The Art of HDR Photography Part 4: HDR Workflow
2 The Art of HDR Photography Part 4
Although all tone-mapping tools perform the same basic tasks,
- Lower global contrast
- Compensate the flattened look by adding local contrast,
they all produce very different looks. Why? It's all about the handling of what they consider to be 'local' and how they handle edges. All these tools use sophisticated algorithms to attempt to optimize how they deal with edges and how they define 'local' for adding contrast, but they all work differently and as such produce different results. There are no objective criteria to judge the results. It is often simply a matter of your personal preferences. This means that unfortunately we can't save you the work; you'll need to find the tools you like yourself: We just present the alternatives. All tools mentioned here have trial version, so you can experiment and test them with your own images.
We are also not going into detail about all the different parameters, as this can be found in the product manuals.
Tone-Mapping Tools we use
There are three ways to access Photoshop CS5's tone-mapping:
- During the Merge to HDR process. Read our comments why do not recommend this. If you are in a hurry you may save a few clicks though.
- Converting your image from 32 bit to 16 bit. This always involves a tone-mapping step.
3. Keeping the image in 32 bits and use Image->Adjustments->HDR Toning.
All these functions allow actually 4 different tone-mapping methods:
|CS5 tone-mapping operators|
For our purposes only two of them are really relevant.
Exposure and Gamma
We only use Exposure 0 and Gamma 1. This just reduces the bit depth without real tone-mapping.
This method is needed if you want to convert an image to 16 bits but you already did the tone-mapping using other methods (Photoshop HDR toning or with a 3rd party Tone-Mapping plugins).
In our opinion this is a quite complex dialog because many of the sliders interact with each other. Once you found some good settings you should save them as a new preset. The Local Adaptation options are beyond the scope of this article; if you want to know more you should check out Photoshop CS5's help files. Most of the time we prefer to use other HDR tools for tone-mapping.
Photomatix Pro is kind of the 'classic' HDR tool, and some think it produces a distinctive 'Photomatix Look', though these are images processed using Photomatix in a certain way. The Photomatix tone-mapping dialog seems quite complex at first because the settings also interact. Again it is advised to save settings as new presets. Once you start from presets the handling gets much easier. Photomatix's system of presets works very well.
Photomatix has many unique features, such as extensive batch processing and 360 degree panorama support.
There is also a Tone-mapping plugin for CS5 called Tone Mapping that works like Photomatix.
Unified Color HDR Express and Expose
We find the results from HDR Express very good (often looking what some would call “natural”). It is also the easiest to use tool we present. The more advanced tool HDR Expose will likely inherit some of the new features of Express.
At first glance HDR Expose seems complicated but once you understand the basics it is quite easy to use (read again our tone-mapping principles using HDR Expose in the Dynamic Range chapter.
Unified Color also produces a CS5 plugin “Float 32” that has about the same features as HDR Expose.
Nik Software HDR Efex Pro
|HDR Efex Pro|
We use HDR Efex Pro mainly as a CS5 plugin. HDR Efex Pro has more options than any other HDR tools, which makes it very powerful but also complex. We use it mainly to create a specific 'look' for our images, and for this we love HDR Efex Pro (see later in this chapter). The preset system in HDR Efex Pro makes this tool more accessible and our advice would be that you explore all the presets first.
Because Photoshop CS5 allows you to perform multiple different tone-mapping operations on the same HDR image (using the same or even different HDR tools) it is possible to organize these results as layers and blend the results using masks. For our work we only experimented with this option but is can be very useful at times.
Adding a “HDR Look”
Images like this one are often called to have the HDR or Grunge look :
The interesting point is that the above photo is not a HDR photo; some would call it a 'single photo HDR'. Why is this look associated with HDR? Many HDR photos shown on the web have the following properties:
- High Saturation
- Strong local contrast
This look polarizes people. Some love it, and some hate it (calling it 'over-cooked'). We have no firm opinion, as we think it sometimes works for our taste and sometimes it does not. One thing is for sure HDR would be far less popular without this look. All HDR tools can produce such a look from real HDR photos or single shots. The most choices offers Nik Software’s HDR Efex Pro.
As a consequence we actually split the process into two parts:
- Creating a kind of “normal/natural” looking tone-mapped HDR photo
- Adding a look later (also used for single exposures like in our example above)
In our sample image the look works very well to emphasize the gritty look of rusty and old objects. Grunging a Ferrari may not look that interesting unless you were using it in a more humorous way. It always depends on your vision
Here is another example.
We think this image looks nice and would not need any improvements. We still created a different look in HDR Efex Pro.
|Added 'HDR' Look|
Does it look better? That's simply not the point. It looks different because we created a different mood. The first version shows the realistic beauty of the plane and the second version looks more like from a fairy-tale.
Here is our first ever “Grunge” photo and still one we like the most.
This is from a real HDR sequence and at its core was created by double tone-mapping in Photomatix Pro. Is it over-cooked? You bet, but that is the whole point. Realistic representation was not our goal (during the editing process we also added some Texture Blending to it).
Post Processing of HDR Images
We hardly ever consider the editing work finished once we have performed the tone-mapping. We just mention the next editing steps without going into the details because these are general editing techniques (the general workflow is covered here). We always work in Photoshop for the final optimization step.
