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HDR Tutorial

Discussion in 'Photography Forum' started by Supersonic, Dec 15, 2010.

  1. Supersonic

    Supersonic Whitby Bass Club

    Finally got a bit of time to sort it out over last couple of nights, so here we go.

    Hopefully this will be fairly simple, and will encourage you all to give it a go. It's really not that difficult. Apologies if any of it is 'too simple' to anyone, I just want to make it as straightforward as possible!

    All you require is:

    * Something which shoots in .raw format

    * A tripod - the sturdier the better

    * Photomatix (pro is recommended)

    * Photoshop - recommended, but elements will be fine - and you can get decent results with the free programs widely available such as paint.net

    * Noise reduction software - pretty important, I use noiseware which I find very good

    * Extra detail enhancers such as Lucisart and Topaz Adjust are optional


    Got that? Good, let's crack on!

    REMEMBER AT ALL TIMES THAT THE SETTINGS AND NUMBERS I USE ON THIS IMAGE WILL CHANGE EVERYTIME, IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE IMAGE. SO ALWAYS USE THE ADJUSTMENTS YOU THINK LOOK BEST.

    I'm gonna start off a few steps ahead, this will become clear in a sec. After the image was processed to HDR in Photomatix, I was getting the following horrible colour cast:

    [​IMG]

    This can happen when the program doesn't fully function with new .RAW formats sometimes present on newer camera models. I simply used Adobe's free .DNG converter to convert the .RAW files (takes a few seconds) and was then ready to go.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    So open up the folder containing your soon to be HDR'd images, and drag and drop them into Photomatix.

    [​IMG]

    Next you'll be asked what you want to do, select as shown below and click OK.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    You'll then be faced with some fairly self explanatory options, I actually changed them slightly from this screenshot and forgot to replace it! I used 'moving objects/people' rather than 'background movement'.

    Chromatic aberrations are the 'purple fringing' or colour casts you sometimes get around the edge of objects in photos that you can often only see when you zoom right in. 'Ghosting' is the blur caused by the movement of objects in your image.

    [​IMG]

    Again click OK and Photomatix will the whirr away for a minute or two, before you're greeted with a merged image. Remember, it's not tone mapped yet, so don't be too alarmed if it doesn't look how you'd expect!

    Click 'Tone Mapping' and before you know it, a more familiar HDR looking image is in front of you - and this is where the fun begins. A lot of trial and error over the next few minutes will get you a nice result.

    [​IMG]

    Now you can start to decide on the look you want your image to have. Turning up the 'strength' slider will make it look more HDR-esque for want of a better phrase, whereas turning it down will make it look more like your original. I tend to keep it around 50 - 70, unless halos or very dark clouds are becoming a problem - in which case I'll go a little lower. 'Halos' for the record are the fringing bits of brightness you tend to get around object, especially when you are shooting something with the sun behind it. Strength set to 100 and strength set to 0 are shown below.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Don't get giddy with the higher contrast the strength slider can give, the time will come for extra contrast. I often keep the colour saturation low (around 50) because Photomatix has a little habit of slightly altering this during the final saving of the tone mapped file. I much prefer to sort it out in Photoshop later. I don't really play with the micro contrast slider too much, and I prefer to sort out luminosity in PS later on, although by moving the slider its effects are obvious.

    Next comes the 'smoothing slider' In this version you can also choose to use a 'lite' version, which is essentially the same as earlier versions of the program, where you just have five options rather than a slider. For fine tuning you can use the slider if available on your version.

    Here the basic rule is that the less smoothing, the more pronounced the classic 'HDR effect' I'll never venture below the middle setting, as this often looks ridiculous, and rarely use the highest as the effect isn't pronounced enough for my liking. The thing to remember is that every image is different and as such you must think how you want it tolook and play it by ear. The shots below demonstrate my point, showing minimum and maximum smoothing

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Here I choose to go for 'mid' as i like the extra bit of cloud pop I get over 'high'. Now to move onto Black and white point. Again these are easily sorted in PS later, so i tend to leave my white point around .250, and just a little black upto .10. You can obviously play around with these, but the most important thing is to remember that your processing will not finish in Photomatix. For me the main goal here is getting the HDR effect right and making sure you can clearly see the detail you want to see. brightness, contrast, saturation etc will all come later.

