HDR advice.... tips and suggestions for my D600 and braketing for HDR

Started Feb 24, 2013 | Discussions thread
Maciej K
Maciej K Regular Member • Posts: 270
Re: HDR advice.... tips and suggestions for my D600 and braketing for HDR

lukep wrote:

Hi all, in my quest to find some good ND filters I ran into HDR software. Wow its actually sort of fun. I am testing Photomatix, what are you tips on how to get real looking images out of this.

With my D600 and the great detail in the shadows i am getting good results, but I have to lift the shadows sooooo much that i get noise and loose detail. So maybe HDR will help?

Do you shoot and import RAW images into photomatix? or do you convert them to JPG first? Do you then export as TIF and process from there?

Do you bracket by 2 or 3 stops? Does it even make a difference to shoot 5 shots or is three fine?

What settings to get the most realistic photos? do you just use their "default" image setting?

Speed is important, i dont like to waste time processing images. Any tips for making this fast and easy? I still think shooting one shot raw and finding some good ND grads might be faster but does not work in all settings

Below is what i am shooting and getting now. I usually expose for the sky and pull up shadows and I am happy with the results but still looking for better shadow results while maintaining the sky. Thanks for any help!

I've been using Photomatix for a few years for HDRs, here's my typical workflow:

I find that shooting with a grad ND greatly improves the naturalness of the HDR.  Any good grad ND will work (I use Lee system), don't worry about matching the stop difference between sky and ground, that's what the HDR is for, to speed the whole process up.  Just install a grad ND, snap bracketed photos and move on.

I bracket 5 photos (better to do 5 instead of 3, you can always delete ones you don't need but you can't retake them if you need more).

Always shoot raw.  Sync the white balance across the photos using adobe camera raw and export the raw riles as ProPhoto .psd files, then load .psd into photomatix.  Don't compress into jpg until the last step.  Jpgs are 8-bit compressed, you're trying to increase the detail, not compress and lose it, so stick with 14 or 16-bit files (raw, tiff, psd) when blending.

To do an effective job using just one raw file you need a good selection of grad NDs, this can get expensive and involves metering ground and sky separately, time consuming.

The most time consuming step is usually the tone mapping, that's where the naturalness must take place, and it's hard to know whether it's natural or not until you process the tone-mapped image.

Export the tone-mapped image as tiff (16-bit) never jpg.  Again, you're trying to preserve/increase details, not destroy them through compression, that's the whole point of HDR.

Then I process the tone-mapped tiff in adobe lightroom and photoshop and adjust for colors, curves, sharpness, etc.  Then, when all the editing is done, I export as jpg.  Don't edit photos in jpg.  If you want detail in shadows and highlights, stay with 16-bit images as long as much as possible.

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