- Crop & Straighten
- Perspective Corrections
- Cloning, Healing and Content-Aware Fill (in Photoshop CS5)
- Global tonal corrections
- Global color tuning
- Selective tonal and color corrections
- Adding a look (see previous section)
This is an edited version of the first chapter of an ongoing work by Uwe Steinmueller of Digital Outback Photo, featuring his personal experiences of HDR photography, and will eventually form the basis of a book on the art of HDR photography. If you'd like to find out more about digital imaging workflow from a fine art photographer's perspective then check out the Digital Outback Photo E-book, 'The Digital Photography Workflow Handbook (2010)', by Uwe Steinmueller and Juergen Gulbins, which covers the complete digital photography workflow from input to output. The 540 page prize-winning handbook covers everything from Import to Print (and even backup) and also features Photoshop and Lightroom techniques, HDR, color management and raw editing.
Also check out our Photoshop processing scripts here.
© 2010, www.dpreview.com & Uwe Steinmueller.
Jun 18, 2014
Jun 18, 2014
Jun 18, 2014
Jun 18, 2014
If you were disappointed by reports that the Sony a9 struggles with adapted Canon glass, you might be able to take some comfort from Metabones' latest update.
Blackmagic Design has dropped the prices of its Video Assist external monitor/recorders for a limited time. Prices of the SD card-based recorders will be reduced in all markets, while supplies last.
Instagram has started testing a new feature called 'favorites' that enables users to share photos with only certain people. Only a small number of users have access to the feature at this time, though it may roll out to everyone in the future.
Lensbaby has announced the Velvet 85 F1.8 for interchangeable lens cameras. The lens is available in Canon, Nikon, Sony E, Sony A, Pentax K, Samsung NX, Fuji X and Micro 4/3 mounts.
It's the end of an era. Parent company Micron has announced that they are discontinuing the Lexar retail brand. This includes 'memory cards, USB flash drives, readers, and storage drives.'
Youthful trainspotter turned adult photographer, John Sanderson has traveled across the United States, documenting the country's railroads. But you won't find any trains in his pictures.
Sony's new CMOS sensor is backside-illuminated and offers an all-pixel global reset function which should drastically reduce rolling shutter effect when panning.
Shoulderpod has converted its offerings into a lego-like modular system by offering all individual parts of existing products separately, allowing users to build exactly the rig they need for a specific project or simply replace a damaged part.
Photographer Felix AAA has spent the past ten years touring the world with a variety of musicians, capturing behind the scenes shots and portraits. He talks about some of his favorite images on the FujiFilm Blog.
A roll of film discovered in an Argus C2 from an Oregon Goodwill turned out to contain some incredible images – and has been re-united with the original owner's family.
Nikon's 28mm F1.4E ED appears to roundly complete the company's updated lineup of fast, professional prime lenses. We've already seen some initial images from a Nikon ambassador, but we've worked through a gallery of our own, with a lens of our own over the past week. Take a look.
Google is holding a competition that could see your Pixel photos gracing millions of screens.
Nikon's 100th birthday party continues worldwide as a distributor in Italy organized a one-of-a-kind feat: assembling the world's largest 'human camera' from over a thousand volunteers.
Ricoh has dropped the price of its Theta SC 360 spherical camera by to $199, a reduction of roughly $50. The camera features two 12MP sensors and can record Full HD video in addition to stills.
Photojournalist Pete Souza served as the presidential photographer for both Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama. In an interview with fellow photographer Marcia Nighswander, he discusses several of his most noteworthy images.
Photographer Michael Wolf has been documenting the crowded conditions of Tokyo's subway trains since the 1990s. The photos have gone viral regularly in the years since he started the project, and he just published the final edition in the series.
The just-launched OnePlus 5 is getting a minor update that should improve camera function.
A Belgian camera shop is showing off an extremely rare, limited 'Rex Edition' Nikon D500. The cosmetic alterations were provided by a customer's German Shepherd Rex, who got ahold of the camera within a day of its purchase.
Adobe says that many of its users have been relying on SkyBox for VR editing and it therefore made sense to make the plug-ins available to all subscribers through Creative Cloud.
The Pictar grip provides a number of customizable physical controls for your iPhone camera, but at its price point we would like to see better materials and build quality.
Peak Design's 'consider every detail' approach shines in the Everyday Backpack. While expensive, it's one of the best options out there for a photographer who needs to pack a lot of stuff in addition to gear.
If you're thinking of using Canon's sports glass on the Sony a9, think again. The ultra-fast camera slows way down when you attach off-brand glass.
The Polish town of Katowice is not famed as an area of beauty, but as all photographers know, that doesn't mean that beauty can't be found if you look in the right places. Mariusz Pietranek used a drone to look down on the colorful sedimentation tanks at an ironworks.
New York Times video journalist Ben Solomon spent a harrowing three weeks accompanying Iraqi Major Sajjad al-Hour as he and his men fought to retake Mosul from I.S. forces.
The 3D VR camera launched through a crowdfunding campaign in 2015 goes on sale beginning June 26.
Noctilucent clouds, a crescent moon and Venus were visible in the pre-dawn sky over Budapest yesterday. Photographer György Soponyai captured NASA's astronomy picture of the day.
Squirming pets won't sit still for photos? A Kickstarter campaign is looking to help.
Find out how Chris Burkard shifted from editorial photography to his true passions: landscapes, conservation and, of course, surfing.
The updated EyeEm app scans your camera roll and picks images that are composed particularly well, have the best quality, or highest chance of selling on EyeEm Market.
It's three years old but still a solid option for a Micro Four Thirds shooter looking for a high-quality, fast, wide-angle prime. Take a look at how we got along with it.