HDR Bracket Setup for Nikon D800 & HDR Tutorial

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Photomatix PRO is the most Popular HDR software out there and you can get 15% off all Photomatix software using the code LukeZemePhotography

Before I get started on the technical aspect of the Nikon D800 tutorial I have supplied you guys with links to HDR software and a complete Video Tutorial, free ! 

HDR Software List:

A Comprehensive list of HDR software & plug-ins

HDR Post Processing:

  • COMPLETE HDR PHOTOGRAPHY TUTORIAL- POST PROCESSING- This video tutorial is super quick guide, written by myself, teaching you how to create a HDR image and what software to use. There is a bonus section in the 2nd video teaching you how to get discounts on the software.

 

D800 HDR CAMERA SETUP TUTORIAL 

I’ve noticed a lack of information and sharing of technique on  HDR and the D800, HDR bracket choices on the D800 and HDR User bank settings on the D800 and felt like facilitating an environment to further our understanding of it.

So all that said (BIG breath in ! haha) I have written this guide for those of you out there who have purchased a Nikon D800 and are unsure on how to setup your camera to take bracketed sequences for HDR images at the press of a button ! Im offering one method on how you can achieve this without a remote and just pressing your shutter button once without holding it down.


There is a section in the manual describing how to do a bracket but I’ve found that it didn’t fit the types of brackets I wanted to shoot, and by that I mean for HDR images. Instead I have worked out a method/workflow myself that has a 2 second time delay and all I do is press the shutter button and the sequence fires off. This means that you won’t get any camera shake on that first exposure which is very important on the D800 since any blur is amplified on its huge 36MP Full Frame Sensor. A side note, I use a tripod on 99% of my brackets. The only time I wouldn’t use a tripod was if I was in a museum or a similar location where it was impossible to set one up.

So here is the order in which I setup my D800:

-Firstly turn your camera on ;-), had to put this in !
-Press the MENU button

-Using the navigational PAD making sure you are in the left hand column go to the ‘pencil’ CUSTOM SETTING MENU

-Press right on the navigational pad, and navigate down to ‘c-Timers/AE lock’, and hit right again.
-Navigate to ‘c3-Self-timer’ and click either the round button in the middle of the navigation pad OR right on the navigation pad to select it.

 

-Once inside the Self-timer MENU you have 3 options that you are able to change: Self-timer delay, Number of shots and Interval between shots.

 

-Now firstly navigate to ‘Self-timer delay’ by having it highlighted in the menu and pressing either the small button in the middle of the navigation pad OR right on pad. I prefer 2seconds but select the time delay you would prefer for the bracket sequence to start after you press the shutter release button and press OK. The OK button is down the bottom left on the back of the camera.

-Now navigate down to ‘Number of shots’ and press the button in the middle of the navigation pad or right. Once in here you will just have a counter which goes from 1 > 9. Select the number of shots you want in the bracket e.g. 3, 5 or 7 and hit the OK button down the bottom left. I usually use 5 unless I’m shooting directly into the sun in which case I use 7.

-The third option is ‘Interval between shots’ and I select 0.5s but you have the option of 0.5s, 1s, 2s or 3s. Highlight the option you would like and hit the OK button.

 

You also have to select which type of Bracket you want to shoot. For HDR it is best to shoot an AE bracket. To set this option, follow these instructions.

-Press the MENU button

-navigate to the pencil ‘CUSTOM SETTING MENU’ and press right

 

-go down to ‘e-Bracketing/flash’ and press right OR the middle button on the navigation pad.

-navigate to ‘e5-Auto bracketing set’ and press right.

-highlight the ‘AE- AE only’ option and hit the OK button, which is down the bottom left on the back of the camera. AE-only means you are only bracketing the ‘exposure’.


Now you have to get out of the MENU simply by pressing left or the MENU button continuously until the screen is blank.

