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During my experiments with HDR photography, I was intending to get some really great landscape shots and I was able to capture this picture.

However, I was expecting it to turn out a bit crisper than the way it came out. I kept my camera settings on to take RAW photos with three different exposures (+2,0,-2). The camera being used is a Canon DSLR 550D with its basic kit lens 18-55 mm. I post processed it through Photomatrix Pro and then Lightroom but I am still unable to get the picture I was hoping to generate while I was shooting this. Any recommendations on where I am going wrong?

Sample Cropped Image: Non-crisp Area

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Can you post examples? –  mattdm Apr 10 '12 at 22:06
    
You mean the RAW pictures directly from the camera? –  Eagle Eye Apr 10 '12 at 22:19
1  
In the final product at 1024×680 (highest the public can see on Flickr), it looks plenty crisp. Posting pixel-peeping crops of the component images and of the result will probably help people give better technical advice. –  mattdm Apr 10 '12 at 22:30
1  
It's not really large enough to determine the nature of the uncrispness. Even a small 100% crop would be a lot more help. It could be ghosting, or field depth, or even just insufficient sharpening for the output medium. –  user2719 Apr 10 '12 at 22:30
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Why were u shooting at f/4? –  Alen Apr 11 '12 at 1:03

3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

I shoot HDR images using the same workflow you did (Bracketing > Photomatix Pro > Lightroom) and my images are all crisp, in fact, most of them are sharper than original photos due to overlaying of multiple images. Sot sure whats causing your images to become blurry, but you can try out a few things.

  • When taking bracketed (-2,0,+2) shots, use a tripod. This ensures that the subjects in all the images are in the same position. If you don't have a tripod, use your car, a bench, a rock or anything steady to put your camera on.
  • Use a smaller aperture (f/8+) to ensure everything in your image is within focus.
  • Use Photomatix's image alignment option (if you shoot handheld), so that even if your images are slightly different from each other, the software can correct it. You'll get this option after selecting the images in Photomatix.
  • Do not use noise reduction (or use as minimal as possible) if your images are already noise free/have very low noise.
  • This particular image you posted looks over processed (dodged and burnt quite a bit). This often compromise sharpness. Play with different presets and settings in Photomatix to see if sharpness has been compromised. Preview at 100% before exporting the final TIFF image.
  • Wind is a major problem when shooting bracketed shots. This forces your images to be different from each other and subjects like trees, leaves, curtains etc move a lot. In this case its better to take one single RAW image at 0 and produce -2,+2 using DPP or anything else. This solves the movement problem.
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Yes, will definitely try these tips and tricks. I was following bits and pieces of the above mentioned points earlier. Thanks for the advice. –  Eagle Eye Apr 12 '12 at 9:35

A few more tips in additional to what ShutterBug posted:

  • For some scene, it may be better to go manual focus instead of auto focus.
  • Start with f/11
  • Also try do more than 3 shots HDR, even with T2i. In the old days I rock a XSi and I usually take a -4, -2, 0 and 0, +2, +4. Then just throw out one of the 0 photo during HDR processing.
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I think the houses look quite crisp - might be cos they were static..

HDR is difficult because of the movment in clouds even a small movement is visable when merged, and will look soft - did you lock up the mirror / use a tripod / use a remote.

Are the non hdr shots crisp?

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Yes, you are right. The houses are crisp because they are stationary. However, the area around the edge of the trees and the area where the houses come in contact with the sky kinda spoils the image in my opinion. May be I did not edit that portion correctly to make it look better around that area. –  Eagle Eye Apr 10 '12 at 22:25

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