HDR look? Is it bad? Tell me when to stop.

Started Nov 19, 2011 | Discussions thread
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Ben_Egbert
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HDR look? Is it bad? Tell me when to stop.
Nov 19, 2011

I wanted to do a step by step walk through of my processing to show how I get my final look. Many think I am doing HDR, but I think I am really just doing old fashioned Photoshop work. I encourage you to tell me when you think I should stop. Of course I reserve the right to make my own decision, but it’s always good to know what others think.

It is obvious to me that the RAW file out of the camera is worthless until all the flaws inherent in the technology are fixed. Most notable are the lack of DR, sharpness and saturation.

1. Here is a shot converted in ACR with zero adjustments using Adobe Standard profile. No NR, no Sharpening, no exposure adjustment, recovery. I also took this without any tilt, shift or filters. Just a straight image.

This image is flat, and soft and totally worthless as is. The overly cool WB from the camera AWB s also left as is. Note, the full size raw before downsizing is much softer looking.

2. First step is to fix the white balance in ACR. No other change from the first. A major improvement to my eyes.

3. Next I added my NR and sharpening routines. This starts with a very light NR (yes, I use NR even on perfectly exposed ISO100 shots). Then I do a capture sharp using a small feature Topaz. Then I use PK sharpener haze brush set to 25% using a brush to avoid the water. Finally I use Topaz 6,6,6 (small, medium large) globally. I upload all images to Smug Mug at full size and fully sharpened. SM does the final downsize and sharpening for WEB. I usually don’t do final sharpening until all color and saturation work is done, but for this sequence, I broke my rule.

4. The next step is to do some curves and establish a white and black point. I use 5,5,5 for black and 250,250,250 for white. I also use a green channel trick to get the greater light in that channel. This is what it looks like.

5. Then I add saturation. I convert to lab, set the mode to soft and convert back, simple as that. Here is the look.

6. Finally, my only real HDR thing and you will see it only makes a slight change by adding some pop and a bit more vibrance. I use Topaz Color pop at 50% in this case, but I normally use a slider and even 100% is not a big change.

I think my final image is pretty close to how I remember the scene and what an old Kodachrome would have looked like, although the slide film version would have been pretty short on DR, the rest would be similar.

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Ben

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