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HDR with Panoramas?

You may or may not to use the increasingly popular HDR effect on the final panorama. HDR or (High Dynamic Range) is often overdone as a photographic effect but used with some subtlety it can be a useful weapon in the software arsenal. Further, you may one day decide to see how HDR sits with an image you took in the past, and so bracketing the exposures is always worth considering as a matter of habit.

To do this set the camera to continuous shooting mode and set the bracketing levels at +2 and -2. When you press the shutter, hold only for the time it takes to fire off three shots before you move the camera to its next position.

As I have said, the effect can be grungy and over-used but it will give you some control over the dynamic range in the photograph, giving the final image a little more depth and realism. Personally I enjoy the freedom that software such as Photomatrix Pro 4 allows.

I have attempted 2 methods of employing HDR with panoramas. The first is to render the effect on one image, then duplicate these levels (as saved pre-sets) across the other images prior to stitching. As I have mentioned though, it is usually best not to compress the image prior to stitching, but experimenting with this won't hurt.

If you do only have a single image then you can use tonemapping in Photomatix Pro 4.0. This approximates a high dynamic range but while it gives limited options, it solves the problem mentioned above.

There is method, however, of forcing HDR from a single image:

Take the panorama into CS3 or whatever version you are using and increase the exposure and gamma correction.

Save this.

Then repeat but this time decrease exposure and gamma correction. When you open these three images in Photomatix, set values for them of +3, 0, and -3. This is more effective than tonemapping but not quite as good as using bracketed shots. There are issues with any method you employ but you'll find the web full tricks and tips on how to use the software, too numerous to go through here. Like I have said, it is worth experimenting and with practice some amazing results can be achieved.

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