HDR Photography on moving subjects

It has been said many times that HDR photography should not be attempted on moving subjects like people or vehicles.  Well, no.  If I can take an HDR photograph of a basketball game then you can do it too. 

How I took this HDR photo:  Believe it or not, I took this image of three frames handheld.  I was in the stands at a high school basketball game and I recognized that this was the ultimate opportunity for a cool HDR image.  I walked up to the top of the stands and found a railing to rest my camera on.  I held the camera as steady as possible and fired off three rapid fire frames at two EV increments using the bracketing feature on my Nikon camera.  When I got home that night, I processed the three frames using Photomatix Pro software in about five minutes.  I then moved the new HDR photo over to Photoshop and increased the contrast through the image, adjustments, curves feature.  The trick here is to pull down the diagonal line a little bit on the left side of the box which darkens the darks.  The you pull up on the diagonal line on the right side of the box which lightens the lights.  You only move the line a small amount, but it should look a bit like an “S curve” when you are done.  If done right, you have increased the contrast of the image and have made your HDR photo look much better.  Again, you should only move the diagonal line a small amount or you will ruin your photo.

But, you must still be asking how to take HDR photos of moving subjects.  There are a few steps.  First, make sure your camera is set to the fastest multi shot setting you have so that when you hold down the shutter release it makes a “click, click, click” rapid fire sound.  This ensures you are taking all three frames as quickly as possible giving your subjects less time to move to move between frames.  The next step involves a masking operation in Photoshop.  This is required because as subjects move while you are taking your three HDR frames, you will get a ghosting effect.  To find out how to mask a moving object in Photoshop please read my HDR tutorial.

Don’t get discouraged if this sounds complicated.  It is not.  If I can learn this, anyone can learn this.

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4 Comments

  1. Posted January 14, 2011 at 2:27 am by strobist photographer | Permalink

    Wow!!! This is an amazing photo. I like the way you froze the action in the middle of taking three HDR frames. Very impressive photo. Thanks for the tips.

  2. Posted January 16, 2011 at 11:53 pm by Ramona Kater | Permalink

    Nice blog on HDR photograhy. I like your HDR how-to tutorial.

  3. Posted January 18, 2011 at 6:11 pm by Bungie | Permalink

    My cousin recommended this blog and she was totally right keep up the fantastic work!

  4. Posted January 21, 2011 at 3:02 am by Elayne Orlin | Permalink

    Wow! Excellent HDR photo. Thanks for telling us how you shot it. I am actually somewhat surprised that you were able to take three frames without a tripod. But, nice trick by using a railing to steady the camera.

    Excellent tutorial here. Thanks for your HDR advice.

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