The following is an excerpt from our HDR Tutorial by SLR Lounge. This workshop dubbed “the gold standard of HDR education” by FStoppers contains over 13 hours of tutorials, RAW files for you to follow along, and dozens of full prep to post examples. We cover bracketed HDR, in-camera HDR, single-shot faux HDR, single-shot bracketed HDR, panoramic HDR and more! Click here for more info.


Once you have mastered the HDR techniques, it will not take you long to apply HDR effects to your images. As part of the HDR Tutorial, we stopped in Page, Arizona to capture this shot of the Horseshoe Bend. In this article, we will explain how we got this particular shot. In addition, we will also discuss some of the scene conditions as well.


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The In-Camera HDR Function

In the Horseshoe Bend catalog, we have 4 images. However, it is usually an odd number for bracketed sequences, such as 3 or 5. However, the reason why we have 4 images in the catalog is because we used the In-Camera HDR function in our Canon 5D Mark III, so we have one HDR processed file and 3 exposures in our bracketed sequence for a total of 4 images.


The In-Camera HDR function, available in newer cameras, allows you to control the bracketing in the camera and also generates the HDR file directly in camera. In our “Understanding and Using the In-Camera HDR Function” article, we explained that we generally will not use the actual outputted HDR file from the In-Camera HDR function because we want to process the HDR shots independently. So, if we don’t keep the In-Camera HDR processed image, why do we still use this feature? Well, there are 2 reasons why.

1. Simplify the Process
The first reason we use the In-Camera HDR function is because it makes the overall HDR process very simple. For example, we can use 2 second delay or enable Mirror Lock-Up and the In-Camera HDR function will still automatically take the photos. This function will simplify the overall shooting of HDR bracketed sequences.

2. Provide a Preview
The second reason we use the In-Camera HDR function is because it provides an approximate preview of what the final HDR image will look like. Even though we will reject the JPG in-camera HDR once we get it on the computer, it helps us choose our exact exposure  and bracketing increments while we’re on-location.

The Perfect HDR Sequence

In the In-Camera HDR processed image, we are looking for detail. The histogram needs to cover everything from the highlights to the shadows because that means that the bracketed sequence has been shot correctly. In the histogram below, we can see all of the shadow detail, and none of the highlight details have been blown out. This is a perfect HDR sequence because we have retained all of the detail while setting up this shot.


Below is the image of Horseshoe Bend that was processed in camera on our Canon 5D Mark III.


How It Was Shot

Next, we will discuss how our bracketed sequence was shot for the median exposure, the darker exposure and the brighter exposure.

The Median Exposure
In Lightroom 4, select the median exposure of your image and press “E” to view your image. Next, press “I” to toggle the information of the image. As you can see below, we shot this at 1 second on F/16 at ISO 100 on a 17-40mm f/4L Canon lens. We are still using the Canon 5D Mark III body as well.


The main reason why we have our settings at F/16 is because that longer shutter speed will potentially give us a little bit more of a glassier look in the water. We shot at ISO 100 to maximize the tonal range, detail and color. Since there is nothing really moving in this scene that might require a faster shutter speed to capture, and since we’re shooting from a tripod, there is no reason to bring up the ISO higher.

Below is the median exposure of Horseshoe Bend. [Rewind FAQ: What is HDR Photography?]


The Darker Exposure
Next, we have our darker exposure of Horseshoe Bend. Once again, press “I” to toggle the information of the darker exposure. As you can see below, we shot this at 1/4 of a second and therefore 2 stops darker than the median exposure. We left our ISO at 100 and aperture at f/16.


Below is the darker exposure of Horseshoe Bend.  As you can see, the brightest highlights in this exposure are preserved quite nicely.


The Brighter Exposure
Next, we have the brighter exposure of Horseshoe Bend. To toggle the information, press “I” again. Now, we shot this at 4 seconds to get an even glassier look to the water.


Below is the brighter exposure of Horseshoe Bend.  As you can see, all of the deep shadows from the previous, darker exposure are revealed quite well.


Scene Considerations

For this particular scene, there were not many scene considerations actually. However, we did shoot on a tripod to get the best results.

A Quick Tip
If you go to a popular place to shoot, such as Horseshoe Bend, expect to see lots of other photographers there. Keep this in mind because you will need to show up early to get the best shots.

Conclusion & Learn More!

We hope you have enjoyed this article on how we shot Horseshoe Bend. Stay tuned for our next tutorial, where we will prepare and export the final HDR image, seen below.


For more HDR education, be sure to check out our HDR Tutorial by SLR Lounge. This comprehensive “gold standard” guide will give you a mastery of HDR photography, from the scene considerations to the actual shooting to the post production. Click here for more info.