You shoot HDR with the 550 the same way you shoot HDR with any other camera. You take three or more shots at different exposures and use HDR software to blend and tonemap them.
Open the menu, go to the second page (red) and the first item is Expo. comp/AEB. Use the arrows to adjust the exposure and the dial to set the exposure bracketing.
Took me a while to find the AutoBracket on the 500D too, much easier on a compact like TZ7 or LX5. On dSLRs it pays to read the manual and the PDF version has the huge advantage of being searchable – just open the PDF and use the Find box for any function you are seeking. This is a discipline you just have to learn, alongwith the many options on the dSLR.
The + – EV range depends on the subject and light/contrast levels, ideally the range will encompass teh brightest and darkest light levels, which may be just -1 to +1 but could be -3 to +3 and the middle/cntee is not necessarily at 0EV – try + – 2EV for starters and if te hlight is bright use -1EV compensation, so the 3 exposures will actually be -3, -1 and +1. Use a tripod ideally, else keep the camera very still untill all 3 images have been automatically taken.
Try the photomatix free trial download, very easy to use an allows full adjustment. Also, a PSE8 plug-in, which is also available as a free trial, Re-dynamix gives a very good HDR effect but just working with a single base JPG.
You camera has an AEB feature which can be accessed to create a series of bracketed shots with different exposure values.
You can create 3 bracketed shots with the 550d. One thing I do when bracketing shots is to set the camera into continuous shooting mode so that i can keep the shutter pressed and it shoots off 3 shots at the stated exposure levels based on teh AEB setting.
You’re advise to use a tripod – good one at that (sturdy), a remote shutter release, but till date I haven’t bought one yet, but it definitely does help.
Photomatix is definitely the market leader as far as software goes, but there are a number of interesting ones apart from that (HDR efex, enfuse). I have recently also started doing it old school which is use gimp/ equivalent software and layer up the three shots and then mask selectively and blend selectively and come up with the final print.
I think it’s also best to use a tripod and the self-timer in this mode, otherwise you have to shoot all three pictures manually.
In this tutorial the author shows how to shoot HDR still photographs using the Canon 550D.
He shows the settings he uses in camera step by step, using aperture priority and using built in bracketing, the camera takes 3 photos in rapid succession, one normal, one lighter and one darker.