This article was re-posted from

 photography and article by Trey Ratcliff

There is so much to the new sport of HDR Photography! It’s a new a fun way to take photos and capture the world around you. This page will answer some of the basic questions and tendrils will drift off to other areas of the site that may interest you.

A sample HDR Image of the Taj Mahal in India.  Many more samples below…


“Anyone can do this!” This is what I always tell people when I speak at universities, photo clubs, seminars, and the like, and I mean it! I am very open about my process, and I made a free HDR Tutorial here on that describes the step by step process. If you’d like to get in deeper, I also have a bunch of videos available for download at the HDR Video Tutorial link.


HDR is short for High Dynamic Range. It is a post-processing task of taking either one image or a series of images, combining them, and adjusting the contrast ratios to do things that are virtually impossible with a single aperture and shutter speed.

An HDR image is commonly made by taking three photos of the same scene, each at different shutter speeds. The result is a bright, medium, and dark photo, based on the amount of light that got through the lens. A software process then combines all the photos to bring details to the shadows and highlights both. This helps to achieve the same task in the final photograph that the human eye can accomplish on the scene.

I would say that about 75% of my images use the technique, and if you are new to it, then you may notice a slightly different “look and feel” to the photographs. There are all kinds of nerdy technical things I can say about HDR, but in case you are like me, you can learn best by example. I posted a bunch of my HDR photos below.

To me, the HDR process helps the photos look more… let’s say… evocative.

I can talk a little bit more about the philosophy behind the photography style here for a quick moment. You might consider that the way the human brain keeps track of imagery is not the same way your computer keeps track of picture files. There is not one aperture, shutter speed, etc. In fact, sometimes when you are in a beautiful place or with special people and you take photos — have you ever noticed when you get back and show them to people you have to say, “Well, you really had to be there.” Even great photographers with amazing cameras can only very rarely grab the scene exactly as they saw it. Cameras, by their basic-machine-nature, are very good at capturing “images”, lines, shadows, shapes — but they are not good at capturing a scene the way the mind remembers and maps it. When you are actually there on the scene, your eye travels back and forth, letting in more light in some areas, less light in others, and you create a “patchwork-quilt” of the scene. Furthermore, you will tie in many emotions and feelings into the imagery as well, and those get associated right there beside the scene. Now, you will find that as you explore the HDR process, that photos can start to evoke those deep memories and emotions in a more tangible way. It’s really a wonderful way of “tricking” your brain into experiencing much more than a normal photograph.


Really, the hardware does not matter…  The bulk of the look comes from the software process, as described in the aforementioned tutorial.

I have a Nikon D3X, but it does not require a camera that beefy to make photos like the ones you see on the site. In fact, many of my photos were taken with a camera that only costs a fraction of this beast. I have a full rundown of some HDR camera recommendations here on the site as well.  You can get started in this hobby fairly cheaply! :)


Ahh! That is a good question, even if I did write it myself! Well, the answer is too long for this format, but you can find a few nuggets of truth inside this article I wrote entitled “10 Principles of Beautiful Photography“.


I’ve also penned a series of books on photography. You can find those over at my sister site at


And here are some HDR photos for you:

Fourth on Lake Austin - Trey RatcliffIt was a tough night because I was on the edge of a bridge that was rumbling as cars went across. The evening was very windy, and there was a light driving rain right into my lens. I had to wipe down the lens after every few exposures and try to cup my hands over the top during the shot.  This ended up being the first HDR photo to hang in the Smithsonian, and it made my mom very proud.

HDR Photo

The Chinese Mothership - Trey RatcliffLook at this magical place in Beijing... it's on the edge of belief.I could hardly fathom the nature of this place.  I expected the lights to appear on the grid with melodic tones a mystical, alien language, like in Close Encounters.  But none of that happened...  So I just stood there for a long time, thinking about how incredible this place was... and took my time, setting up my system for a fitting photograph.Remember when we were kids, and we never finished our food, even under the threat of starving children in China?  Now, I say to my kids, you better eat your food, or else Chinese children will grow up and create an economic powerhouse.  Well too late for that!This is the amazing National Centre for the Performing Arts, or as I like to say, the 国家大剧院 -- I find that rolls of the tongue a bit easier.from the blog

HDR Photo

The Open Road - Trey RatcliffI had a long lonely weekend in Iceland, so I took my rental Jeep out into the wild. I drove all over the country from dawn till dusk seeing what I could find. The sky and landscape was an ever changing palette of colors and clouds.The sun is so low on the horizon during the winter that it is almost like a 5-hour sunrise followed by a 5-hour sunset. I drove up and down one of these highways to the next, listening to all kinds of strange and eclectic music on my iPod, occasionally jumping out to take a shot of something like this... it was a perfect weekend.In the distance, you can see the snowy mountains which always seem to be just a few songs away.from my daily photo blog at

The Bay at Portofino - Trey RatcliffThis isn’t really Portofino, but it sure does look like it, eh? We might even make the case that it is more pretty than the real Portofino! This is a beautiful resort in Orlando, over at Universal Studios.  All the colors in the sky and the buildings seemed to melt together, so I stopped for a quick photo.

This article was re-posted from –  photography and article by Trey Ratcliff