Im currently traveling on a vacation where Ive chosen to leave as much gear behind as possible. Okay lets be honest. Its a family vacation and my wife informed me Id be leaving it most of it behind.

Im really enjoying digging deeper into HDR shooting and processing. The auto-align features in Photomatix Pro are liberating and allow for handheld shooting in many lighting conditions.

Heres a five-exposure shot with bracketing set to +/- 1 increments.

Olympus OM?D E?M5 with Sigma 30mm Lens ƒ 22 | 5 Brackets merged with Photomatix Pro | ISO 640
Olympus OM?D E?M5 with Sigma 30mm Lens
22 | 5 Brackets merged with Photomatix Pro | ISO 640

The end result Im happy with. Heres how I shot it without a tripod.

  1. Find a sturdy surface to set the camera. This can be a railing, garbage can, wall, etc.
  2. Adjust the cameras exposure triangle to get a balanced exposure.
  3. I usually choose to modify Aperture, setting the depth of field first.
  4. Adjust the Shutter Speed and ISO to keep the exposures short as to minimize camera shake and movement.
  5. Choose a bracketing option on your camera.
  6. Set the camera to use its high-speed burst mode.
  7. Frame the shot and brace the camera. You can use your body, a bean bag, or available objects.
  8. Exhale your breath, don’t hold it which causes shake.
  9. Fire the shots. Consider shooting multiple sets of brackets so you have options to develop.
Behind the scenes photo from an iPhone by my wife (who’s now losing her patience).

I hope this technique helps you the next time you find yourself light on gear. A tripod is always ideal, but not always available. This is (of course) just one way to solve the problem of shooting HDR without a tripod.