 

What to change on the camera body to get your Nikon D800 into Bracket mode, follow this workflow:

- Press the release mode dial button and turn the Mode dial to ‘Self timer’

-Now on the other side of the camera Press the ‘MODE’ button and turn the ‘Main command Dial’ until you see an ‘A’ in the Control Panel. This is Aperture mode and the mode you want to use when shotting Brackets for HDR. It keeps a constant Aperture for the entire bracket sequence and automatically selects Shutter speeds for you.

-The Next step is to press and hold the ‘BKT’ Bracket button and rotate the ‘Main Command Dial’ to match the number of exposures you selected back in your ‘Self-timer delay’ option. So 3F for 3 shots, 5F for 5 shots and 7F for 7 shots.

-You can also adjust the ‘Exposure increment’ from 1/3, 2/3 and 1EV. To do this press and Hold the ‘BKT’ Bracket button and rotate the sub-command dial and you will see on the control panel the Exposure increment changing from 1.0, 0.7 and 0.3 which is the above numbers but in a numeral value.


-Select an aperture you want for the bracket by rotating the sub-command dial. e.g. 2.8, 10, 22 etc.

-The final step is to set your camera to manual focus. So what I do is select where I want in focus in the image. Focus on that area using the camera in Auto-focus mode and then change the camera to Manual Focus. If you have the camera in Auto-Focus mode it will be searching for Focus in each frame and if you have moving objects in the frame such as cars or people this will interfere with the shot. You want each frame to have the same plane of focus so when you combine them in your HDR software, similar objects and areas have the same sharpness.

-You can also Set your ‘ISO’, ‘QUAL’ and ‘WB’ to the desired choice by pressing and holding the desired one and rotating the command dial.  I shoot ‘QUAL’ in RAW so I’m able to have control over aspects of the image in Adobe Lightroom and then convert them to JPEG’s later.

Thats it !!!

- Now you Frame the photograph and press and release the shutter button, which you do NOT need to hold and your sequence of Bracketed images for HDR will be shot according to the bracketing program. If it works correctly you can watch in the Control panel and you will see the Aperture stay the same and only your shutter values changing.

*Note- Things to be aware of- sometimes if you are changing options such as the aperture and ISO etc. The Number of shots (e.g. 3F, 5F) will go back to zero (0F). So it’s a good habit to continuously press the BKT button before you fire off a sequence to check it is still at 5F etc. because if you spend a day walking around shooting brackets you are definitely going to be using different apertures, ISO and WB which will inevitably end up sending the BKT to 0F. So just make a habit of going through the camera body sequence or otherwise when you get home you will find you have a bracket with all the same exposures.
So this is how I setup up my Nikon D800 and you may do it differently but I’ve found this works for me in pretty much any situation.

Conclusion:

I think something like this needed to be written because there are directions out there on the net but not all in one workflow like this. I had to work this out myself through trial and error and thought it would be good to share it with other Nikon D800 users.

That’s it for the Nikon D800 HDR Bracket Camera Guide.

Here is a “How to make a HDR with Photomatix Guide”

For Post-Processing tips and methodology in HDR head to my Tutorials Page

& links to all the software you need are here HDR software 

Thanks a lot,

Please leave a comment or Question below… Luke Zeme

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Showing 61 comments

  • Mick
    Reply

    Hi thank you so much for writing detail of Hdr it really helped me.

    • Luke Zeme
      Reply

      No problem, glad it helped !

  • Andy
    Reply

    Hi thank you so much for writing a wonderful Guide,
    Wil help out no end.

