As you know HDR is for situations where just the camera can’t capture detail in the sky and in the foreground so you need to bracket, but there are times when you can do it with just one shot.
- The right time for you to do hdr would be a great landscape scene with a lot of dynamic range.You can do a simple test what I like to call the hdr or not shot just zero out the meter as your camera tells you and check the results on the lcd you will either see a overexposed sky or good sky but underexposed foreground and that’s when you make judgment call to do hdr or not.
A lot of the old photographers like the idea of blown highlights but I certainly don’t so when I see a overexposed sky or underexposed foreground I do hdr because it’s a great tool for getting a photo that translates what you actually saw when you were up on that mountain peak or lake just as the human eye sees it (just don’t overdo it and make it Chernobyl HDR)
- A low light scene perhaps a cityscape photo at night or during the blue hour where you will have a blown highlights problem same here do a test shot and see how it does in your situation, because every scene is different and there is no sure way guide to make perfect hdrs just examples and tips and hdr wisdom that will guide you to make a decision.
- Straight into the sun shooting I use at least 9 brackets sometimes more because it’s a extreme dynamic range scene so watch your histogram closely and also I can’t even tell you how many images were ruined by lens flare although I use nano crystal coated lenses from Nikon they are not lens flare proof it’s lens flare resistant so get a good angle or move it around till the flare disappears.
- Sunsets or sunrises hdr is a must the setting sky is at least 10 stops apart from the foreground if not more a lot of the time is more .Same here do 9 brackets but as I said before watch the histogram and see if you need more or less or some shot that happens right on the spot like birds that maybe you can blend in later in post to make your photo more interesting.
- Indoor shots that may or may not include windows that look out into the sun or sunset or city lights that will need hdr so the inside of the room and the outside can be seen at the same time or couple of studio lights which are expensive and heavy to transport so forget them and do hdr .There is this photographer Mike Kelley from F-stoppers.com that uses HDR along with one flashgun inside a small soft box on a mono pod that he uses for his amazing commercial estate photography in which he uses a camranger to trigger his camera with an iPhone or iPad along with pocketwizzards for the flashgun and he can see the image on the iPad immediately after and make changes after the shoot he composites a lot of photos and makes a final HDR crazy isn’t it.
- Cars (that aren’t moving of course) there are lot of techniques for this one of my favorite hdr car photographer is Frederic Schlosser from Germany https://www.facebook.com/fredericschlosserphotography, he also uses 1 or 2 studio flashes in a softbox along with bracketed shots to do the final images, there is even one famous photographer from my country Dejan Sokolovski same technique https://www.facebook.com/dejanphotography
When not to use HDR
- On people because they constantly move even if they are holding still so the post processing will be a nightmare. Also the colors of the skin will either be alien like so will be hard to make something good out of them.
- Moving subjects animals, cars pretty much anything that is moving unless you are doing car trails then you can bracket a special shot for car trails and then blend it in.
- Flat scenes like a cloudy day that you can capture with one image or mid-day sun no matter how good your composition is the photo will look just bland because the light is not right I rarely shoot during mid-day, same goes for clouds they just come up looking greety and full with noise sometimes they come up dark and unreal so if it’s an overcast day maybe do some waterfall shots or something that includes water and get your composition not to include the sky.
After some experience with hdr you will start to pick what scene is good or not for hdr without even thinking about it just like driving and making decision to change gears, hope this helps you guys on the hdr journey and make you a better hdr photographer altogether cheers.