FREE HDR Tutorial

I started to write this HDR photography tutorial over six years ago and I update it about every few months. Recently I rewrote it from scratch to incorporate all of the new things I’ve learned and I am happy to share them with you here.

Alot of people have used this tutorial to learn how to make beautiful HDR photos — I am sure it can teach you too! Remember, anyone can do this stuff. All it takes is a tiny bit of curiosity. You will surprise yourself in no time! Let’s get started! ????

hdr facadeWho is This HDR Photography Tutorial for?

This tutorial is great for new photographers as well as intermediate to beyond.

HDR (High Dynamic Range) is still a relatively new way to create photos. (It only started in 1850 and in the art world, that is new) I’ve traveled around the world and shot with many incredible photographers. After we shoot, we get together to compare techniques and post-process photos late into the night. Over time I’ve crafted a best-of-breed solution that will help you create your own unique art. This tutorial not only teaches HDR, but it will help you create a style that is quintessentially your own!


HDR is an acronym for High Dynamic Range. If you use some special HDR software, you can see all the light in the final photo that you can see when you are standing on the scene. Perhaps you’ve been in a beautiful spot and taken a photo and it comes out flat and disappointing. With HDR processing there is no longer a need for that — now the final image can be as truly evocative as it was when you were there.

The human eye can see so much more than a single shot from your camera! I say there is no need to accept the limitations of the camera. You can use the camera in a simple and innovative way to replicate what the eye can do. You’ll be using a combination of the camera and some software to achieve the final look.

The human eye can see about 11 stops of light. A stop is a measurable amount of light. A camera can see about 3 stops of light. This means you’ll be setting up your camera to take multiple photos of a scene, all at different shutter speeds, so you get the full range of light. Don’t worry, it’s easy!

With that said, I see HDR as a fine art. Being such, it is ok that it does not look “real” sometimes. Amazing images like something you would see in a movie is cool and that is what HDR photography is about.

STEP 1: What do you need?

This works on Mac or Windows.

All the steps in the tutorial are the same, whether you are using Mac or Windows.

The software you will need to do HDR Photography is really just one but I highly suggest having a few others.

Photomatix Pro 5. You could technically do everything for a begginner in Photomatix. I would not recommend but you could if it was on you had. It is that powerful.

Adobe Lightroom 6.  I would suggest using Lightroom. It just makes sense. It also enables you to do alot of things that you can’t do in Photomatix Pro. You can not “rent” it from Adobe. I believe it is Photoshop and Lightroom for $10 a month or something like that. (I have the full package which is all of their products for $50 a month)

Photoshop CC. As I said, Lightroom is amazing but some times, you just need the power of Photoshop. It is really good to have on your hard drive even if you do not use it that much. As I said, it is included in the bundle for photographers for $10 a month. Well worth it. Get it!

Nik HDR Efex Pro. Google has this really cool software package known as Nik Collection. It is well worth checking out.  They now give it away for free. How awesome is that. Here is a few review of the whole Nik suite but here, you can use Nik HDR Efex Pro and it works right within Lightroom or Photoshop.