    • Luke Zeme
      Reply

      I think the web needed something like this ! I couldn’t find one so wrote this one myself

  • Brian
    Reply

    Thank you

  • Bob
    Reply

    Hi. Thanks for the tutorial. Can you let me know what software you use. I have done some HDR is PS which worked out fine however I did not do very many adjustments or tone mapping (which I have yet to understand)

    • Luke Zeme
      Reply

      Well I wasn’t going to get into post-processing in this tutorial as it is a BIG field. I tonemap with Photomatix as it suits the type of work I do. Have you tried this ? I plan to do a write up on Post-processing at some stage… recommend Filters etc. and what I use

  • Dave Sansom
    Reply

    Just got my D800 today and was pulling out way too much hair trying to figure out how to set up a simple bracket set for HDR. It’s crucial to what I do and the camera store could only lead me to setting up the Function Key to Bracket Burst. Fine, if you want to keep your hands on the camera! Not! Your simple tutorial was just what the doctor ordered. Now I can cancel my subscription to Hair Club for Men!

  • Martin Neville
    Reply

    Thanks for that Luke, very straight to the point.

  • Bob
    Reply

    Can the increment between shots be 2 stops per image

  • Keith Fredrickson
    Reply

    You have done an incredible layout here. I love the way that you have used visuals. Awesome awesome way of teaching thank you so much.
    Keith

  • Kevin Roxby
    Reply

    Very clear; simple and well laid out. Instructive graphics. Beats the other, convoluted setups using interval timers and such. Cheers!

  • Steven Upton
    Reply

    Luke,
    Thank you so much for publishing this. I just got the D800 and am heading to NYC next week to put it to work.

    Would you mind sharing what exposure increment you use?

    Thanks, again. Beautiful images by the way.

    • Luke Zeme
      Reply

      I just use 1EV and mostly just 5 brackets. If Im shooting into the sun then I use 7 brackets. Glad it helped :-) Its important to be able to bracket without the use of an external cable shutter release. I usually set it on 5 or 10 shutter delay these days to make sure the camera and tripod have come to a complete rest…

  • Donna M.
    Reply

    I just got my D800 and was wondering how to get it set up properly for HDR. Thank you so much for these detailed instructions!

  • Lakaus
    Reply

    Excellent work! Thanks very much.

  • Al L.
    Reply

    This always was a struggle for me, but with your guidance I have overcome. Thanks a lot.

  • Mark B
    Reply

    Great website. I use a similar method with my Nikon but use the Interval Timer Shooting to take the bracketed shots. My approach seems to have less delay between each shot and so I guess is better for my handheld approach- which is what I do most of the time.

  • Clay Johnson
    Reply

    Great advice, thank you

  • Oisin Frost
    Reply

    Great tutorial – although I’m a bit confused. Selecting HDR mode, my D800 fires 2 shots only & combines them, in camera.. Are you talking about a different way to do this, via taking multiple exposures each at diff exp compensation – then combining these in an external software program?

    • Luke Zeme
      Reply

      Yes Oisin Frost. This method is how all those great HDR images you see made. Shooting a bracket is just the first step and the next steps are all done on your computer and not in your camera.

      The computer part (software)is up to you how to combine them… and there’s pretty much unlimited outcomes. I merely have shown you how to create the starting images just like the pro’s do. Im planning on writing up my HDR workflow at some stage, the only reason I haven’t yet is because it’s a big project and I’ve been putting my time into my art practices. There is always so much to do !

  • Sanjay Kothari
    Reply

    hey Luke, Thanks a lot for sharing your process. Its very useful.
    Is there any way to use self timer to trigger the sequence with the mirror locked up?
    Thanks again

    • Luke Zeme
      Reply

      Hey Sanjay the only way to shoot a bracket with Mirror lock up mode I’ve found is using a trigger… Im pretty sure you can’t with the camera’s self-timer mode, at least I havent found a way.

  • Timothy
    Reply

    Thanks for the tips. I haven’t done HDR’s in a while. Since it is a new camera it makes it even more difficult. Your tutorial helped. Can’t wait to try it out again. Thanks.

  • Omolade
    Reply

    Very nice! Thank you for this so much. This will really help all of us out there who love doing HDR. I also love your fine art prints. Could you explain how you did the borders and white space for them? I love seeing prints like that.

