Tag Archives: Photomatix

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!

To HDR or Not HDR…

As many of you know, I’ve really gotten the HDR bug.  But there are times when I wonder if I’ve overcooked an image.  Today was one of those times.  Here’s what I’m talking about.

Silver Lake, HDR

Above – HDR image of Silver Lake, taken with my Sony NEX3, processed in Photomatix and Photoshop CS6.

After I finished processing the image above, I posted it on my Facebook page, and then to Google +.  The reception was ok.  Sometimes it’s hard to tell if people are just being polite or they really like what’s posted.  The reason I’m bringing this up is because I personally wasn’t thrilled with this shot.  It’s hard to put my finger on it, but it just seems a little too realistic.  Everything is sharp, contrasty, and vivid.  Doesn’t it seem strange that I think it could be better without the HDR effects?

Back to the drawing board!  Here’s the original image:

Silver Lake, original ooc image

Above – Original image, out of the camera except for resizing and watermark, from my Sony NEX3.

As you can see, the original image leaves a lot to be desired.  The lighting is flat and uninteresting.  There’s also not a lot of contrast or sharpness, but some of this is due to the way I have the camera set.  I typically use minimal in-camera enhancements, preferring to make the adjustments on the computer (my personal preference).

Just in case you’re wondering, the settings on my NEX3 are:

  • f/5.0
  • 1/30th second
  • ISO 250
  • Auto White Balance

Instead of running multiple images (with different exposures) through Photomatix for HDR processing, I brought the original image into Photoshop CS6 and adjusted the contrast, sharpness, color saturation, and gave it a subtle vignette.  Here’s the result:

Silver Lake, Non-HDR

Above – single image from Sony NEX3, processed in Photoshop CS6, non-HDR.

I really think the image above is better than the HDR version at the top of this post.  The differences are subtle, but enough to change the feeling I get when I look at it.  The non-HDR version seems to better reflect my memory of that warm, beautiful morning when I was out for one of my many walks along the lake’s shoreline (with my 2 Cairn Terriers of course).

That’s it for now, until next time – Happy Shooting!

Pseudo HDR – Revisited

Pseudo HDR is a variation of the HDR process that I’ve discussed in previous posts.  Lately, I’ve had the occasion to refine my technique.  Instead of waiting until the end of this post to show the result, I’ll show you now:

M3 Tank, Pseudo HDR

Above – M3 Tank, Pseudo HDR, processed from a single RAW image.

The image above is from this single RAW file below (converted to .jpeg for this post):

M3 Tank, Original

Above – Original image, Olympus E-P3 RAW file.

To begin, a definition of what the heck pseudo HDR is would be in order.  Pseudo HDR is the process of taking a single RAW image, and creating several additional images from the original.

Why would you want to do this when it seems simple enough to have your camera bracket 3 images (+1 and -1 f-stop from the original)?  There are many reasons, including not having a tripod available, moving subjects, or even having a camera without the ability to bracket shots.

Once you have your single RAW image, you can begin processing.  In fact, having a RAW file is essential (I suppose you could use a .jpeg file but your results may not be as good).  With a RAW file, you have enough data to create multiple images with varying exposures from +2 to -2 f-stops.  I don’t want to get into a discussion of what’s better, RAW or Jpeg. If you’re interested in that just do a search and you’ll find plenty of opinions, I’m just offering mine, based on my experience.

The screen shot below is an example of Camera RAW and the options available.  While there are other options such as LightRoom, I prefer to use Photoshop and Camera RAW.

Camera Raw Screenshot

Above – Camera RAW screen shot, note the arrow pointing to the Exposure slider.

In the photo above, the arrow points to the Exposure slider.  You can use that to adjust your exposure + or – up to 2 f-stops.  After you make the adjustment, click on the “Open Objects” button on the bottom.  This will open the image in Photoshop where you can save each file.  I like to save each adjusted file in the .Tiff format.

Now that you have 3 files of varying degrees of exposure, you’re ready to begin processing.  I like to use Photomatix, but there are other options.  Since this isn’t a discussion of further processing, I’ll leave that topic for another time.  Suffice it to say that you can spend a lot of time adjusting and tweaking.  What I will do is point you to a great website for everything HDR – HDR One

One last image to share, this is the same M3 Tank as the one at the beginning of this post but converted to black & white (another photography passion of mine).

M3 Tank, Black and White

Hopefully you can see that the possibilities are endless!  All you need to do to get started is to get yourself some images (RAW format images).  So get busy!

To close, I’d like to offer my services.  If you have an image in RAW format and would like to see what could be done using the pseudo HDR technique discussed in the post, let me know.  I can use it to share with others and would post the process step by step.

Until next time, Happy Shooting!