People seem to either love or hate HDR photography. Some “purists” dislike HDR, but most people find nicely-processed HDR images to be beautiful and compelling. My goal is to create images that make people feel good while staying as true as possible to the photographed scene as I remember it. If you’re one those folks who like HDR images and want to learn more about the process, please read on.

Here is the photo we will be working on in this tutorial:

Let’s get started!

>> NEXT – Equipment You Need


  • All of your pictures are sooo good! I saw this on google+ and just loved it! brilliant brilliant brilliant!
    Hope I can be this good one day!

    Check you my work at: http://goo.gl/Mu8b8

    May 3, 2012
    • Meleah Reardon

      Thanks Zac! I would love to check out your work. Unfortunately, that link isn’t working! Could you try again?

      May 3, 2012
  • Alita

    Holy cow, just looking at this makes me think, “I need the poor man’s version of HDR tutorial!” :-)

    Anyway, you might let your readers on G+ know that if you are a student or staff at a college or uni, you can use journeyed.com (or sometimes your school’s IT dept will have arrangements) for discounted copies of Lightroom and Photoshop. I didn’t check on the others. So anyway, yeah, just an FYI. :-)

    May 3, 2012
  • Meleah Reardon

    Cool, thanks Alita!! Yes, it’s not a cheap hobby, that’s for sure. It’s taken me years to accumulate all my equipment!

    May 3, 2012
  • Thanks, great tutorial. I will certainly pass this along to our clients and photo students. Too bad you’re in the UK- you can take this tutorial on the road. Let me know if you want to visit Amherst, Massachusetts! will put you up!

    May 4, 2012
    • Meleah Reardon

      Thanks Ani! I make frequent trips back to the states so I will let you know :)

      May 4, 2012
    • Hi, Meleah Reardon I thank you for teaching me about your website and how you are this cool photographer who live in England. In addition, this is very overwhelming. The photograph of the cathral was beautiful I enjoy it. I encourage you to send more of these amazing pictures to me. Continually doing what you are doing. Moreover, Jesus love you.

      yours truely, Eaton McDonald

      May 7, 2012
  • Vas

    First off, each and every shot is fabulous.

    The HDR Tutorial is also very good, and you can still improve it with a video tutorial (if you make anymore). You can explain while recording the screen instead of taking screen shots and typing pages and pages. More than anything, it would help the readers to watch it in minutes, rather than reading for hours.

    I don’t know if you consider it an unsolicited advice. This is just what I believe. And all the best for your new business.

    May 4, 2012
  • Hi Meleah,

    I like how you structured and put content on your site. Magnificent photos! They do emit the glory of God through his works and through the structures you shot. Looking forward to keeping posted!

    Yvette / Manila Philippines

    May 4, 2012
  • Not sure how I got to your site, but I’m glad I did, you have a great eye in your composition and your HDR photos are very good. I will visit often to keep in touch with your photos.

    May 4, 2012
  • Great pictures and technique! I congratulate you. Will continue to monitor what you share. I love photography and this is enough … Greetings from Bulgaria!

    May 4, 2012
  • Patrick Wong

    Meleah, thank you so much for the great HDR tutorial. Your instruction are very clear with details and easy to follow. I just can’t wait to get started.

    May 4, 2012
  • Michael Simpkins

    Thanks for the tutorial I learned quite a bit….I have everything above except for the DSLR lol

    I’m planning to get more serious in photography just need to save up more money (darn college) but thanks again so much.

    May 4, 2012
    • Meleah Reardon

      Michael – I’m glad you learned something! It took me awhile to save up for a DSLR too, and I remember wanting one in college but was unable to get one for sometime :) Good luck!

      May 5, 2012
  • Sundaresan

    I jus loved ur tutorial
    I wanted to know to about HDR and so I searched all over the web but none of them was so clear and precise as urs
    Hats off to u

    May 6, 2012
  • Andrew Dobrucki

    Excellent thanks for this.

    November 16, 2012
  • Hi, Your images Rock! You have heard this before from me and others.

    Enjoyed the HDR Tutorial – direct and to the point.

    Q: Thought on the difference between Photomatrix and Nik HDR Efex Pro?

    Thanks, Jay

    January 8, 2013
    • Meleah Reardon

      Thanks for stopping by Jay! I wish I could tell you more about Nik HDR Efex Pro, but I’ve never used it! Maybe I should try it out sometime?

      January 8, 2013

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