  • Rick Benda
    Reply

    Thanks for all your effort. My question is how large are the files when you shoot? Are you just doing Nefs or a combo with jpegs? What is the size of he combined files for 5 or 7 shots combined?

    • Luke Zeme
      Reply

      Hey Rick, I only shoot in RAW because I prefer to have that high quality image to edit in Lightroom. Each image is about 40MB each and 16GB and 32GB cards are pretty cheap these days on ebay so are HDD for PC’s. I backup my lightroom folders onto a second HDD incase of a crash, we’ve all heard the stories !

  • Schweitzer Leonard
    Reply

    Have read your HDR procedure, but couldn’t figure out whether mirror lock-up capability is built in. Did I miss it?

  • Randy Salinas
    Reply

    I have a nikon d200 and was looking at making the plunge into the d800. Why arent you able to shoot raw bracketed photos on the D800? Do you shoot now in Tiffs? Please please help.

    • Luke Zeme
      Reply

      I’m not sure where you got your information Randy, but all my brackets are shot in RAW ! They are simply titled NEF files which is just Nikon’s version of RAW. google “NEF file” and see for yourself, you have nothing to worry about :-) You can shoot your brackets in many different forms on the D800, RAW is just one of them

      Luke

  • Mike Hesterley
    Reply

    Dude, this is a fantastic guide for the d800 bracket set-up. I am looking at making a quantum leap from a D90 to a D800 or D600 (not sure yet). I was leaning towards the 600 because of the price and the size of the sensor. The 800 sensor is so LARGE. I really like the artistic look of HDR and after studying your guide the 800 is now the front runner. BTW your sample images are beautiful.

  • giovanni palumbo
    Reply

    WOW great helpfull hint on d800
    i only wish nikon would have made (U1 AND U2) like the d700
    the shooting menu bank a/b/c/ is dumb

    i put this tut on my camera back using this abreviation code below .
    see if you guess wahts its all about lol

    STEPS TO PUT ON HDR SETTING D800
    go to CAMERA MODES

    1 = APERATURE MODE
    2 = BKT / 5F / 1.0
    3 = SELF TIME MODE

    go to CSM

    4 – C3 = 2S/5/.5S
    5 – E5 = AE ONLY

    thanks again

  • dave
    Reply

    Don’t you have to change a setting to “HDR” mode to get it to combine all images into one? Otherwise won’t y0u simply have separate images?

  • dave
    Reply

    In the above instructions I don’t see where you activate HDR from the shooting menu.

    • Luke Zeme
      Reply

      Hey Dave, thanks for reading my blog :-)

      True HDR is done in post-processing by combining the bracketed images you shoot. I haven’t written up my workflow yet and Im just learning to make videos of my screen so soon I will be able to show everyone how to do it. BUT I can tell you need the answers now so I will try to help you. OK so combining your SET (3,5,7 images etc.) of images is called tonemapping and is done back on your PC or MAC. I use 2 programs to tonemap, PHOTOMATIX or NIK HDR EFEX PRO. Go to this list
      http://lukezeme.com/methods-materials/my-recommendations-for-dslr-photography/ and select the PHOTOMATIX link to either PC or MAC. After you have tonemapped you then mask in areas from your original set of images using Photoshop. Then you make all your adjustments with colours and lighting, and can also apply filters. For these use either the onOne photosuite 6 (7 is released next month)use code LukeZemePhotography for 15% off all onOne products or Topaz Adjust 4, use code LukeZemePhotography for 15% !!! OFF all TOPAZ products . I chose these two to recommend to you because they have the most diverse and easy to use Filter programs plus give amazing results. The topaz software is just Filters, if that is all you are after, whilst the onOne photosuite has lots of software bundled into one and I highly recommend it. Use the links on the list above.

