HDRsoft announces Photomatix 6
Yesterday HDRsoft announced the latest version of their ever popular HDR software PhotoMatix Pro 6
The new features are: Continue reading
Yesterday HDRsoft announced the latest version of their ever popular HDR software PhotoMatix Pro 6
The new features are: Continue reading »
On September 5th. HDRsoft introduced it latest update to it’s always popular HDR Program: Photomatix Pro. Version 5.1 has a few improvments over v5.0 and they are:
A funny thing happened a couple years ago with the introduction of Lightroom 4.1. I started seeing people talking about NOW processing their HDRs in 32-bit. Now while it was true that something new happened – 32 Bit Tiff support for both Adobe Lightroom 4.1and ACR 7.1- many people seemed to think that 32-bit processing in any program was not possible before this and even the confusion that Lightroom and Photoshop ACR (Adobe Camera RAW) were the ONLY programs that did work in 32-bit (Color Bit depth), which simply wasn’t true. All the Major HDR Programs do their processing in 32-bit, Photomatix Pro, Nik by Google HDR Efex Pro 2, Oloneo all of them work in 32 bit depth while in their Tonemapping/processing modules. Period Continue reading »
I took today to update the HDR How To Page to reflect the changes made in HDRsoft’s Photomatix 5 Program
If you or someone you know are new to HDR and Shooting and Processing of HDR Images it’s a great resource to get you started and the the over 180 other articles in the blog can help you to take your HDRs to the next level (as much as I hate that tag line)
Check it out!
Tell a friend
If… your 32 bit image looks pretty good, most likely your scene did not need HDR
If …your 32 bit image looks really bad, chances are you captured a true High Dynamic Range scene
I don’t know how many of you stop Photomatics at the point when it creates a 32 Bit Image just before you go on to tone-mapping. If you don’t then maybe you should (it’s on the screen when you make your alignment and de-ghosting choices)
The 32 bit image can really tell you a lot about what you captured and how in the end your image will turn out.
Here is a 32 bit image of 3 exposures +/- 2 and it is somewhat fitting. As you can see it doesn’t look too bad right now, but the final result really wasn’t that much different than the 0 exposure.
While on the other hand, this 32 bit image shows that there was in fact a wide dynamic range that could not be capture in one exposure.
I’ll be back tomorrow with more on my Salton Sea shoot.
Hope that helps,
I have a line of Christmas Cards called The Lone Ornament. So when it snows inSouthern California…yes, it snows here…provided you go above 7,000 feet – I head up to the mountains to shoot for the next year’s card. So after it rain here on Thursday I knew there would be snow up there on Saturday.
So I headed up to the mountain hamlet of Idyllwild. It started to snow as I arrived and when I got to Humber State park it was a “Picture” perfect scene. About 6 inches of white puffy freshly fallen snow and it was snowing lightly as the sun played in and out of the clouds. I could not have asked for a better day…and I LOVE snow.
I got the shots I needed for my cards and they came out fantastic (no you can’t see them, they are a secret till December of 2012). When I was done I thought I would hike up the trail and try having some fun shooting in the woods and do some HDR after all, surely snow have a high dynamic range…or… we would think.
I hiked up the trail (Huffing and puffing, 7,000 feet is rough) and set up my tripod amongst some beautiful scenes and I set about to measure the dynamic range. I set my meter to spot metering. In snow spot metering is essential for measuring the dynamic range, using other modes the snow played too big a part in the metering and threw off any real measurement. Using Evaluative/matrix metering actually showed NO dynamic range as it metered everything the same.
At the time the sun was out and at f/16 and ISO 160, for the brightest spot on the snow I got a shutter speed of 1/500, for the deepest shadow area of tree bark I got a shutter speed of 1/20. OK that sounds good, so roughly 5 stops of range to cover.
But wait a minute. We have to remember one of the most important facts about in camera metering. In camera meters are reflective meters; they measure the reflected light off our subjects. And they are calibrated for middle gray. They will get the exposure correct if the object you are metering is middle gray (18%) or a midtone. If we measure white or black, the meter tries to make them gray. It will do that by underexposing white and overexposing black, both by about 2 stops.
So knowing that, that 1/500th shutter speed would underexposure our snow by about two stops. So really the exposure for the snow would be 1/125th. So now 1/125th to 1/25 is really closer to 3 stops difference in range, which tells us we really don’t need HDR!
But I pressed on and did some anyway.
