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6 Steps To Awesome HDR Photos By Trey Ratcliff

Check out Trey Ratcliff's top tips on creating amazing HDR images that stand out from the crowd.

|  Aurora HDR in Other Software
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Trey Trey Ratcliff, Queenstown, New Zealand

I’m A Warm-Hearted, Old-School Gentleman Explorer With Really Cool Toys.

One of the most prolific HDR photographers in the world, Trey Ratcliff is best known for, which has become the #1 Travel Photography Blog on the Internet. He had the honor of having the first HDR photo ever to hang in the Smithsonian and has been featured on the BBC, ABC, FOX, CBS, and NBC, along with speaking at TEDX and Google Zeitgeist. With a background is in computer science and math, Trey brings an algorithm-like process to capturing a scene in such a way that it evokes memories in a palpable, emotional manner.



I've been shooting HDR photos for about ten years. My workflow is constantly evolving, and the latest evolution is developing my own HDR software along with Macphun. It's called Aurora HDR Pro and it's all I use now. Here are 6 steps I (usually) follow when creating some unique HDR photos.


1) How To Capture Shots For HDR 

Get your camera into Auto-bracketing mode. I take just 3 exposures most of the time at -2, 0, and +2. I also shoot in RAW mode so you've got a little more juice in the light to play with later in post.




2) Capture Bracketed Shots Everywhere You Go

Collect auto-bracketed shots everywhere, even if you don't think it's an HDR situation. If your camera has auto-bracketing, go ahead and keep it on most of the time. When you drag a series of photos into Aurora HDR Pro (or most HDR programs), you'll be surprised at some of the textures and colours that come out of the woodwork.




3) Is The Sun Shining? 

If you're shooting in the bright sun, go ahead and set your Exposure Compensation to -1. That means your three exposures will be at -3, -1, and +1. I find that the +2 on a bright day is just TOO bright and has no positive effect on the final creation.




4) Tripod's Aren't Always Needed

Also, if you're shooting in the middle of the day, don't bother with a tripod. Just go handheld. All these programs nowadays are so good at auto-aligning that you don't have to worry about it. Just save the tripod for sunset and night shots!




5) Use JPEG Files Instead Of RAW 

If you find that processing the photos is going a bit slow on your computer, just use JPEGs (or export to JPEGs) before bringing the shots into Aurora HDR Pro or any other program. Honestly, I can't see a big difference in bringing in the RAW files at all. And I really pay attention to these things!




6) Make The Most Of Layers 

When processing, be sure to use layers to make different parts of your photo look unique. For example, you may not want the "whole thing HDR'ed" - maybe you just want the buildings to be highly textured with an HDR look, but not so much for the trees or skies. A common mistake most people make is they try to give the entire photo the same look... I think it's great to make some parts smooth, some parts “glowy", some parts “texturey”, other parts saturated... Each photo will come out very unique, just like you! Think of yourself like a chef, organically creating a reflection of you and the scene at the time.




Below are some of Trey's images processed in Aurora HDR Pro. To see more of Trey's work, take a look at his website -


MacPhun Aurora HDR Sample Photos


Try Aurora HDR Pro Today

Why not download a free trial of Aurora HDR Pro and put Trey's tips to the test. There's also sample images you can use in the app, too. 

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klarue 5 United States
25 Jan 2016 5:17PM
Cool article and good tips. The one about setting exposure comp to -1 was something I never even thought of! The images in the sample photo gallery are pretty incredible too... I really liked the guy in the train station and the two men talking with the gold dome behind them.

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