HDR  Photography  

Sashikanth  R  Chintla  

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HDR  Photography  
Short  tutorial  on  how  to  create  HDR  images  using  tools   like  Lightroom  and  Photomatix.  

Bridal  veil  Falls  –     Yosemite  National  Park  


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What  is  HDR?  
  HDR   means   High   Dynamic   Range.   It   is   used   in   modern   day   photography   to   capture   the   dynamic   range   of   the   scene   through  multiple  exposures  and  creating  a   single  image.  Dynamic  Range  refers  to  the   difference   between   the   lightest   and   darkest   areas,   which   cannot   be   captured   perfectly  by  a  single  exposure.     If   you   look   at   the   two   images   to   the   left,   image   on   the   top   is   single   exposure   (f4,   ISO   100,   46mm,   2sec)   you   will   end   up   when  you  take  a  single  well-­‐exposed  shot.   The   image   below   is   a   HDR   version   of   the   same   scene   achieved   through   5   exposures   (F4,  ISO  100,  46mm  {-­‐2  to  +2},  {.5,  1,  2,  4,  8   Sec).       Many   professionals   don’t   like   HDR,   it’s   a   personal   choice.   I   like   it   and   90%   of   my   photographs  are  HDR.  When  you  do  HDR   there   is   a   very   thin   line   between   a   good   HDR  and  a  bad  HDR,  if  the  images  are  not   processed   well   then   the   whole   purpose   of   creating  HDR  is  defeated  and  it  gives  a  un   natural  look.         There  are  many  articles  on  web  explaining   the   HDR   photography   and   how   to   create   one.  Ii  will  not  be  repeating  the  same  here.   I   will   be   explaining   my   Workflow   for   creating  a  HDR  image  and  the  tools  I  use.    

HDR  Photography  Process  
In   this   article   I   will   be   covering   the   following   steps,   which   are   used   by   me   to   create  the  HDR  photographs     • Capturing  the  image   • Light  room   • Photomatix  for  Tone  mapping   • Photoshop  for  final  output.    

Image  Capturing:  
A  Little  bit   about   my   gear   I   have   a   Nikon   D700  with  14-­‐24,  24-­‐70,  70-­‐200  F2.8  lenses,   Manfrotto   tripod.   I   always   shoot   my   photographs   using   the   tripod   (day   or   Night)     I   setup   my   camera   on   a   tripod   and   compose   the   scene,   turn   on   Auto   bracketing   for   taking   multiple   exposures,   select  the  lowest  ISO  to  reduce  noise,  Spot   focus   and   use   a   remote   cable   for   taking   the  shots.    I  normally  do  5  bracketed  shots   -­‐2  to  +2  and  when  shooting  a  sunrise  or  a   sunset   I   set   it   up   for   7-­‐bracketed   shots   -­‐3   to  +3.   Few   important   points   to   remember   when   taking  your  bracketed  shots     • • • Aperture  Priority  mode.   Shoot   in   RAW   instead   of   JPEG   if   possible.   Always  use  tripod.  

Middle  Exposure  

HDR  Version  

Nashville  Downtown     5  Exposure  taken  -­‐2  to  +2   merged  in  photomatix   and  cleaned  up  in   Photoshop.        

Some  cameras  allow  3  bracketed  shots  only,  to  take  5  do  a  set  of   3  shots  first  then  dial   the  exposure  to  -­‐1  and  then  take  3   more   shots   then   dial   the  exposure  to   +1  and  take  3  more  shots.   You   will   end   up   with   couple   of   duplicate   exposures,   which   can   be   discarded.    

In  the  develop  module  i  choose  the  images  that  will  be  used  to   create   the   HDR   image   and   do   some   basic   touch   up’s   on   each   image  before  exporting  them  to  Photomatix.  I  do  these  touch-­‐   up  only  on  few  photographs  that  might  require  and  not  on  all   the  photographs.   Some  of  the  sliders  I  normally  play  with  are  shown  in  the  right   hand  side  of  the  image.  I  dial  down  the  highlights  and  Whites   to  reduce  the  blown  out  areas  and  dial  up  shadows  and  Blacks   to   remove   the   shadows.   Increase   the   clarity   slider   to   improve   the  clarity  and  vibrance  for  the  color.  There  are  other  advanced   sliders   as   you   go   down   which   can   be   explored   as   per   your   creativity.    Once  the  corrections  are  made  I  drag  the  bracketed   shots  to  Photomatix  for  creating  the  HDR  image  

Light  Room:  
Images   are   downloaded   to   my   Lightroom   4.   I   first   do   a   selection   on   photographs   I   would   like   to   process   and   move   them   into   a   processing   folder.   When   you   shoot   the   photographs   in   RAW,   there   is   lot   of   room   to   play   around   in   Lightroom  that  is  not  possible  with  a  JPEG  image.        

Above   is  the  first  screen   that  pops  up   when   I   drag   the   photographs   into   Photomatix,   simple   select   the   Merge   for  HDR  processing  and  click  OK.  

Photomatix  Process    
I   use   Photomatix   pro   for   my   HDR   creations   (www.hdrsoft.com).   Above   is  the  set  of  6  Images  I  will  be  working   through  out  this  tutorial.  I  have  shot  7   images   -­‐3   to   +3   as   this   was   a   sunrise   shot,   +3   has   complete   blowout   sky   hence  I  will  use  -­‐3  to  +2.  What  you  are   seeing  above  is  the  0  exposure  with  -­‐1   and   -­‐2   on   left   and   +1   and   +2   to   the   right.   All   right   we   have   selected   our   images   to   process   now   lets   import   them  into  Photomatix.    


