HDR Cookbook – Contents

The HDR Cookbook has grown in size over the past year. I have constantly added new recipes as well as entirely new sections such that the chronological order may be a bit confusing. In order to give you an easy start and to allow you to access those recipes that you need to solve a particular problem, here is the entire contents categorized into different sections with brief descriptions. You will find that some recipes occur more than once as they contain different types of information belonging to different categories.


You may have guessed it: Pursuing HDR photography requires some equipment! Find out about some of the specifics in this section.

Find out about the motivation of the HDR Cookbook and learn which equipment (software and hardware) you need to follow the recipes.

The Secrets of Hand-held HDR Shooting
In this recipe, I explain the general process and the details of shooting hand-held, especially in low-light situations. This can be very challenging, not only with respect to your technique, but also for your camera. I am giving details on which features your camera needs to have to enable hand-held shooting.

Taking HDR Vertorama Shots with a Tripod
This recipe goes into great detail about how to build a simple panorama head for taking vertorama (and panorama) shots from your tripod.


In photography, it’s all about the workflow – both, when you’re out in the field shooting and at home, processing the shots. Actually, the workflow is spread all over the recipes in the HDR Cookbook, but these are the posts that deal specifically with workflow issues.

General HDR Workflow
This is a general overview of the entire HDR workflow. It gives you a feeling for what it means to produce HDR images, from the shooting all the way to publishing the finished image. You will find links to the different recipes that go into further details on specific topics.

Why you need an artistic workflow
This recipe proposes an artistic workflow that helps you manage all those photos you take and develop them into artistically pleasing final images. Learn how you can organize the process of selecting images for processing in several stages, and find out how this helps you become more effective and efficient.

Shooting HDR

So far, I am dealing only with very specific issues concerning the production of the source photos. I will change that soon and include some basic information about taking the exposures you need to produce an HDR image. For now, here are the recipes that deal with taking the shots.

Manual HDR Bracketing Explained
Using Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB) is sometimes not sufficient or simply not available in your camera. In those cases, you have to take your HDR exposure series manually, but doing so is a daunting task for many photographers. In this tutorial, I describe a manual HDR bracketing technique that helps you get the perfect exposure series for every conceivable scene. It is simple and reliable, and you don’t need any math that goes beyond counting to three.

Semi-Autobracketing for HDR
In this tutorial, you will learn how to overcome the limitations of many entry-level and mid-range DSLRs for hand-held HDR shooting. Instead of being stuck with 3 shots in auto exposure bracketing mode, you will be able to virtually take as many as you like with just a little bit of additional setup time and manual switching. With a bit of practice, you won’t notice a difference to series shot with more expensive cameras.

The Secrets of Hand-held HDR Shooting
Hand-held HDR shooting requires a specific technique of controlling your camera and your body such that the shots you produce have minimal offset and minimal blur. This is specifically hard to achieve in low-light situations. In his recipe, I explain the secrets of getting good-quality source photos for your HDR images when you are shooting hand-held.

14 Tips for Quick and Effective Travel Photography
If you are a regular guy with a family and a dog trying to get great photos while you are rushing through foreign territory with your wife (or husband) and a tourist guide breathing down your neck, this recipe is for you. Learn how to organize your photography ventures (in terms of equipment and shooting process) to get the most out of it.

Taking Interior HDR Vertorama Shots
Interior vertorama shooting produces amazing results with unique views of great interiors. Unfortunately, most of these great places do not allow you to use a tripod, and taking those photos hand-held is a real challenge for a number of reasons. Learn how to do this properly.

Taking HDR Vertorama Shots with a Tripod
If you are allowed to use a tripod in your vertorama shoots, this is the recipe for you. Discover what the right equipment and technique is.

Preparing your Photos

Many people just throw their RAW (or JPEG) photos into their HDR software and expect great results. In most cases, the final images suffer from different problems that could have been avoided with a proper preparation. Learn more in the following recipes.

Correcting Chromatic Aberration
Chromatic Aberration is an optical effect that leads to blurry images and ugly color fringes around high-contrast edges in your images. Learn how to easily correct the CA in your RAW converter software.

Creating 32-bit HDRs the Right Way
Using you source photos (the photos straight out of your camera) as they are, without any further preparation, may also lead to a loss of details in the shadows and in the highlights. Learn how to squeeze every bit of detail out of your photos by developing additional exposures in your RAW converter before you feed them into your HDR software.

The Three Rules of Noise Reduction
Noise reduction (NR) is commonly perceived as a step in the processing workflow that may be executed towards the end of the process. In this recipe, you will learn that executing NR on your source images at the very start, before you feed them into the HDR software, can actually be much more effective and lead to better results.

Photoshop Basics

The very first rule that you learn in my HDR Cookbook is that most of the post-processing work is done in Photoshop (or any other dedicated photo editing software) – not in your HDR software! In this section, you’ll learn some of the basics of this work.

Structuring a Project
Working on an image in Photoshop can quickly produce a mess with a number of different layers. To retain the overview and be more effective and efficient, you should learn how to use the tools that Photoshop provides for mastering this mess. Learn how to structure your projects correctly.

Complex Selections
To get the most out of your images, you will have to apply selective adjustments. That is, you will have to manipulate different areas of your image in different ways. To do this, you will have to select and mask those areas first. 80% of the time I spent in my post-processing work goes into masking parts of the image. In this recipe, you will learn more about the tools for doing this.

There are numerous ways of sharpening an image. Here, you will learn how to sharpen non-destructively(without altering the actual pixels of the image) with the high-pass method in order to sharpen the edges and not the grain and noise in your image.

