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Archive 2007 · HDR Tutorial

  
 
thapamd
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · HDR Tutorial


People often point out limited dynamic range as one of digital photography’s shortcomings. True enough. However, at least in the world of landscape photography, that claim is becoming less and less true, mostly thanks to HDR (high dynamic range) imaging. In this tutorial I will show, by example, my method for creating an HDR image. I will be using Photoshop CS3 Beta. However, all the steps are also available in PS CS2. I have no experience with other HDR creating software such as Photomatrix, so I won’t be able to comment on them.

Here’s the most important rule to remember about HDR photography: The higher the number of bracketed exposures, the better the outcome. I almost always use at least 6 exposures, and in this example, I’ll be using 9 bracketed exposures, each 1 stop apart (from -4 to +4 exposure units). I also highly recommend that you not increase your bracket width beyond 1 stop. For example, if you want to bracket -2 to +2, expose in one step exposure increments (-2, -1, 0, …). Don’t do -2, 0, +2. Armed with these two important “rules,” you’re ready to tackle HDR photography.

As with any type of photography that involves blending exposures, a steady tripod is a must. Cable release and mirror lockup are highly recommended. Let’s begin!

In Adobe Bridge, I selected 9 bracketed exposures and chose Tools ? Photoshop ? Photomerge… The following is the resultant screen:

https://www.fredmiranda.com/hosting-data//500/7096HDR_Image_1-1.jpg

To give you an idea of the dynamic range available on the above image, I’ll show you the resultant image after moving the histogram slider to opposite ends:

https://www.fredmiranda.com/hosting-data//500/7096HDR_Image_2-1.jpg

https://www.fredmiranda.com/hosting-data//500/7096HDR_Image_3-1.jpg

As you see, the available dynamic range is nothing short of amazing!

Now here’s the image I decided to create. As you can see, I’ve sacrificed the sky detail for the sake of FG detail. It doesn’t really matter how you convert. I just chose this at random.

https://www.fredmiranda.com/hosting-data//500/7096HDR_Image_4-1.jpg

The product is a 32 bit photograph. Of course our monitors aren’t good enough to show all that info. Therefore, we now have to convert this image to 16 bit. In PS, choose Image ? Mode ? 16 bit. A dialog box appears, asking you how to convert the image. In my experience, the best method is Local Adaptation. Choose this option and then show the histogram:

https://www.fredmiranda.com/hosting-data//500/7096HDR_Palette_1-1.jpg

On the histogram, I suggest clicking on the line at regularly spaced intervals as below, to have finer control of your curve:

https://www.fredmiranda.com/hosting-data//500/7096HDR_Palette_2-1.jpg

Now to tackle the radius and threshold options. For radius I like to use between 75 and 150. For threshold, I like to use between 1 and 2. The values depend on the image, but these ranges have worked for more than 95% of my HDR images. If I choose a threshold value less than 1, I tend to get “haloing” around high contrast interfaces. Above 2, the image appears too low in contrast. For this image, I used radius of 100 and threshold of 1.87. Next is the most difficult step, in my opinion. This is where you need a lot of patience and practice…adjusting the curve. An advice I have is that you not make any abrupt transitions between points…let the shape of the curve be gentle. Also, remember that, in general, the left side of the histogram controls the dark areas and the right side controls the bright areas. Here’s my curve and resultant image:

https://www.fredmiranda.com/hosting-data//500/7096HDR_Palette_3-1.jpg

https://www.fredmiranda.com/hosting-data//500/7096HDR_Image_5-1.jpg

The above image is not bad, but it lacks punch (contrast). To correct this, I simply apply a curves and a levels adjustment layes as below. Please note that I applied a gradient mask to the levels to darken the sky but leave the FG unaffected. I also did a tad bit of burning to a few of the clouds.

https://www.fredmiranda.com/hosting-data//500/7096HDR_Palette_4-1.jpg

https://www.fredmiranda.com/hosting-data//500/7096HDR_Palette_5-1.jpg

Here is the final image and my history palette, showing all the steps. The FG isn’t as bright as it could be (and that was intentional), but the slight darkness gives it a more “natural” look, I think.

https://www.fredmiranda.com/hosting-data//500/7096HDR_Image_6-1.jpg

https://www.fredmiranda.com/hosting-data//500/7096HDR_Palette_6-1.jpg



Jan 30, 2007 at 12:51 AM
ajkessler
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · HDR Tutorial


All Right!! Thanks Mahesh!


Jan 30, 2007 at 12:56 AM
kiwis fly
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · HDR Tutorial


Yeh this is awesome stuff, thank you...


Jan 30, 2007 at 01:16 AM
yldan
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · HDR Tutorial


this is awesome.


Jan 30, 2007 at 01:23 AM
neighbourboy
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · HDR Tutorial


Thanks a lot for spending the time doing these tutorials Mahesh.