I  use  MAC  so  I  simple  select  the  RAW   photographs   and   drag   them   into   Photomatix.   You   can   also   import   them   by   opening   photomatix   and   clicking   on   load-­‐bracketed   photos,   select  the  images  you  want  to  process   from   the   folder   and   click   ok.   There  is   no   need   to   convert   the   RAW   to   JPEG   before  importing  into  photomatix.    

Next   we   get   the   processing   options   screen,   which   allows   us   to   make   selections   as   to   how   we   want   our   image  to  be  processed.  The  selections   vary  from  set  of  photographs  to  other.  

Align  Source  Images:   I   select   this   option   only   when   I   have   shot   my   photographs   hand   held,   this   option   gets   rid   of   the   misalignment   that   can   happen   when   you   do   hand   held  shots.     Remove  Ghosts   By   selecting   this   option   you   can   get   rid   of   any   ghosting   that   might   have   due   to   long   exposures.   Sometimes   ghosting   is  good   to  have   in   your  final   images.   Ghosting   can   be   removed   either   by   selection   automatically   which   will   work   on   entire   frame   or   with   selective   De   ghosting   tool   to   remove  a  certain  areas  of  the  frame       Reduce  Noise   99%   of   the   time   I   am   on   Tripod   with   low   ISO   so   noise   will   not   be   a   problem,  in  cases  where  there  is  noise   I   don’t   select   the   option   here   to   reduce  the  noise.  I  have  separate  noise   reduction  software,  which  I  use  on  the   final  image  if  required.     Reduce  Chromatic  Aberrations   I   normally   don’t   select   this   option   on   any   of   my   photographs,   if   you   feel   your   photographs   have   some   chromatic   aberrations   then   you   can   select     Raw  Conversion  Settings   I   do   not   select   anything   here,   will   leave   the   default   selection   and   click   on  preprocess  button.    



The  processing  of  HDR  image:   When   the   image   gets   loaded   into   photomatix,   sliders   used  on  the  last  processed  photograph  will  be  loaded  by   default.   I   click  on  the   default   button   below  to   bring   the   sliders   back   to   default   settings.   There   are   lots   of   sliders   to  play  around  and  at  times  it  can  get  confusing  too.  The   best  way  to  check  what  each  slider  does  is  to  make  wild   swings  on  the  slider  to  right  and  left  and  see  what  effect   is   happening   on   the   photograph.   I   will   speak   about   few   important   sliders   I   use   on   99%   of   the   photographs.   I   learnt  this  from  the  HDR  Guru  “Trey  Ratcliff”  and  if  you   are   looking   at   in-­‐depth   course   on   HDR   then   I   strongly   suggest   taking   his   11+   hour’s   downloadable   class   (http://www.stuckincustoms.com/hdr-­‐video-­‐tutorial)   on   HDR  Post  process  technics.     The   image   shown   above   is   with   default   settings   on   sliders  in  Photomatix.       Process   Tone  Mapping  Vs.  Exposure  Fusion,  I  have  used  both  but   my   personal   preference   is   towards   Tone   mapping   and   the  method  is  Details  Enhancer.  

Strength:   This  is  the  first  slider  I  u se  and  crank  it  up  all  the  way  to   100%,  at  times  I  will  dial  back  to  90,  85%.  But  by  default   it  will  be  100%  to  start  with.     White  &  B lack  Point   Next   i   play   around   with   the   White   and   black   point,   black   point   is   always   to   the   left,   bump   it   up   a   little   bit   and  adjust  the  whites  to  your  preference     Color  Saturation   After   playing   with   Black   and   white   adjust   the   color   slider.  The  effect  on   the   color  slider  is  different  if   done   after   adjusting   black   and   white   slider.   Increase   this   slider  to  pop  the  colors  but  not  over  saturate.  Always  do   wild   swings   instead   of   small   movements   to   see   the   effect.     Luminosity   I  set  it  up  anywhere  between  0  –  8  and  sometimes  to  the   max.   There   is   no   pre   set   level   that   can   be   applied   for   each  photograph.     Detail  Contrast   No   pre   set   level   for   this   slider   to   just   play   around   and   see  what  suits  to  your  image  and  select  it.     Lighting  Adjustments   This   slider   changes   the   light   in   the   photograph,   which   gives   a   POP   to   the   image.   Its   an   important   slider   that   can  change  the  final  look  of  the  image.     Lighting  Adjustments   These  are  pretty   much  the  sliders  I  play  around  mainly   and   sometimes   touch   the   temperature   slider   for   warm   or  cool  effect  and  Micro-­‐Smoothing  for  the  HDR  effect.   Rest   of   the   sliders   I   don’t   play   much   but   feel   free   to   explore.    
Note:  Every  image  needs  the  sliders  to  be  adjusted;  there  is  no  default  setting   that   can   be  applied   on  to   the   images.   The   more   you  process   the   better   you   become  at  creating  the  HDR  images.  

Final  Image   After  playing  around  with  the  slider  above  is  the  final  image  I  was  satisfied  with  and  click  on  process  and  save  the  image.  For  my  final  image  I  exported   this  to  Photoshop  and  corrected  some  of  the  blowout  yellow  and  cranked  up  the  reds  a  little  bit.     Hope  this  was  informational  check  out  for  my  daily  postings  at  https://www.facebook.com/sashikanthchintlaphotography  and  feel  free  to  contact  me   for  any  queries  or  for  some  more  advanced  post  processing  in  Photoshop.  I  am  posting  some  before  and  after  photographs  to  see  what  HDR  can  do.  







Sashikanth  R  Chintla   North  Brunswick,  NJ    


https://www.facebook.com/sashikanthchintlaphotography   http://www.chintlaphotography.com    


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