    As it was early morning, and the colour of the shot wasn't look too cracking with all the snow I bumped up the 'saturation highlights' a little, just to give me a little more to work with later.

    I put 'micro smoothing' to 0 (this helps enhance the 'HDR effect in a subtle way) and eave it at that. Normally I slide around with the 'highlights smoothing' which helps turn big fluffy black clouds into nice white ones etc. Here it didn't have much effect due to the sun's position and low light. You can see the changes to the sliders on the left in the image below.

    [​IMG]

    That's it for now - click 'process' and you're done, phase 1 over. You might be thinking it's not changed much - but the fine tuning which really defines the image is coming up.

    Once processed, just click the 'x' in the top right corner of the image and it will ask you to save. Just click OK again and it will now be in the same folder you started off with, the place you dragged the .RAW files from. It will now be a JPEG.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Drag and drop the JPEG into your photo editing program, and the fine tuning can begin. Here I will show you how I use Photoshop to finish the image off.

    First stop is removing the bit of corruption in the clouds. This is a fairly uncommon occurance, caused by their movement. More often you will have spots of dust from the sensor showing up and they can be removed in the same way. select 'healing brush', then hold down 'alt' and click a spot next the the repair area, with similar colour and picture it. All you then need to do is click on your repair and voila.

    [​IMG]

    Next I'll give it a bit of detail enhancement with Lucisart. As I said at the start this is by no means compulsory, but I like the effect it gives.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Now onto the main stuff. Click 'Image', then 'Adjustments' in the top toolbar. Here the full range of options for getting the image right are available. There will be similar options on other photo editing software.

    First I give the brightness and contrast a little work over.

    [​IMG]

    Then 'levels'. this is similar to 'white and black point' on photomatix.

    [​IMG]

    Next I turn up the vibrance and saturation, which I deliberately left low in Photomatix

    [​IMG]

    Using selective colour, I add magenta to the yellow colours in the image, giving a nicer, softer and more orange sun.

    [​IMG]

    Now, due to the low sun, the snow is looking blue. But I don't want that. I can make alterations to certain parts of the image only, but using a layer mask.

    By right clicking, you can turn the background layer into a normal layer, then you need to duplicate it. This will be your masked layer. Following the instructions on the slides below will help you.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Now to apply the mask. Click on the layer you want, then click 'Layer' in the top toolbar and then 'Layer mask'. Take the black brush, and simply using the paint tool paint the areas you don't want to be visible black. You can check your progress by hiding the original layer beneath it by clicking on the eye to the left of it in the layers section. Be sure to use a fairly soft brush as shown below, I used 50%. this avoids giving sharp adges to your mask and instead gives soft ones which blend with the layer below.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Now you're done, make sure the layer with the mask is on top of the other. now you can select the other layer, and the only changes you will see are the ones in the layer underneath. But because the top half of the layer on top is hiding the top half of the layer below you'll only see changes in the bottom half of the layer below when it is selected.

    As such I can go back to selective colour and take all the black out of the blue and cyan, to give me lovely white snow.

    [​IMG]

    I can now merge the layers back into one for further editing by right clicking one and selecting 'merge visible'

    By clicking on 'image' again at the top, I can now make my final adjustment - shadows and highlights, which can add to the HDR effect if you wish, or at least increase detail in the shadows if anything's a bit underexposed.

    [​IMG]

    Last job is Noiseware, to get rid of any noise caused during the HDR merging.

    [​IMG]

    That's it done. I love clicking back on the first step of the history and then back to the finish to see the transformation.

    [​IMG]

    So there you go, that's it.

    Even without the advanced options of Photoshop, I hope people will be able to pick relevant parts to them out of this tutorial, and hopefully make sense of it!

    If anyone can think of any changes or additions to the tutorial please post them and I will update it.

    Kev
     
  2. mattylamb

    mattylamb Rockling

    excellent Stuff Kev. A very comprehensive tutorial. I knew a lot of it but some of the stuff with layers and masks is something I haven't had a lpay with so that will come in very useful.. thanks
     
  3. richie7

    richie7 Blenny

    Wow, thanks Kev that's going to take some digesting!
     
  4. Supersonic

    Supersonic Whitby Bass Club

    The layers and masks can really make a photo mate. They really can make an incredible difference.

    Good luck with the digestion Rich, just go through an image of yours step by step and you'll have it in no time I promise
     
  5. Baramundi Bob

    Baramundi Bob Super Leeds United !!!

