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I see lots of stuff online about creating HDR images from bracketed shots. But i have a Nikon D5600 which has in camera HDR. Should i still use bracketed shots for HDR or just use the in camera HDR. I rarely see any reviews of HDR capabilities of a DSLR .

Is it the case that one is clearly better than other. I read one article which spoke as if there is not even a debate and in camera HDR is clearly way inferior. My in camera HDR seems fine to me, but i have not tried the other method and maybe HDR using bracketed images gives even better results ?

Also, some people have suggested that in camera HDR is often not available in for RAW photos, but i do not use RAW format ( I know, i am a noob ) . So, that is not a factor for me

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It is all dependent upon how well the in-camera version is implemented versus how skilled the person doing the post-processing version is, as well as the capabilities of the post-processing tool that person is using.

It's certainly possible that the in-camera version Nikon has put into the D5600 can produce a result you like better than what you can produce by doing the post-processing of bracketed images yourself, especially if you have very little experience doing raw post-processing, much less HDR post-processing. Even when dealing with a single exposure, doing your own raw development allows you to show details from an expanded scene dynamic range than what in-camera JPEG engines will show.

In a sense, doing your own raw conversion from single exposures can also be a form of High Dynamic Range Imaging, a term which has been around much longer than digital photography has existed, and even longer than the more recent practice of producing an 8-bit tone-mapped version of a 32-bit floating point light map created by combining multiple bracketed exposures which came to be referred to as HDR.

It's also quite possible that your skill, either now or in the future as you continue to gain experience and increase your knowledge, can produce final results that you like better than what the camera produces using the automated routines. Don't be afraid to explore the possibilities! Don't let your less than earth-shattering initial results discourage you, either.

For those who are highly skilled doing it, there's no contest. Controlling every aspect of the workflow from image capture to final result allows the photographer to get as close as possible to what the photographer wants for a specific scene. That's going to be far better than what the engineers who programmed the camera guessed every photographer might want from every conceivable scene. Not only is this true for HDR photography using multiple exposures, but it is also true for doing raw development for each photograph or shooting scenario instead of letting the camera's JPEG engine reflect the guesses of those who created it.

It is true that as computational photography continues to advance with increased processing and larger memory capabilities of cameras, the gap between automated camera routines and manual post-processing is narrowing, especially for those not highly skilled in the art of post-processing. But a highly skilled person can still usually do "better", whatever that means when talking about making artistic choices, than even the best automated routines.

Perhaps in the future things will advance to a point where a highly skilled photographer can "teach" a camera or post-processing routine to automatically produce results that match their artistic intent for a particular type of scene? But we're not anywhere near that yet. We are already well beyond the point where automated routines can exceed the results from those with little or no post-processing skill.

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  • " In a sense, doing your own raw conversion from single exposures can also be a form of High Dynamic Range Imaging, " I like this idea , i might try it, as some sort of compromise, of getting somewhat of a similar result without going the whole 9 yards with bracketed shots and post proessing HDR. From what i have seen, this actually looks easy enough to give it a try. Jun 14 at 5:44
  • " That's going to be far better than what the engineers who programmed the camera guessed every photographer might want from every conceivable scene. " Is this similar to how the P,S,A, M modes gives better results than Auto mode, which is an attempt by a programmer to get every conceivable scene right ?. If yes, that gives me a very good frame of referene to understand this . In my case, learning P,S,A,M mode was easy enough to make it worth how much better it looks. Jun 14 at 5:44
  • I just wonder if learning post processing HDR would be worth it, particularly since learning this is much more involved than learning the simple P,S,A,M modes. Which is why i have been searching for side by side image comparisons of in camera HDR vs post processing HDR. But surprisingly, they are hard to find. Jun 14 at 5:44
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    The entire point of LR is raw development. The tools in LR that even work on JPEGs are much more limited working with JPEGs than with raw files. You might also give Nikon's raw development software a try. The advantage there is that you can tell the program to open each image using the in-camera settings active at the time you took the photo, so your initial result will look much (as in almost exactly) like you would have gotten from the camera's JPEG engine.
    – Michael C
    Jun 14 at 6:02
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    @silverrahul As someone who came from a darkroom background, Lightroom makes more sense than Photoshop when adjusting images. I sometimes need to do my final edit in Photoshop since LR lacks the tools I need, but that's pretty rare. Adobe Camera Raw (part of Photoshop) is much the same as LR (LR uses ACR except with a better interface).
    – qrk
    Jun 14 at 19:14
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D5600 combines two photos with different exposures to create one image (from page 138 in the manual). For some situations, you may require more images to make up your HDR exposure stack which means you do this in post processing.

The D5600 only produces a JPEG image as a final output. Ideally, you want an image file that is 16-bits per color which gives you more latitude when finalizing the image in post processing. While you say that you aren't using raw file format, you may change your mind in the future when you find out how much more control you have in post processing with raw files.

Some people like to create images with garish colors when creating HDR images using tone mapping. Again, this is done in post processing. Others like a more natural look which is commonly done with fusion (see Enfuse).

If you find that the D5600 HDR works for you, then stick with it. Since you are interested enough to ask a question about HDR, try doing HDR in post processing. Hugin, while commonly used to create panoramas, also does HDR using Enfuse (fusion). Hugin isn't the easiest program to use, but it is free and works very well.

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  • Thanks,. I guess i just want to know how much of a difference does post processing HDR make over the in camera HDR. In all the articles or blog posts about HDR, i cannot ever seem to find a side by side image comparison of in camera HDR vs post processing HDR. I have seen lots of comparisons between HDR and the not HDR, between different kinds/nethods/apps/softwares of post processing HDR etc. But never one comparing in camera vs post processing HDR for a given camera Jun 13 at 21:32
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    @silverrahul maybe you need to use this as a catalyst to do your own comparisons! I might do this on my E-M10 III after my exam block tbh.
    – wilkgr
    Jun 14 at 0:00
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    @silverrahul you may find that shooting in raw negates having to do HDR since the bit depth is quite a bit more than a JPEG file.
    – qrk
    Jun 14 at 1:47
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    Okay, i tried it with an image, and the TIFF file definitely is not as good as raw file. When i opened the NEF in camera raw, i was able to recover clouds from an overexposed sky, but the corresponding TIF in lightroom does not Jun 14 at 20:49
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    @MichaelC Thank you for the tip about DNG converter. It worked. Though the software download is quite large for a file converter ,about 500 mb . For any photo that i take in tricky light, i will be shooting in RAW from now on. And even though the DNG file is a bit compressed from the RAW file, it must not be too lossy, cause i was able to recover clouds from the overexposed sky Jun 15 at 10:39
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One benefit of in-camera HDR is far less work. A side effect of less work is making the use of HDR more likely.

Being JPG only in-camera also produces fewer files and the files are smaller than RAW format files. This reduces the capital cost of digital storage and potentially time cost that normally comes from managing more files versus fewer files.

Finally, the color scientists, optical engineers, firmware programmers, and photographic experts at the camera manufacturers have spent careers thinking about how to make good pictures. It’s their job.

None of this means that there are not benefits to making HDR pictures yourself from RAW files. If that’s what it takes to get a picture you want, well that’s what it takes.

But that’s not the case for everyone all the time. No amount of technique can save a poor idea. No technique can change lousy light. Good ideas executed in good light make good pictures and technical differences fade in importance.

The measure of better is the picture. Not opinions on the internet. No one ever wept because the corners were so sharp.

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