Before and After

Before and After

Before and After

It’s been too long since my last post!  Starting a new position (same Company) and the time change, and-and-and….  The extra time has allowed me to think this post through and hopefully it will help those interested in HDR.

The images above are of the same old truck, they were just processed differently and at different times.  The photo was taken at Bodie, a Ghost Town in California.  The only changes to the original below was to convert it from RAW to Jpeg and resizing.

Old Truck, Original, Sony NEX3

Overall, it’s not bad!  I used my Sony NEX3 for this and I think it handled the overhead harsh light quite nicely.  The settings I used were Aperture Priority, f/5.0, 1/500 sec., ISO 200.  I exaggerated the angle of the truck to give it a low to high perspective and a unique non-traditional point of view.

At the time I made this image, I was just getting interested in HDR photography, but didn’t really know much about it.  My thoughts were to make things as “grungy” as possible.  So, I really worked this old truck.  Since this was a single RAW file, I need to use it as a base to create the extra exposures needed for processing (Pseudo HDR).  It’s actually pretty easy to do, using programs such as Adobe’s Camera RAW or Lightroom (or several others).  Below is a screenshot of the Old Truck in Camera RAW:

Old Truck in Camera RAW

As you can see in the image above, there are quite a few adjustments you can make prior to exporting the image to your photo editor (Photoshop in my case).  The most important one to the Pseudo HDR process is the “Exposure” slider.  The exposure is currently “0”, meaning this is exactly as it was recorded in the camera.  The beauty of using RAW is being able to make adjustments to previous camera settings.  The RAW file could be considered a Digital Negative.  Click on this link to read more about RAW files.

Change the exposure in any increment you’d like + or – up to 2 stops, saving each increment as another image file.  I like to use Tiff files at this stage of the game.  You can create as many as you’d like, but for me I usually do them 1 stop apart both + and -, with 5 total images to work with.

Next, import all of your images into Photomatix or your favorite HDR processing program.  Below is a screenshot of the images merged for tone mapping in Photomatix:

Tone Mapping in Photomatix

If you compare the original RAW image to the one being tone mapped in Photomatix, you’ll already notice improvements in color, clarity, and shadow detail.  And another area of improvement is the white puffy clouds.  They seem to have more pronounced detail without being over done.

Another thing to notice in the Photomatix screen shot are all of the adjustment slider on the left and some of the presets on the right.  This is where you can either keep it real or in some cases, over-cook an image.  Since this isn’t a tutorial on using Photomatix, I’ll keep it short and say that I now stay away from the presets, and simply adjust the sliders until I get close to what I’m looking for.  Once the tone mapping process is done, you can save your newly merged and tone mapped image and bring it into your favorite photo editor for some final tweaks.

The image below is what the truck looked like after some heavy handed Photoshop adjustments:

Old Truck in Photoshop

Is there anything really wrong with this version of the Old Truck?  No, not really.  It boils down to personal taste.  While I was pleased with it at the time, I’m no longer interested in over doing the HDR, preferring instead to keep things somewhat real.

Here’s a short run-down of my “keeping it real” process.  I imported a version of the Old Truck into Photoshop that had some of the original features I wanted to retain, in this case it would be the sky.

Next, I copied that image, and pasted it into my work-in-progress as another layer.  Finally, I added a layer mask, picked a paint brush from the tools and painted away the parts of the image I wanted to keep the HDR look and left out the parts I wanted to keep real.  Here’s a screenshot of what that looked like in Photoshop:

Old Truck, Layers and Masks

There are already a lot of great tutorials on-line so I’m not going to go into specific detail.      If you like to actually see someone demonstrating this technique, I suggest going to Youtube and doing a search.  You’ll find more short videos on this subject than you may care to watch.

The main thing to know about using layers and masks is that you have the ability to blend in any part of one image with any other part of a separate image.  The possibilities are only limited by your imagination.

And finally, here’s my newly re-processed version of the Old Truck:

Old Truck, Final version

Personally, I like this version much more than my original attempt.  It has both HDR elements that add some great texture and detail in the shadow areas, and just a touch of grunge without over doing it.  The other thing I like is the sky.  It’s much more real than my 1st version.  The clouds are puffy and slightly dreamy looking, not harsh and over done.

That’s it for this post!  Don’t be bashful, share your thoughts, questions, or comments.

Until next time, Happy Shooting!