Shooting HDR with the Nikon D700

Please note that this page describes the steps to capture multiple exposures with your camera with the intent of merging them into a single HDR image.  It does not describe the merging or post-processing steps  I’ll say that I use Adobe Photoshop Lightroom and Photomatix Pro.  A tutorial is available here:  Sumptuous HDR.


The Nikon D700 can be set to shoot up to 9 automatically-bracketed images at a maximum of 1 EV spacing.  There is very little setup required to do this.

While holding down whatever button you have set for BKT functionality (I use the Function (Fn) button), set the number of automatically-bracketed exposures to whatever you want using the command dial.  I use 7 and would recommend at least 5.  This is because, unlike the D7000, the D700 limits automatic bracketing to a maximum of 1 EV spacing.  To set the EV spacing, hold down the BKT button (the one you designated) and rotate the sub-command dial until the LCD panel displays 1.0 in the upper, right-hand corner.  You can make the EV spacing smaller (in increments of 0.3 or 0.5 stops, depending on your setup), but I haven’t found that an HDR image requires less than 1 full stop between exposures in the series.

At this point you could switch your release mode to Continuous High (Ch) and hold down the shutter release button until all of the shots have fired.  You might be wondering if this means you can shoot HDR hand-held with the D700.  I would recommend against both of those things.   Hand-holding the camera for at least 5 shots is a tall task while remaining perfectly still.  Personally I think there is too much opportunity for slight movement between shots, so you should really use a tripod.  Since you’re going to use a tripod, you might as well fire off the multiple exposures an easier way than in burst mode.

Stick with me here.  I really do think this is an easier way to fire the multiple shots.  It just takes a lot of words to describe the process.

Access the camera’s menu and toggle to Interval timer shooting.  I keep this as the top option in the My Menu section.  With Interval timer shooting highlighted, press the multi-selector button to the right 8 times.  This will leave you on the single digit number after the “x” and before the “=”.  Bump this number up to 5 or 7 (I leave it at 7).  Bump the multi-selector to the right one more time and then up once to select On.  Press OK.  The camera will pause for about 2 seconds.  This is a good thing because it lets the camera settle on its mount with your hands off of it.  The multiple exposures will then fire in sequence.  In the Bracketing/flash menu of the Custom Setting Menu, option e7 lets you specify the Bracketing order.  I have mine set to capture the underexposed images, then the metered (balanced) image and then the overexposed images.  Also in the Bracketing/flash menus is the Auto bracketing set option.  I have mine set to AE only.  The default is AE + flash.

If you leave the number of shots set to what you want for HDR shooting, this process is easier.  Yes, it’s a lot of button clicks, but once you do it a couple of times, it’s no sweat.

Let’s recap.  Here’s what I do:  Leave the camera set to take 7 shots with Interval timer shooting and AEB set to 1 full EV spacing.  When it’s time to shoot an HDR sequence, I mount the camera on a tripod, frame the shot and focus.  I would be in either Aperture Priority (A) or Manual (M) mode.  Holding down whatever button is set to BKT, I click the main command dial three clicks to the right so the LCD displays 7F.  I then access Interval timer shooting (again, I keep this in the handy My Menu).  I press the multi-selector 9 times to the right, 1 up and then press OK.

Sit back and let the exposures fire off.  If the scene is really dark, several of your exposures may be quite long.  It would behoove you to keep track of how many clicks (two clicks per exposure – one for the shutter opening and one for closing) are going by so you know when the entire sequence is finished.  I always have Long Exposure NR (Noise Reduction) turned off.  It is entirely possible to be on a Ghost Tour of the New Orleans French Quarter at night and have a sequence of 7 exposures take over 10 minutes to complete.  Now double that for Long Exposure NR and imagine your tour group moving on without you.  Of course, putting your tripod with the still-shooting camera on your shoulder and walking away can lead to some interesting results.

Post-Processing

This is a quick note to let you know that I import all of my images into Adobe Photoshop Lightroom.  The first thing I always do is group each series into its own stack.  Once I decide which exposures to use for the merged image (because I don’t always need to use all of the exposures captures), I export the files to Photomatix Pro.  After trying other HDR applications, I almost never use anything but Photomatix at this point.  After merging and creating a new image file (it comes back as a TIFF), I process the image in Lightroom.  Once in awhile I feel the need to move into Photoshop-proper for some final touches.

A full description of my HDR post-processing techniques can be found here:

Sumptuous HDR – How to Post-Process HDR Images

Every HDR image I created in New Orleans in 2012 was done following the above process, including the following:

St. Patrick's Cathedral

St. Patrick’s Cathedral, New Orleans

French Quarter

French Quarter, New Orleans

I also shot the second round at the Engles Repair and Towing yard with the D700:

Three American Trucks

Three American Trucks

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