We are back today with the 2nd installment in our three part series. This section will detail from field to computer as well as storage. If you have not read part one READ PART 1 HERE please do so before reading this article. So far people have been very appreciative of the information and I want to thank you for the comments and feedback. We are currently in Nepal on a photo assignment and will be heading to Pokhara to go paragliding as well as to the Anapurna range for trekking. I am sure by the time I am finished with the three parts I will have a great many of those HDR images for the final installment. For this, I will be adding some HDR shots that I just finished from our Mongolia trip last month. Look for those at the end of the article.
The first part of this series covered pretty boring but necessary camera setup information. We covered bracketing, ISO, aperture, metering, white balance and more. I hope you have had time to get the camera and manual out for your camera and gone over the different settings. I hope that your camera has a bracketing mode, if not don’t worry we can work around that two ways. Now it is time to actually go out and shoot some sets of images. Let’s get started improving and honing your HDR skills in the field. What do I need to have me? How to get the best composition and correct lighting? How do I know if I got the shot I was expecting? We will be going over each of these important topics and more in the remainder of the article. When we are back at the computer we will be working on File Management. This will not be a short article but should help you on the road to great HDR images.
HDR In The Field
There are two ways to get HDR images and I use both of the all of the time. The first is to head out to a place you want to photograph and begin looking for that interesting shot. The second is to take the same walk and preplan your shots for the next journey. This will sometimes yield much better photos than the first option. With the second option, you can plan for the lighting, time of day and more that you won’t get with option one.
Another third option is to use Google Earth for photo research. They have been improving every year and now you can get to a post and when you arrive in person you will feel like you have already been there before.
Gear You Will Need
1. Camera With AEB feature
2. Extra Lens if You Have Them.
4. Bubble Level (My Tripod Has Its Own)
5. Extra Memory Card
6 Auto Shoot Button
First HDR Bracket
You have your settings, have all the gear you will need now it is time to get that first HDR set. If you have a spot in mind gather everything up and head to that place. As we talked earlier if you have done the research arrive around 30 minutes before your optimal timing for the shots. Set your camera to the number of shots you want in your bracket, I suggest at least 5, 7 or 9. Pay close attention to the way you frame your shot. Try to avoid the subject being in the center of your frame. If you divide your photo into 9 blocks the optimum spot is at any of the intersections of the grids. There will be 4 spots on the power lines and those are the sweet spots for your focal part of the photograph. The same with the Horizon Line, try to put it on one of the two horizontal lines created by the intersections.
When you have everything set the way you want it, it is time to shoot several brackets. Make sure of your settings and then get the camera on your tripod. The more you have things in the correct position as well as the proper settings the less work you will have to do when you are editing. This is a simple approach but the time you save will give you more time to shoot more and give you better results as well.
Set the self-timer or set the camera up for your exposure button and fire off you first set of brackets. See how these look and if not what you expected then adjust the aperture and shoot another set. Since we are shooting landscapes or cityscapes as a rule for most shots and am somewhere between F12 and F16. Now to determine the metering for the brackets. I use spot metering which lets the camera take a point I determine to use and then it will set the exposures for me. Check and set your ISO as low as possible, if you need you can raise it and shoot as second bracket set. The last step is to get the sharpest focus possible. I like to do the focus ring manually but if pressed for time I set the lens to Infinity. Press the shutter and get the set you dreamed of.
Now time permitting I review the pictures in the bracket so, if necessary I can adjust and shoot another set. Remember in many cases you only have a short time with the lighting you need for the shot you want. If you review the histograms the darkest exposure should have all of the information on the left side and as the light exposure increases the histogram should show more light moving across with each exposure. With the 0 exposure, the histogram should have a good set of information flowing across the entire histogram and when reaching
the brightest all should be on the right. When you look and have this you can be pretty sure that you will have good results on the set.
Storing and Managing Your Images
Now that we have shot some photos I am sure there are questions. Not all cameras have the same options and settings. Some will not shoot brackets and you have to shoot a single photo then move the exposure by hand for the next. This can be done but you have to be very careful to avoid maximizing the ghosting issues and not move the camera when changing exposure. Should have questions feel free to email me at [email protected] I also monitor all comments and answer your questions there as well or follow me on Facebook at ARoadtoPhotography.
Now we have our first set of images, you are ready to store them and get them ready for post processing (Part 3 Of This Series). You want to get right to processing the images but first, you must set them up for storage and have a good organization system. I have lost images and once those are gone believe me they are gone. There are a number of ways to store them and I urge you to use no less than two and preferably three. One is on your computer, two is through online backup systems but you must be careful here. I stored some of my images in Flick for example that were 3000×2000 pixel images. All Flickr will give back is 900×600 files, not an option for you at all. I have mine stored on my Hard Drive, as well as on two 1TB Passport Drives and soon will be needing two more Passports. Remember if you lose one image it is gone and may be the one that you will need next week. I sometimes go back to images shot two or three years ago.
