Mastering HDR Photography with a Sony A300 DSLR Camera

One of the hidden gems of photography is High Dynamic Range Photography, or HDR Photography. It’s quite the trend nowadays that most photographers are warming up to, and despite the fact that it requires specialized software and some amount of skill and patience to get it right, a growing number of photographers today are experimenting with this technique. This tutorial aims to teach you to take HDR images using a popular camera of today, the Sony DSLR-A300.

Sony A300 DSLR Camera

Sony A300 DSLR

The Basics

Before I explain how to shoot HDR images, it’d be good to give a primer on the logic behind it. As the name suggests, High Dynamic Range photography makes use of the fact that the images we can see visually are confined to the dynamic range of our eye, which in turn is governed by the pupil size. Hence in a bright environment, we usually have a difficulty seeing things in a dark shadow. Similarly in a dark environment, we cannot see the details in a very bright object, The dynamic range of the camera is even lesser than our eyes, which is why scenes which are clear to our eye appear under-exposed or over-exposed in a photograph. But the camera offers a distinct advantage over our eyes, in that we can change the aperture of the lens and get multiple images shot at varying exposures, some of which would be over-exposed, some under-exposed and others in-between. Using specific software, one can then combine all these images to make a composite image, which would take the best parts of each image and give a single image which is well exposed throughout the dynamic range. Such an image has a dynamic range far greater than what our eye can manage, which is why these images are called High Dynamic Range, or HDR images.

As getting a good HDR image involves taking more than one exposure, there are certain ground rules that need to be followed:

  1. Always use a tripod. If the multiple exposures are not precise, due to shake induced by hand held shooting, the software will not be able to make the composite images accurately.
  2. While shooting, take as many images as possible covering the widest range of exposures. One may later on discard or choose which images would go in making the final photograph.
  3. Turn on image stabilization feature in your lens/camera.
  4. For post-processing, use a good HDR software, like Photomatix or Adobe Photoshop.

There are three simple techniques to shoot HDR photography with a Sony A300 DSLR:

  1. RAW method
  2. Exposure Bracketing method
  3. Exposure Bracketing plus RAW method

Continue on to the next page to learn more about these three methods to capture HDR photography with a Sony A300 DSLR camera.

On the first page, we looked at what HDR images were. Now, let’s take a look at three techniques you can use to create HDR photography with a Sony A300 DSLR camera.

RAW Method

The simplest method by far, involves shooting your photograph using the RAW (ARW) mode. RAW images record a whole lot of data and using a computer and a single RAW image, you can convert it to multiple images with varying exposures.

  • Software to handle and process RAW images would be needed.
  • Using the software, open the RAW image and develop it using a range of exposure values. Save each exposure as an individual file. One may use these files to create the HDR Image.
  • If using Photomatix for creating HDR images, one can directly open the RAW file, and Photomatix produces a ‘pseudo-HDR’ after automatically converting the RAW file into multiple image files having varying exposures and converting them to an HDR image.

This is by far the best method to get HDR images of fast moving objects.

Exposure Bracketing Method

This is my preferred method of shooting HDR photography with a Sony A300 DSLR camera.

  1. Set the ISO to 200 or 400, depending on ambient light conditions.
  2. Set your camera to the Aperture Priority mode so as to not change the depth of field.
  3. Set Drive to the Exposure Bracketing mode, with a minimum of three exposure (more the better) varying by 0.7 stops each.
  4. Turn on image stabilization.
  5. Set the White Balance to anything other than ‘Auto’.
  6. Make sure your scene does not have rapidly moving elements. This method of shooting HDR photography works best when the scene being shot is relatively still. Fluttering leaves, moving people or objects or flying birds make getting sharp blended images tricky.
  7. Put your camera on a tripod, and make sure the surface is firm.
  8. Compose the image, setting exposure to one stop under-exposed.
  9. Press the shutter gently, and keep it depressed till the entire series of shots are taken.
  10. Though we’re kind of done at this point, I prefer taking another set of shots after changing the exposure 2 stops (to one stop over-exposed) and repeating the above steps.
  11. I now have a set of 6 different exposures of the same scene, which can now be made into a composite image using software like Photomatix.

Exposure Bracketing with RAW

Basically, this technique is the same as the second method, but instead of shooting JPEG, the images are saved in RAW. This simply adds more flexibility (and more effort) while making the final HDR image.

An HDR image taken using the Sony A300 DSLR

An HDR image by nunui

Photo Credit: nunui