High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography is the process of taking several images at different shutter speeds and combining them into a single photo that contains no washed out or underexposed areas. The result is a surreal, almost too perfectly lit photograph that contains a high level of detail throughout the image.
Photoshop has a built-in HDR photo merging tool which produces some incredible results without too much effort. The image above, from Ryan McGinnis’ excellent Photoshop HDR tutorial, is pretty surreal. It reminds me of a high-res rendering from a video game.
If you’re using the GIMP, you can get similar results by carefully masking and merging layers, or you can download and use the exposure-blend plugin which will simplify the process a little. Below are links to both processes – you can see which works best for you.
Whatever package you use, the important thing is to use a solid tripod and only adjust the shutter speed between shots. For the best results, you’ll also want to set your camera to RAW mode.