Photoshop Tutorials

HDRi Photography Part 2–Post Processing

HDRi Photography Part 2–Post Processing

So here is the second part to my Photoshop tutorials for HDRi Photography. You can check out the introduction here: Photoshop Tutorial: HDRi Photography Part 1 – Preparation.

I captured some behind the scenes video and pictures from my Morant Point Lighthouse Flickr Trip just to make the tutorial complete. I usually use Photomatix but for this tutorial set I’ll be using Nik Software HDR Efex Pro. Its easier to get the results you want and they have more presets to play around with. Now onto the fun part.

I have my camera (Canon 5D with the 14mm f/2.8 LII) setup on my trusty Velbon DF-50 Tripod and I took 3 exposures. In general I would consider this shot a bit too busy for my taste and would have preferred the boat without the covering. Not my boat, not my area so I’ll take it as it is.
HDR Photography Setup with Camera on Tripod
Here is what they look like straight out of the camera from -2, 0, +2. If the sun was brighter/harsher I would have gone for more exposure information and maybe shot an extra -4 and +4. Notice really nice cloud detail with the -2 Exposure and better Midtone detail of the boat with the +2 Exposure. Click on the image for a bigger resolution.
HDRi Tutorial Exposures
Now it doesn’t matter which program you use, most of them offer the same functions. Now that I’m in HDR Efex Pro I’ll go to “Open Exposure Series”. Now here is what it looks like with the default settings. The rest is now up to personal taste. Some may want the more natural look and some may wanna go with over dramatic. I usually play around with the presets until it looks as close to how I want it and then tweak those settings after to get it more refined to my taste.

After playing around with presets and re-adjusting some of the sliders/functions for about 3 minutes here’s what I got.

Now Save the image as a TIFF file. The whole purpose of HDRi is getting a higher dynamic range image and more resolution packed in so your gonna want to save it as the best/lossless format to preserve the quality. Now I’m gonna fire up Photoshop and load in the TIFF file to put on the finishing touches.

First thing I’ll do is to clean up the image, using the patch tool to clean up any sensor dust and I peeked and saw a couple Flickrites in the photo that were cloned out.
I usually work with a couple layers and recently I’m going for a more natural look. For me, texture looks better for old buildings, boats or anything in general that tends to depict a lot of detail. The extra texture that you get when using HDRi usually looks less flattering on skin (coal miner look or adds on 10 years) and usually gives clouds too much character/noise that I would want. Like I said its all up to your personal taste and the effect your going for.

So below I’m working with 2 Layers, the background Layer is the HDRi image and the Top Layer is the 0 Exposure. I used this exposure because it gave me the type of clouds that I prefer for this shot. I inverted the mask selection for the Top Layer and then Painted in sections where the clouds were too dark. I didn’t want to lose the saturation of the Blue’s that the HDRi Layer had so I just targeted those really dark sections of the clouds. I’ll go into Layers/masking in another tutorial (if requested)

Next step I usually do is to go to Levels (Control+L or Image>Adjustments>Levels) Notice there is a gap to the left of the histogram, I’m going to move the black arrow underneath, to the right a little, almost to match where the dark/shadow section of the histogram begins. You can also play with the middle/grey arrow as that one adjusts Mid tone details.

Lastly now i’m going to tweak the Hue/Saturation to get just the right amount of Saturation. Here’s a tip, if your editing for long hours, take a break for 15 minutes. Your eyes can get fatigue if your staring so long on the screen, your going to get used to a certain level of Saturation. Automatically your going to want to Saturate it even more just to give it that same impact when in reality your Over Doing it! Also for practice what I’ll do is that anytime I make a change I’ll fade the effect to 80% just in case my eyes have gotten too used to it.

You can also play around with the Vibrance, Selective Color and one of my favorites Shadow/Highlights to fine tune your final image.

Here is a side by side with the original exposure and the image with all 3 exposures merged together

And here is the Finished Product, not as “natural look” as I had planned but still pretty cool.

Here is a video I shot of me setting up to do my HDR shots by Morant Point, I thought it would have been a cool idea to document this for my blog, ended up being half corny and 100% boring lol but here it is anyway just because I can 😛 Cool part near the middle, you can see my flipping through the different exposures.

Next set in my HDRi Photography Tutorials is “Common Mistakes”.

I hope you enjoyed this Tutorial and if you would like to request a Tutorial set please leave me a blog comment or send me a message in my Contact Form.


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Robert - 03. Mar, 2011 - Reply

Nice Tutorial!

David Goddard - 09. Mar, 2011 - Reply

Interesting Tutorial… I have been using Topaz Adjust for my HDR work… do you like HDR EFEX Pro?

Rye - 10. Mar, 2011 - Reply

Topaz Adjust is pretty good also, you can get really nice/rich saturation with it. Love the HDR EFEX Pro. Interface and Presets makes it more fun to process and Tone Map HDR’s than say PhotoMatix.

Thanks for passing through my Blog 😀

Tintin - 30. Mar, 2012 - Reply

01/01/2009 3:28 am There are some good shots there. I’m actually doing lot of HDR, and I am more into ovafur of subtle touch of HDR to make the scenery a fantastic post card, where people still wonder if it’s real or not. You can have a watch in my gallery, maybe you’ll add one more to your collection! :-)CheersJulien

Delmar Alexander - 17. Jun, 2012 - Reply

Thanks I found your tutorial quite helpful. What I would like to know is if HDR can be applied to people to get those same magnificent results and how do you achieve those awesome looking portraits?

Rye - 17. Jun, 2012 - Reply

Thanks alot! If done right, HDR can make portraits look like a really cool painting of a person. The tricky part though, is that HDR brings out alot of detail and noise which usually isn’t desirable for portraits. Brings out details women usually try to conceal lol, looks really cool with old people though. I usually play around with masking and lower the opacity of the HDR affect on the skin to keep it smooth while still bringing up detail around like the hair, outfit and background. You can check out a technique that gives the HDR effect more effectively for portraits which is Painting with Light using Dodge and Burn Techniques. It’s like the work of Dave Hill, Dave uses alot of composites for his work though. I actually haven’t done a tutorial piece in a long time. I’ll set up a shoot from scratch and document it for my next tutorial. Cheers!

Delmar Alexander - 01. Jul, 2012 - Reply

Thanks a lot Ryan and keep taking great photos, you rock!!!!