I also use Adobe Lightroom to store files but I do not use it as a part of my backup system. For this tutorial, I will be using it since that is one of the cheapest ways to get into processing and storage of photos. Lightroom and Photoshop used to sell for hundreds of dollars. Now you can get both for only $9.99 a month. I know that money is always an issue but this and a one-time investment of $49.95 for Photomatix are the bare bones you will need to work with HDR. There are other storage options out there but the cost is probably going to be much higher than those above.
We need to set up a filing system before importing our first images. As many people find this can turn into a problem if you try to key too much data. I have found that the easiest for me is Year, Country, City, Date, that simple but I can easily find any photo quickly and easy. When shooting images for clients I insert their name rather than country. You can also add a final setting and everything would look like this. 2016, Mongolia 1/16, Volcano and Lake and then it’s easy for you to find the Mongolia photos of the lake.
Let’s take a look at why I use this method. It’s easy and practical, I have over 40,000 images archived this way and can find them easily when I need to. A simple system of just year and country is enough for most photographers. More than that and it can confusing and time-consuming, time that is better spent on the images themselves. I always can pinpoint when I visited a country by the year and when I open 2015 all of the places visited and photographed as well as any clients from 2015 appear in a list for me to use. Keep in mind if the customer has multiple jobs with you then you will use the Job Name as well. Some like Fred Smith Rio Carnival etc. Now that we have these names and in Lightroom, we are ready to create Collections.
This is useful if you shoot multiple types of projects. Cityscape, Landscapes, People, Sunsets etc. the photos will be in those collections for you to search but will still remain in their original folders as well. This way instead of looking through the 200 plus images in my 2016 Mongolia shoot I can look only at the photos of people, or the gobi desert etc. Instead of looking through all of the Mongolia folders I just have to look through one. This is really only helpful if you are shooting a large amount of photos. I think when I started editing Mongolia I had nearly 1000 images to work through.
This is not an option that I use but for the sake of covering everything, we will discuss it as well. When shooting for a client then I do rate what I feel like are the best photos quality wise. I do not edit them for content, I prefer the customer see all of them and choose what they like best. Many times they would choose photos that I would not have chosen. I will say that many times I go back to old photos that I did not use in the past, especially since I started doing so much HDR and Split Toning. There are photos like the one below that I did not care much for and had disregarded that now are one of my favorites. Never get photos and not keep them, you never know what technology may come along that will make them goldmines for you.
Moving Images From Camera To Processing
Before we become the file organization process we will have to move the images from camera to your computer. There are two ways to do this. 1. Simply attach your camera directly to the computer with the cord provided to you. 2. The easier of the two just pop our your data storage card and plug in directly to the computer if you have this option. When using Lightroom you can set it to begin the process as soon detects a card or camera connection. The import popup will be available for you to import, be sure and make everything is correct before importing. Use keywords such as shooting location and date shot. This will let you search for those keywords later and pull up the images.
There are a dozen ways to protect your images and I heartily recommend that you use no less than three of them. Computers are not quite as good for me as they wee five years ago. Not sure why but processors and hard drives don’t seem to have the same oomph that they had then. For that reason, I have files on Computer, Zip Drive, Passports, GoDaddy WordPress site and Offline Storage.
On the computer, I have the files I am working on and the files I have not uploaded to my website. I also have these photographs on a 64 GB Memory Stick for safety. You don’t want to do all of the work on the photos and then lose that work. That’s it, I just can’t trust the reliability of the computer so then on to the second backup which is on 1TB Passport Drives. These are reliable to a point but I have had them go bad. Seems as though if you are working on one and disconnect it from the computer to quickly you can lose the entire drive. When using them never unplug from your computer until the drive is finished working, put your hand on it and you will know when it is done. Third I backup everything with Backblaze, a great online system that is only $5 a month and you can store unlimited files. Cheaper if you are like me and use their two-year plan. That means that for me lose all of my photos all of these options would have to go down at the same time which is probably impossible. Just remember if you lose a photo it is gone and the only way you can replace it is to return to the site where you made it and hope for the same set of light and scenery you remember. Not really possible when they were from the Steppes of Mongolia or Temples of Bagan.
Tons of information for you to digest and a lot of work just getting things ready for Part 3 the processing section. Start getting the things setup for your storage of your old files and upload them to the various services and devices. Shoot some new bracketed shots to work on in the next series. The next section is probably the most important section. I am leaving you with an image from the steppes in Mongolia last month. I shot this at sunrise with little to no light and as you an see in the first shot there wasn’t much there to use. The second shot is edited in Lightroom using one of my Split Toning presets and the ARTP Design Edits Program. It is done purposefully over the top so you can get an idea of what can be done with a photo you probably would have tagged as a throwaway. With ARTP Design Edits this took no more than 5 minutes to Split Tone and edit.
Hopefully, this will get the juices flowing and have you ready to do some HDR and Split Toning in Part 3 of the series. As always if you have any questions please email me at [email protected] Please leave comments and thoughts for me at the bottom of this page.
We will also discuss all of the following and work images with both processes. HDR Photomatix, HDR Adobe, Split Toning Adobe and using Lightroom Brush Presets. All of these are a part of my workflow and all are part of the ARTP Design Edits. ARTP Photo Edits Program lets you quickly work through a group of images on the first run through your photos to determine which you plan to display then you can finesse those into images you are proud of.