How to avoid overexposed sky using HDR

Something many photographers struggle with, is getting both the sky and the ground exposed correctly in the same shot.
And a common issue is the blown out overexposed sky, which can be close to impossible to fix in the post-processing.
You can of course use a soft graduated ND filter, which will bring down the hightlights in the sky.
Yet, I find filters too spacey to carry on my longer hikes. And on this particular shot I only had a short window where the lake was completely still, so I would get the reflection I wanted.
So if you use the right technique while out shooting, it is actually quite easy to fix the overexposed sky in the post-processing. Even without the use of ND filters.
Making both the sky and the ground look good.

In this article I will explain how to avoid overexposed sky by using HDR.
HDR stands for High Dynamic Range, and will give you a much wider range of light and shadows to work on.
All modern DSLR cameras have a HDR function, and what it does is shooting minimum three photos at the same time.
One regular, one overexposed and one underexposed photo.
Merged together you will have a photo where you have total control of both shadows and highlights.
When shooting at daytime, you should also underexpose your photos around -1 EV using your metering system.
Learn more about that here.

How to avoid overexposed sky using HDR

How to avoid overexposed sky

Something many photographers struggle with, is getting both the sky and the ground exposed correctly in the same shot.
And a common issue is the blown out overexposed sky, which can be close to impossible to fix in the post-processing.
You can of course use a soft graduated ND filter, which will bring down the hightlights in the sky.
Yet, I find filters too spacey to carry on my longer hikes. And on this particular shot I only had a short window where the lake was completely still, so I would get the reflection I wanted.
So if you use the right technique while out shooting, it is actually quite easy to fix the overexposed sky in the post-processing. Even without the use of ND filters.
Making both the sky and the ground look good.

In this article I will explain how to avoid overexposed sky by using HDR.
HDR stands for High Dynamic Range, and will give you a much wider range of light and shadows to work on.
All modern DSLR cameras have a HDR function, and what it does is shooting minimum three photos at the same time.
One regular, one overexposed and one underexposed photo.
Merged together you will have a photo where you have total control of both shadows and highlights.
When shooting at daytime, you should also underexpose your photos around -1 EV using your metering system.
Learn more about that here.

Camera settings

Below are the three HDR shots I took of this scene, which was on a really bright day.
On my Canon 5D Mark IV I set the HDR to +-2 EV.
Since it was a sunny day I set my ISO to 640, so I would get even more details in the shadows.
I also underexposed the shots by -1 EV using the metering system and used a polarizer filter, which is always screwed on my lense, to get a better reflection.

Camera settings

Below are the three HDR shots I took of this scene, which was on a really bright day.
On my Canon 5D Mark IV I set the HDR to +-2 EV.
Since it was a sunny day I set my ISO to 640, so I would get even more details in the shadows.
I also underexposed the shots by -1 EV using the metering system and used a polarizer filter, which is always screwed on my lense, to get a better reflection.

Regular version

How to avoid overexposed sky

Underexposed version

How to avoid blown out photos

Overexposed version

How to avoid overexposed sky

Post-processing

Open the three photos in Lightroom.
Then select all three, right click and choose Photo Merge –> HDR.
Check Auto Align, make sure Auto Settings stays unchecked and set Deghost Amount to None.
Then hit Merge.

Head over to the Basic panel and lower highlights and whites as much as needed.
And since this is now a HDR photo with a much higher range of highlights to adjust, the sky will appear.

Post-processing

Open the three photos in Lightroom.
Then select all three, right click and choose Photo Merge –> HDR.
Check Auto Align, make sure Auto Settings stays unchecked and set Deghost Amount to None.
Then hit Merge.

Head over to the Basic panel and lower highlights and whites as much as needed.
And since this is now a HDR photo with a much higher range of highlights to adjust, the sky will appear.

User HDR to avoid blown out sky
User HDR to avoid blown out sky
How to avoid overexposed photos
Use HDR to avoid blown out sky

The final result

I did some final adjustments and ended up with this photo.
Learn more about that in my post-processing tutorials.

Learn how to avoid overexposed sky

The final result

I did some final adjustments and ended up with this photo.
Learn more about that in my post-processing tutorials.

Learn how to avoid overexposed sky
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