Tuesday, April 24, 2012

HDR Photography With A Pentax K-x

Although this post is for Pentax Kx DSLR owners who want to learn about High Dynamic Range Photography (HDR), the techniques can apply also to other Pentax models and other camera brands.

I am a Pentax Kx owner and hands on user. This is not some theoretical way to do HDR with the camera.

HDR differs from regular photo taking in that you are taking at least three different exposures of the same thing at different settings. The Pentax does this for you automatically, or what is called ”Auto Bracketing”. In other words, you press the shutter button down once and three different exposures are taken...click, click and click.

Basically, a under-exposed one, a spot on one and an over-exposed one. The camera will process them into a HDR final photo for you but the final result leaves something to be desired. You will need to spend some additional dollars for software to get really good results with your work.

Namely, at the minimum Photoshop Elements Organizer to unload your exposures from the Pentax and Photomatic HDR software to process the Auto Bracketed exposures into HDR images. And, once again, Photoshop Elements for final processing. Neither application will break the bank.

Personally, I have four different HDR books. Some of them are just ego trips by the authors to show you their HDR photography and buy, through them, a bunch of additional software you don't really need. Yes, you'll pick up a few tips here and there but you can end up more confused than educated.

Any scene, lighting condition you encounter is going to be different than the one the HDR book authors encounter. And, it is going to be processed completely different in Photomatix. Plus, Photomatix has their own tutorial on how to produce an HDR image and it's great and easy to understand.

What I found out about the whole HDR process is that, in addition to learning Photomatix, which isn't that hard, you have to be proficient in certain aspects of Photoshop or PSE to get really good at HDR. Meaning, learning layers, merging photos, lighting, magic eraser, healing brush and so on.

I use the cropping tools and the healing brushes almost constantly.

Learn Photomatix, practice with the default examples first and then delve into the controls...you'll get good at them in no time.

Learn all you can about Elements, or Photoshop. There are some excellent tutorials out there.

This is how you can start out with HDR on a Pentax Kx. You can expand on things from there:

Turn your camera on and select the AV Mode (Aperture Priority) f stops (Play with them)..f8 to f22 ISO 100 (Day) f8 ISO 200-400 (Night)

I shoot in Raw (DNG) Digital Negative.. No Raw+ and on a sturdy tripod unless you are into blur.

Ninety nine percent of the time I use a wide-angle lens...16mm. However, the 18 to 55mm kit lens works just fine.

Next, push the Drive Mode button located just above the “OK” button Move the cursor all the way to the right +- button and click OK.


In the same menu, scroll down to EV meter, and using the E-Dial move the settings to -2 and +2 to start with. Although, in the photo they are -3 and +3.       

Go back to the Menu scroll to C 1 sub menu and click on EV Steps..select EV ½ Steps Again in the C 1 sub menu scroll down to Item 7 and click on Auto Bracketing Order...select Number Two -0+

The only bad thing about taking bracketed shots with the Kx is that you cannot use your remote. You have to manually press the shutter button and hold it down the whole time you are taking the three exposures. This takes some getting use to. You are not done until the blue light comes on.

Develop a light and gentle touch with the button, use a tripod, be cool! You'll get use to it.

I unload all my shots to PSE to the Organizer. If you have photographed 10 scenes you will have 30 exposures to transfer from your camera.  They are all lined up. I process them through Photomatix saving them as "Save As" a file you desire. I have PSE up at the same time and when I bring PSE back up after the Photomatic process only the new file is shown.
Then select the new file and click on the Full Editor and finite your photo. Save, close and go back to the Organizer, make an "Album" for your finalized shots. Good Luck!


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