      For a comprehensive video tutorial by Trey Ratcliff, using the list above scroll down to TUTORIALS & MATERIALS BY OTHER’S, then click the “Click here to visit Stuck In Customs” link. Using code LukeZemePhotography for 10% discount purchase a HDR video Tutorial, which are around $US90 ! Trey uses PHOTOMATIX to combine his set of bracket images and he goes through everything over 11 hours of video ! I’ve done the course and it helps a lot in learning about doing HDR.

      In camera HDR won’t give you any of the cool effects and interesting lighting you see on great HDR images.

      If you have any other questions… let me know but I probably wont be uploading a video tut for at least 3-4 weeks as Im off to Japan next week :-)

  • dave
    Reply

    Instead of auto focusing and then switching to manual, why not just manually focus?

    • Luke Zeme
      Reply

      You can manually focus of course, I just like to make sure that it is perfectly in focus because I use a Full Frame Nikon D800 which has 36MP and it’s good to make sure my images are in focus.

  • Odil
    Reply

    Hi Luke,

    thanks for the great tips. I tried to follow everything you stated. However, when I did this first time the bracketing button did work, but second time when I press the button, it doesn’t do anything. It just doesn’t work. What could be the problem? The camera is new. Thanks.

  • Todd Walker
    Reply

    Very cool, thanks for sharing this to everyone. Another method (which some may have already mentioned) is to setup your bracketing sequence and then enter the M-UP release mode. From here compose the image how you wish and don’t forget to focus! Finally, enter the interval-shooting setup. For a start-time select NOW, select 1-sec for interval and select just 1 interval (# of shots = # of shots in bracket). Then hit OK.

    When the interval begins it will first lift the mirror and then fire off all the bracketed shots BEFORE the mirror falls back into place. I have only done this a few times, but from the “sound” of it it sounds like the mirror remains up over the entire interval, meaning no mirror-slapping between the bracketed shots. Tripod used of course.

  • Deepak G Pawar
    Reply

    Hi Luke,
    With this tutorial about HDR, it speaks volumes about your experiencem well in every profession people say one has to have their basics right,problem with most of us is that we either ignore or take it for granted and worse is we forget.
    Well you have not left any thing but still you have instilled confidence in many ego less photographers.Thanks a TB.

    Best Regards
    Deepak

    Best Regards

  • Steven Poulton
    Reply

    Thanks for your time in putting this all down on paper so to speak, HDR is new to me on my d800 as I’m generally a macro photographer and have had no need for it. Now I want to use HDR and multiple exposure for landscape and other stuff, so thanks for your time in putting this together
    Regards
    Steven

  • Dariusz
    Reply

    Heya

    Can the Nikon snap 10-20 shots with 1 or 2 or more different ev steps?

    Thanks, bye.

    • Luke Zeme
      Reply

      Hey Darius, thanks for reading my guide, I can shoot 9 frames on the Nikon D800 at a max 1EV. If you are in need of more than 9 frames you can use an external device called promote control which brackets an amazing 45 shots !!!

      http://www.promotesystems.com/products/Promote-Control.html

      Personally I rarely use more than 5 frames for my HDR shots and only sometimes use 7 when I shoot into the sun.

  • Robert McCowan
    Reply

    Your article certainly improves on the Manual. But I am looking for something more in that I was led to believe the D800 could do the whole bracketing sequence with the Mirror UP. This would eliminate all shutter vibrations. Is this possible with the D800 and if so, how is it done? Could it be done in conjuntion with Live View? Obviously, you cannot use the self timer and Mirror Up at the same time.

    • Luke Zeme
      Reply

      Hey Robert, I wrote this tutorial when I received my D800 on its release some 8-9 months ago now. The purpose of the tutorial was to teach people how to shoot a HDR bracket without a handheld timer or shutter release. The only way I am aware of shooting a bracket with MU mode is with an external trigger release in and holding the trigger release down whilst the bracket shoots.

  • Andreas
    Reply

    Thanks alot for this. I have a D7000 but it has helped me alot! I am offering you a hot beverage anytime. :) Thanks again.