    Thanks Kev, Im really looking forward to having a crack. Just need to work out how to use my camera now.
     
  6. Supersonic

    Supersonic Whitby Bass Club

    Just realised from reading that Glenn that I didn't mention how to take them in the tutorial. All I do for landscape shots is put it in manual mode, set aperture to f9 and then vary shutter speed to change the exposure. Piss easy.
     
  7. Baramundi Bob

    Baramundi Bob Super Leeds United !!!

    What 3 shutter speeds do you use ?
     
  8. Supersonic

    Supersonic Whitby Bass Club

    Well mate it all depends on the light, it'll change everytime. On the sony there's an indicator of how under or over exposed the shot will be on the screen, so I basically speed up shutter speed till the meter is showing +2, then slow it to 0, then slow it again to -2. Alternatively you can use aperture mode on the cam, f9 is normally around the sweet spot of the lens, then use the exposure compensation option on the camera. Upto you but the aperture needs to stay fixed otherwise you'll have shots with different depths of field and it'll get messy. Another tip for getting them sharp is to autofocus on the subject then set it to manual to prevent the camera from re focussing
     
  9. mattylamb

    mattylamb Rockling

    I tend to use Av mode Glenn (aperture Priority usually set at F9 - F11 depending on the scene and use the bracketing function on the camera to do 3 exposures (I vary this but usually -2, 0 and +2).

    I usually set it up, set the timer and set it off then it takes the 3 pictures one after another with the different exposures. the good thing about this is they are taken quickly after one another , meaning things like clouds dont have a chance to move far between shots. If I want to take more exposures I will set the compensation manually
     
  10. Supersonic

    Supersonic Whitby Bass Club

    Yeah it's a big advantage if your camera can bracket +/-2! Mine only does +/-0.7 which is why I do it manually
     
  11. harrythecod

    harrythecod Rockling

    Very nice Kev :yes: there are a couple of things there that i had forgot about after your last visit ,
    but that stuff you done with the snow ,layers and mask, brill, next time i am out i will take a simple photo and have another play about,

    think my camera has two brackett settings +/-2 and +/-0.7

    it would be great if a few of us novices had a go and all put our photo up for comparison,
    maybee explain to each other how we got our effect . :yes:
     
  12. Supersonic

    Supersonic Whitby Bass Club

    Superb idea Harry. Everyone should give it a go and post the results, then any problems they come across put them up and between us we'll be able to answer them. Are you sure your camera can do +/-2 exposure bracketing?? Cos my a450 sure as hell doesn't :sad: Would make things a lot easier, especially in locations where you can easily move the tripod if you're not careful by having to adjust settings manually.

    I'm really looking forward to the results as there's some really good photographers on here :yes:
     
  13. harrythecod

    harrythecod Rockling

     
  14. harrythecod

    harrythecod Rockling

    Just had a look again Kev
    when i scroll to brc it comes up 0.7 then i scroll right on the disp and i can get 0.3 :yes:

    my camera is the a330
     
  15. mattylamb

    mattylamb Rockling

    here's one I did a few weeks back , it's from Virginia water in Windsor great park.

    I dont have any ND filters (Yet) so I waited till the light was going fast before taking the shots so I could get the water effect with a long exposure without overexposing. I didnt have my tripod with me either so rested the camera on top of a sign. Set it up as follows:

    Tv (Shutter Priority) set at 3 seconds
    AEB (Auto exposure Bracketing) set at -2 , 0 and +2.

    Created the HDR in photomatix and adjusted a few things in Picassa. I also cropped it a bit to get a bit closer. I'm hoping to do a few more soon but I'm waiting for a new Lens to come. Constructive criticism welcome!

    [​IMG]
     
  16. harrythecod

    harrythecod Rockling

    Looks ok to me :yes: did you change contrast or tone with picasa.
     
  17. mattylamb

    mattylamb Rockling

    just a touch harry
     
  18. Sambo

    Sambo To the MAX!

    Thought the best method was to rest it on electric fencing Matty like at the Mull :whistle: :laugh:
     
  19. Supersonic

    Supersonic Whitby Bass Club

    :laugh:

    No mate your pic's seriously really nice
     
  20. mattylamb

    mattylamb Rockling

    :laugh: i was mesmerised by busters gonads at the time :laugh:
     

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