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How-to's Software Reviews

HDR Photography That Sells

Larry Anderson (mnbuilder49)

Keywords: composition, craft, art, painting, photography

I use HDR photography almost exclusively for my architectural photography. The dynamic range of almost any scene is too great for the camera's sensor to capture well both interiors and exteriors. I choose to use HDR processing to overcome this problem. The software available today is so good and so simple to use that I can create natural looking images that my clients are very happy with.


This image is an example of a 9-stop HDR.
Click for a larger image.

The darkest exposure is ISO 100, f/11, 1/15 sec. The flame is all that is visible in that shot.

The brightest exposure is ISO 100, f/11, 20 sec. The floor and the sky were properly exposed and everything else was blown out.

I use Photomatix Pro 5.0 for the HDR processing.

The client wanted a shot to show off the lighting and the ornate carpentry work in the soffit.


This image is an example of a 7-stop HDR.
Click for a larger image.

The darkest exposure is ISO 100, f/11, 1/3 sec. The flames and the lightest part of the sky are all that is visible in that shot.

The brightest exposure is ISO 100, f/11, 20 sec. It took that long of an exposure to show detail inside of the cabana.


This image is an example of a 9-stop HDR interior.
Click for a larger image.

The darkest exposure is ISO 100, f/11, 1/125 sec. The lights and the outside are all that is visible

The brightest exposure is ISO 100, f/11, 1.6 sec. That shows the detail in the stone and the crown moulding.

I used Photomatix Pro 5.0 for the HDR processing.

With this technique I never have to worry about unwanted flash reflections.

Make certain that you have enough exposures so that all parts of the scene are properly exposed.

Set your camera to Aperture Priority so the aperture stays the same and only the shutter speed varies to create the bracketed exposures.

Use a sturdy tripod.

Use a cable release so you don’t need to touch the camera between exposures.

The button that I circled in red selects which presets I want to choose from.


Click for a larger image.

For this image I liked the Default Preset the best. I always try several of the presets as different images look best with different presets.

The Micro-Smoothing slider and the Smooth Highlights slider are used to adjust the amount of contrast in the image. I always adjust those sliders to achieve the look I want.

If you have a problem of haloing in your image, moving the Micro Smoothing slider to the right removes that effect.

Editors’ note:

When Larry says “a 9-stop HDR” he means 9 shots at 1.0 EV interval.
He commented: You need to cover the dynamic range necessary to capture all of the detail in the scene.
When asked why not smaller intervals he answered: I haven't seen any advantage in using exposure increments of less than one stop. I got used to using one stop increments as that was the maximum I could use when auto-bracketing with either the Nikon D3 or the Nikon D3x.
Another tip: Turn on every light that is visible in the scene.

(22 Votes )

Originally written on October 7, 2015

Last updated on May 24, 2016

Larry Anderson Larry Anderson (mnbuilder49)

Awarded for his high level skills in various areas, especially in Interiors Architecture, Landscape and HDR Photography

Lakeville, USA
Basic, 5098 posts


Prasad Dalvi (dalviprasadd) on February 11, 2018

Very informative and precise information giving us insight into Architectural Photography that pays... Thank you! Larry...

Prasad Dalvi (dalviprasadd) on February 11, 2018

Very informative and precise information giving us insight into Architectural Photography that pays... Thank you! Larry...

Rick Spehn (PSAGuy) on March 20, 2016

Great stuff Larry.... This is my new task.....to become competent with this technique. I checked out Photomatix Pro software and really like it's intuitive interface. Hope you don't mind if I send you a note now and then with a question. This is very new to me so appreciate all the help. Thanks again !! Rick

Robert Sebjanic (Robek82) on March 18, 2016

Wow. That's first article I stopped by after I sign up to nikonians. I'm impressed. There is so much I need to find out about photography.

Mark Hazlitt Sr. (mchazlittSr) on December 18, 2015

Interesting, I have not played with HDR very much. I know of the usefulness in my 3D rendering, but hadn't considered as yet using this technique. Thank You

Dean Andersen (DeanAZ) on October 19, 2015

Expert nature photographer

Thanks for putting this together, Larry. Your realistic take on HDR is appreciated.

Radu Constantine (radconsta) on October 19, 2015

Thank you, Larry - very informative!

David Hatton (dthatton) on October 16, 2015

Nice article, Larry. I recently acquired HDR Pro and have been experimenting with the settings for architectural photography as well. I am looking forward to shooting interiors with glass and views to the exterior to combine the dynamic range in one image. I am curious to compare results with layer/masking in PS and if there advantages to either. David

Michael Babiak (Lemming79) on October 15, 2015

Great work Larry. Have you worked with exposure fusion in Photomatix and if so what do you think the pluses and minuses of that approach might be?

James Gould (jgould2) on October 15, 2015

Fellow Ribbon awarded for his excellent and frequent contributions and sharing his in-depth knowledge and experience with the community in the Nikonians spirit.

Thanks Larry. Very useful info and great to see some of your shots. JIM

Gary Marshall (gtm) on October 12, 2015

Nice article Larry and a good technique. Have you tried bringing your images into PS using HDR PRO and creating a 32 bit TIFF? This brings the dynamic range to +/- 10 stops on exposure and eliminates the grunge HDR look. I also use blending modes using Luminosity Masks. Of course I have Photomatix Pro as well and use the very same technique as you described. Great job on the realistic HDR images. Gary

Tom Backus (Tommyau) on October 12, 2015


John D. Roach (jdroach) on October 9, 2015

Fellow Ribbon awarded. John exhibits true Nikonian spirit by frequently posting images and requesting comments and critique, which he graciously accepts. He is an inspiration to all of us through constant improvement in his own work, keen observations and excellent commentary on images posted by others. Donor Ribbon. Awarded for his very generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2014 Donor Ribbon awarded for his most generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2015 Ribbon awarded for his generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2017 Ribbon awarded for his generous contribution to the 2019 Fundraising campaign Awarded for winning in The Best of Nikonians 2019 Photo Contest

Good info and fine images.

Mark Morrison (Lunastar) on October 9, 2015

Laureate Ribbon awarded for winning a Nikonians Annual Photo Contest

Great article, Larry! I've been doing the same thing with some difficult indoor jobs! Mark

User on October 8, 2015

Very cool! I must try this!

Rick Spehn (PSAGuy) on October 8, 2015

Great stuff Larry. Very informative and helpful info. Much appreciated !

Bo Stahlbrandt (bgs) on October 7, 2015

One of the two c-founders, expert in several areas Awarded for his valuable Nikon product reviews at the Resources

Great images and good inspiration - thanks for sharing Larry!