With proper technique and the right camera, it is possible to get good HDR images even though you aren’t using a tripod or other camera support.
Here are ten tips for handholding your camera:
- Use a camera that has an automatic bracket function, so that when you push the shutter release your camera automatically and quickly takes more than one photo of the same subject at different exposures. Use this function when you don’t have a tripod. Read about automatic bracketing in your camera manual, to be sure you are doing it the right way.
- Properly hold your camera. Scott Bourne wrote a very good article on this subject a few years ago.
- Keep very steady, leaning against a wall, column or post, if possible.
- Shoot in Aperture Priority or in Manual mode, maintaining the same aperture for each image in a sequence. It is important to maintain a constant depth of field.
- Use an appropriate shutter speed for each image photographed in a sequence, paying particular attention to the slowest shutter speed. The rule of thumb is that your shutter speed should be at least 1/the focal length of your lens. If your lens is a zoom, use the focal length at its longest point. For example, if you are using a 70-200mm lens, your shutter speed should be 1/200 or faster. If your camera is not full frame, take the crop factor into account. If the crop factor is 1.5, a 200mm lens becomes a 300 mm lens. Despite the rule of thumb, I try not to shoot slower than 1/100.
- Increase ISO to maintain the appropriate shutter speeds. Better to have noise than blur from camera shake (unless blur is your intention). A higher ISO may be problematic if your camera does poorly with noise, and you may decide to take a chance and opt for a slower shutter speed.
- Keep your focus set to a single shot, not continuous. I usually focus manually, so that the camera will not change focus between images. If you are not focusing manually and your camera has a focus lock button, depending on your camera, you may be able to maintain focus if you keep your finger on the button throughout shooting a sequence.
- Use a prime lens, if you have one. They are typically smaller and lighter enabling you to keep your camera steadier. They also tend to have wider apertures than many zoom lenses, allowing you to shoot at a faster shutter speed. An alternative would be to use a lens with vibration reduction, which may, depending on the focal length of the lens, enable you to shoot at a faster shutter speed without noticeable blur.
- Don’t forget to align images when processing in Photomatix or other software. Also correct for ghosting. If your editing software allows for manually de-ghosting I suggest manually de-ghosting to have greater control over the look of your final image.
- If possible take more than one sequence of the same subject, just in case you moved between images.
I still recommend using a tripod, or other camera support, for HDR images, however I also know that sometimes a tripod is just not possible. I have had many successes handholding a camera, but only if I am very mindful with regard to my technique.