While today’s cameras have some astounding capabilities, they still lack the capability to capture the full range of brightness when our subject spans very bright to very dark areas. To produce a quality image we turn to High Dynamic Range photography. This involves shooting more than one image of the subject at different exposures. Many cameras have bracketing features that will do this automatically. However, you can do it with any camera that allows you some manual control of exposure. The key is getting exposures that encompass the range of brightness in the scene. The difference in each exposure may be a little or a lot and you may have several different exposures to combine. For our example, we shot three exposures, hand-held and varied each by 1 EV.
We used align_image_stack.exe, a part of the free Hugin software, to align and create an HDR image combining the three shots. Step through the images below to see the input images and the final image. The output of the command: "C:\Program Files (x86)\Hugin\bin\align_image_stack.exe" -m -a 2-Aligned -o 2-Output 1-Input*.jpg is a set of aligned images as well as an HDR image. The HDR image can be converted to JPEG or other formats with Paintshop Pro or you can use the aligned images in Photoshop Elements to produce an Exposure Merged photo. We used Paintshop Pro since it reads the HDR file.