Jan 30, 2007 at 01:51 AM
stangeroo
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · HDR Tutorial


may be a noob question, but are you using unedited raw files or processed jpegs?


Jan 30, 2007 at 02:49 AM
Alex Nail
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · HDR Tutorial


Hooray. Just what I wanted to see. Very helpful. The key I gues is using loads of exposures. I supose you bracket manually?

Alex



Jan 30, 2007 at 03:07 AM
pascupixar
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · HDR Tutorial


YOU ARE THE MAN.
Thank you very much for this absolutely incredible tutorial. You explain it clear and simple.
Thanks you very very much.
See you.
Pascual



Jan 30, 2007 at 03:15 AM
alexoki
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · HDR Tutorial


Bravo! Thanks, this is what photography forums are all about, much appreciated. However, could anyone explain to me how I exactly apply a gradient to the levels layer mask?


Jan 30, 2007 at 04:28 AM
ramdisk
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · HDR Tutorial


Thanks for taking the time.....................


Jan 30, 2007 at 05:08 AM
xpzhang
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · HDR Tutorial


Now I know why my HDR looks fake. Need more bracketing!
Thank you again!
Betty



Jan 30, 2007 at 07:36 AM
pappy
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · HDR Tutorial


Many thanks, Mahesh.


Jan 30, 2007 at 07:50 AM
Mike Ganz
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p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · HDR Tutorial


Excellent tutorial...I agree with a PP that this is truly the intent of photography forums...provide a transfer of knowledge to help others bring up their skill levels.

Now for the 'dumb question'...Is there any way to 'Save' this and other tutorials for future use, without having to dig up the thread at a later time? I'm not a PS expert (yet) by any means and not sure how to go about this.



Jan 30, 2007 at 07:58 AM
Jarvone
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p.1 #14 · p.1 #14 · HDR Tutorial


Very helpful. Thank you. Jarv


Jan 30, 2007 at 09:44 AM
thapamd
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p.1 #15 · p.1 #15 · HDR Tutorial


stangeroo wrote:
may be a noob question, but are you using unedited raw files or processed jpegs?



Strangeroo,

You have to use unprocessed RAW files to create an HDR image. JPEG is not even an option.



Jan 30, 2007 at 10:00 AM
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p.1 #16 · p.1 #16 · HDR Tutorial


Thanks Mahesh Now for those that have cameras that can only bracket 3 exposures what do you suggest?

Al



Jan 30, 2007 at 10:02 AM
thapamd
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p.1 #17 · p.1 #17 · HDR Tutorial


alexoki wrote:
Bravo! Thanks, this is what photography forums are all about, much appreciated. However, could anyone explain to me how I exactly apply a gradient to the levels layer mask?


Alex,

See my 1st tutorial (Sunset/Night Photography) on the 1st page of this forum. I talk about applying a gradient to a mask in more detail there. Essentially, this is how you create a mask:

https://www.fredmiranda.com/hosting-data//500/7096Palette_4.jpg

Then, select the gradient tool or just press "g". Then click and drag the mouse from the top of the picture to the bottom, while the MASK thumbnail on your layers palette (not the thumbnail of the layer itself) is selected. Hope this helps.



Jan 30, 2007 at 10:06 AM
thapamd
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p.1 #18 · p.1 #18 · HDR Tutorial


Mike Ganz wrote:
Excellent tutorial...I agree with a PP that this is truly the intent of photography forums...provide a transfer of knowledge to help others bring up their skill levels.

Now for the 'dumb question'...Is there any way to 'Save' this and other tutorials for future use, without having to dig up the thread at a later time? I'm not a PS expert (yet) by any means and not sure how to go about this.


Hi Mike, I know there is a way, but damned if I know how. I've seen it done before. I suppose you could just copy and paste the info on a Word docement or use a program like Front page to copy the info. If all else fails, screen capture may be what you have to do.

Hopefully, someone else here more learned than myself can provide more helpful information about this.



Jan 30, 2007 at 10:09 AM
wzictrace
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p.1 #19 · p.1 #19 · HDR Tutorial


great tutorial

*tag*



Jan 30, 2007 at 10:12 AM
thapamd
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p.1 #20 · p.1 #20 · HDR Tutorial


amgolds wrote:
Thanks Mahesh Now for those that have cameras that can only bracket 3 exposures what do you suggest?

Al


Hi Al,

My camera can't do 9 braketed exposures either (one of the features I envy on the Nikon D2X). I'm forced to touch the camera. The first bracket set is -4,-3,-2; second set is -1, 0, +1; 3rd set is +2, +3, +4. After you change a bracket set, the key is to wait a few seconds. This allows the little vibrations from your touch to dampen. If you truly have a very steady setup, the camera should "rest" back to the same position. Another pretty cool feature about HDR in PS is that if there are minimal movements, the software corrects for them. I've noticed that a few of my shots have actually been rotated and cropped automatically.



Jan 30, 2007 at 10:16 AM
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