Noise Reduction

As HDR processing has a tendency to add noise to your images, noise reduction is an essential part of a good post-processing workflow – it is so important that I am providing two recipes about it: one basic and one advanced.

Noise Reduction (Basics)
In this brief recipe, you will learn how to use Topaz DeNoise (or any other tool) to denoise your image entirely and selectively in specific areas.

The Three Rules of Noise Reduction
Learn about the how, when and where of reducing the noise in your images. In three simple rules, I will show you how to do this properly, and I will show you the effect of different NR workflows based on experiments and sample images.

Fixing Common HDR Problems

HDR technology has some well-known problems that produce artifacts in your images if you are not careful. Some of these artifacts can be avoided, others can be fixed. This section is about fixing what you sometimes cannot avoid.

Reducing Halos
Halos are one of the common negative effects of HDR processing. Learn how to reduce or remove them non-destructively using Levels adjustment layers and clever layer masking.

Fixing Uneven Luminance
The tone-mapping process has a tendency to introduce differences in luminance in your images that make the final image look unnatural. Take a look at some examples and learn how to fix these issues in post-processing in this recipe.

The Three Rules of Noise Reduction
I am listing this recipe here since the HDR process is susceptible to noise. So you could say that noise is a typical HDR problem that requires your attention more that in many other photographic disciplines. Learn about thehow, when and where of reducing the noise in your images. In three simple rules, I will show you how to do this properly and I will show you the effect of different NR workflows based on experiments and sample images.

Advanced Topics

There are some techniques that go beyond the standard HDR workflow and that can help you in becoming a master and in creating exceptional images. This section is dedicated to some of these techniques.

Creating 32-bit HDRs the Right Way
Using your source photos (the photos straight out of your camera) as they are without any further preparation may lead to a loss of details in the shadows and in the highlights. Learn how to squeeze every bit of detail out of your photos by developing additional exposures in your RAW converter before you feed them into your HDR software.

Creating Clarity in Your Images
Creating appealing contrasts, clarity and a sharp look is essential for making your images pop. Selective editing is a key to achieving this. Learn how to identify those areas that need selective editing and how to approach this editing. Take a look at several examples and get a feeling for how you can apply this principle to your own images.

Why you need an artistic workflow
Selecting the photos that you want to invest your time in and letting them mature is the key to maximizing your output in terms of quality. Learn how to organize this selection process properly and how you can use time to your advantage to gain objectivity in judging your own images. This recipe introduces a multi-stage process that helps you in getting more objective, effective and efficient in your work.

Using Topaz Adjust to Improve Your Images
Using image enhancement software wisely can help you make your images really stand out. There are a number of products on the market. In this recipe, I will take a look at how you can improve your images with Topaz Adjust using 3 simple steps.

Finishing Touches

There are some quick and simple ways of adding a special touch to your images in the final stages of the post-processing. Learn more in the recipes of this section.

Adding a Vignette Effect
Vignetting is usually perceived as an undesirable artifact produced by lenses. However, if used correctly, vignetting can produce depth in an image and lead the viewer’s eye to the essential elements of your composition. Learn how to create a fully controllable vignette effect in your images quickly.

Adding a Frame
When you are presenting your work online on photo sharing platforms, some of these platforms will show your images on a white or gray background which is not very appealing. By adding a black frame to your images, you can influence the way your viewers perceive your images, and you can emphasize the colors in your images. Moreover, a frame is a good place for signatures, logos and other things that belong to your brand.

Restoring EXIF Data
EXIF data is the meta data about your photos that is stored automatically in every photo file by your camera at different stages of a typical HDR workflow, this information tends to get lost as it is stripped by some programs. In this recipe, you will learn how to get this important data back into your finished images.

HDR Panoramas and Vertoramas

HDR panoramas and vertoramas are certainly very advanced topics that require a lot of skills – both for the shooting itself and for the post-production. You have to produce and combine many photos into one consistent final image. In this section, you will learn the techniques for taking those photos and for producing the final image.

Taking Interior HDR Vertorama Shots
Learn how you can shoot the source photos for a large interior vertorama image without the support of a tripod. In many attractive locations, tripods are prohibited, and shooting hand-held in low-light is difficult. In this recipe, I will show you what the problems are and how your can master them step by step.

Taking HDR Vertorama Shots with a Tripod
If you are allowed to use a tripod for your vertorama shots, the techniques are still far from being straight forward. You will need special equipment to avoid errors in the stitching process (combination of the source photos into a single photo), and you will need special techniques for setting up your camera. In this recipe, I will teach you these techniques, and I will give you specific recommendations for the proper equipment.

HDR Panoramas
Once you have shot the source images for your panorama (or vertorama) you are still far from having a finished image in your hands. Read this recipe to learn how to combine those multiple exposures into one panorama (vertorama).

Hands-on Material

All the sections above give you specific information about the principles of HDR imaging. This is the section where you’ll see and learn from the example.

Before-and-After – The Complete List
Take a look at the largest set of before-and-after HDR comparisons on the web. For each image, you will see the source photos (straight out of the camera), the tone-mapped intermediate result and the post-processed, final image.

Making-of Videos – The Complete List
Watch in time-lapse how an HDR image is made. In just a few minutes, you will see all the steps that are required to produce a final image. See how the images evolve in front of your eyes.

Pics to play with – The Complete List
If that’s not enough, get your hands on my source images and try it for yourself. In this section, you can download source exposures and start feeding them into your HDR software right away. Try out your processing techniques and the ones you learned in the sections above. Compare your results with those of many other enthusiasts and see which range of results is actually possible. This is the fun part, don’t miss out on this!