Photofocus contributor Nicolesy ran a great post about HDR lately where she asked, is it a fad? The debate in the comments pointed out to me that most folks think you have to shoot from a tripod.  While this is ideal, it’s not critical.

The image below was shot handheld.  5 brackets two stops apart each to capture the full dynamic range of the scene.  I was shooting up from a dark alley into a bright sky.



I find that the alignment tools in Photomatix Pro are pretty awesome to compensate for shooting handheld.  Plus if you modify your shooting style slightly, you should be able to pull this off.

I present one method for shooting handheld HDR, the “Tuck & Blow.”


  1. Bump up the ISO. Nothing insane, but a little boost can go a long way in cutting down how long the camera is open when capturing the shadow details.
  2. High-speed Bust. Set the Camera to a high-speed burst to get the frames as quickly as possible.
  3. Tuck Your Elbows. Cradle the camera and tuck your elbows to get the most stable shot.
  4. Exhale and Shoot. Yep, learned that one in ROTC class.  Just let your breath go all the way out and then trigger the camera.

Here’s two more examples of what can be done.

First, another high-contrast daylight scene. I really like how the HDR version captures the engravings in the doorway better.
brackets1 hdrhh1

Followed by a lowlight scene shot indoors.  The image on the left is a single exposure.  The one on the right is a subtle HDR shot with 3 exposures +2 | 0 | -2. The shadowy folds of the shirt pop so much better and the fish stand out more.


You can learn more about Photomatix in our HDR Learning Center as well as in this lynda.com class of mine.


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Join the conversation! 2 Comments

  1. Another trick to use if shooting and help HDR. Try using auto ISO. Then choose the highest ISO you want to use also choose the slower shutter speed. My shutter speed is usually set to the focal length of the lens that I’m using.

  2. Not all cameras are suitable for hand held HDR due to limited bracketing ranges. The Fuji X series, across the entire range, are one of the worst choices with bracketing limited to a maximum +/- 1 stop.


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About Richard Harrington

Richard Harrington is the founder of RHED Pixel, a visual communications company based in Washington, D.C. He is the Publisher of Photofocus and Creative Cloud User as well as an author on Lynda.com. Rich has authored several books including From Still to Motion, Understanding Photoshop, Professional Web Video, and Creating DSLR Video.


HDR, Photography, Software, Technique & Tutorials


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