  • Scott Weaver
    Reply

    My D800 bracketing options show: +3 and -3, but not just “3″. The first gives 3 overexposures, and the other gives 3 underexposures. Any idea how I can just get 3, which is supposed to be one under, regular, and one over. The manual shows this as one of the options but on my camera it doesn’t seem to offer it. Thanks!

    • Scott Weaver
      Reply

      I discovered the answer to this issue by accident, as the manual doesn’t explain. When you go to select the number of bracket shots you need to turn the main command dial to the right. This gives you the normal options. If you turn to dial to the left you get the options I described in my question. Nikon needs state this. But perhaps I was the only one who got confused by this!

  • Erik
    Reply

    Perhaps it is just me but to achieve constant aperture and changing shutter speeds through the pictures taken you cannot have iso-auto activated.

    • Luke Zeme
      Reply

      Hey Erik, you have to make sure you are shooting in Aperture Priority mode and then yes the Nikon D800 algorithm will do the rest. This means you can have it on AUTO ISO and also have it on AUTO white balance and the algorithm will select the correct settings for you. If you follow my steps correctly you will find that it will indeed work with auto ISO

  • Stephane Delaporte
    Reply

    Hi Luke,

    You have awesome pictures of brissie here. :)
    I just have one question: For the three first pictures. You are shooting directly into the sun so I guess you took 7 pictures… HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH MOVING SUBJECTS???
    The walking man or the car are clear with no “ghost” effects… This is driving me crazy!

    Anyway wonderful shots, very good guide.
    Thanks for the time you spend on this.
    Stephane

    • Luke Zeme
      Reply

      Hey Stephane, thanks mate… yeah I wrote a HDR tonemapping tutorial that involved removing ghosting, you’re in luck ! Head over to this link and watch the 2nd vid, the one with the Bullet train. That should teach you everything you need to know and if you read the post there is a 15% off code on Photomatix.

      http://lukezeme.com/methods-materials/hdr-using-photomatix-video-tutorials/

      Thanks, Luke

  • Russell
    Reply

    Hi Luke,
    Really informative article and well written. Nice that someone has taken the time and generously shared there information. Thank you.
    Question, on my D800 E when setting all the above and you have to turn the HDR off for thuis to work… Where you set number of shots you require and time intervals why is there a duplicate time interval ie time between shots time self timer and interval between shots? same thing… Equally when thats done and I go to BKT on main command to tally in with the number of shots i’ve entered it will only go to 3 and not above to 5 that i set?
    Your help be greatly appreciated..

    Regards

    Russ

    • Luke Zeme
      Reply

      Hey Russ, Thanks for the kind words- This tutorial on setting up your camera to shoot brackets is almost a year old now !!! :-) So I can answer your questions fairly easily… The 3 options are all different settings. The first one (Self-timer delay) is how long the camera waits to start the entire bracket sequence. So if you put 10s then the sequence won’t Begin until 10s after you press the shutter. 20s and the sequence wont begin until 20s after you press the shutter. The 2nd setting (Number of shots) use an odd number for HDR brackets 1,3,5,7 or 9. The third (Interval between shots) is how much time the camera allows between each shot, so 0.5s between each shutter or 1s etc.

      Cheers Luke

  • Conny
    Reply

    Hi

    Just wanna thank you big time with this tutorial :)

    Regards

    Conny

  • Leigh
    Reply

    Luke – Thanks for the great article on bracketing/HDR! I just got my D-800 – do you have a guide on setting the camera up? Leigh

  • Ray
    Reply

    Hi Luke, Many thanks for this article – bloody magic mate magic,where and how do I tap in to your future tutorials?

    • Luke Zeme
      Reply

      Thanks Ray, We are working on a whole new look for the site atm behind the scenes and included in it will be an RSS feed you can use to be notified of future tutorial/blogs as they are released.

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