What I found worked best was 3 exposures. And if I was using auto Exposure Bracketing it was best to also add in +1 Exposure Compensation to make up for the meter misreading the snow. Even though we know that snow will make the meter under expose by 2 stops, using +2 Exposure compensation was too much and our final bracket image was just too blown out. If I shot manual, I took the same compensation in mind and started my bracketing at 1/125 or 1/200
The other thing I found was spacing, if the sun was shining bright on the snow, + – 2 stops worked fine. If the sun was not shining brightly on the snow + – 1EV actually worked better. Yes that is NOT a broad range but again, this is not as dynamic a situation as we may think it is.
Here are three images I shot
Shooting snow in HDR is just half the battle, processing it correctly is the send part. The problem most HDR processing programs have is handling white and especially large amounts of white. This has been my one pet peeve will all the developers. But it’s actually to be expected. Just like our meters want to make everything gray, that is also the function of the tone mapping of HDR programs. They will try to make everything a mid tone. This results in graying of all things white. So we need to take some steps to assure that doesn’t happen.
Regardless if you are using Photomatix Pro or Nik HDR Efex Pro or any HDR program what we have to watch is how much compression we apply. In Photomatix this is Strength and Lighting adjustments. In HDR Efex Pro it is Tone Compression.
If we were processing in Photomatix we would want our Lighting adjustments to be Natural + and a strength of under 50. In Nik HDR Efex Pro, which I used here, I used Tone Compression. set to 0.
That still leaves us with some pretty dingy whites so we need to make an adjustment to our white levels and quite a bit of it to, I used between 20 and 40% more white levels to get the images right, you want the brightest parts of the snow just below blowing out. I also added about 12% blacks to bring back a little shadow detail and then about 20% to the structure. My fine adjustment just to bring out a bit more detail I upped the method strength to 20% with the Neutral method.
This gave me the most pleasing look to the image, the cool part was I needed no further post processing for any of the images in Photoshop or Lightroom.
Now comparing it to a single image shot with the correct exposure, you really won’t see a huge difference. In fact I think you could work with a single image and get similar results. We don’t really see a big difference in range because quite frankly, there isn’t much anyway. But there is an improvement in detail that I feel may be worth it. Would I shoot snow in HDR again? Maybe, but I am not sure it was worth the effort completely.
Perhaps since it was such a beautiful day in the wood and snow, I should have forsaken the tripod and all the set-up and time it took and just enjoyed the hike more and shot conventionally…but then again…I DO run The HDR Image…soooo
Hope that helps,
Final note to self, make sure you waterproof hiking boots, subset note to self, be thankful that wool socks keep you warm even when wet.
For people that are just starting out and even for some that have been doing HDR for a while, there are some common problems that people run into. But without having used the myriad of controls in their HDR software, most people don’t know which way to turn to remove some of these unsightly demons. So let’s run through a few of them and their cures.
Note: None of the after images represent a finished image; they are merely to show reversal of a problem area
Haloing – Probably the most common problem with HDRs. Haloing is a bright areas surrounding an edge, You will most likely see them in areas of high contrast; The edge of a building against the sky or tree branches and power lines against that same bright condition.
This is a case of too high on the Lighting adjustments (Surreal) and also too much Strength.
Making changes to just these controls gets rid of a lot of the haloing
We changed the Lighting effect to Natural and Strength to 50
This occurs when large areas of White now become gray. This happens because the HDR program is trying to make everything a Midtone if you make a white (or a black) a midtone it turns gray.
Now I think you will start to notice a common thing with fixing problems. To fix this problem, We will once again take a look at the Lighting Adjustment and Strength This time the lighting Adjustment was at Surreal + the setting that will attempt to make most parts of the image Mid-toned and the strength was at 100.
Again we moved the Lighting Adjustment to Natural and the Strength down to 70. But we made a couple more changes. This image had the Gamma set to .80, without getting into a technical discussion of what gamma is, basically consider it a midtone curve. If we move the slider to the left and down to about 1.20 we will bring more contrast into the Midtones. Then by adding some Black Level, we bring up the shadows in our image.
The opposite of Halos are Burnt edges, this is a darkening on areas of contrast.
But wait, The Lighting Adjustments are at Natural and 100%, shouldn’t that be good? No in this case it isn’t, it is trying to make the mid-tones shadows but simply lowering the Strength to 70% and our Gamma to .90 and we smooth out the tones across the image
Returning to our initial image of the Lifeguard Garage, this is probably how I would end up processing the image
Detail Contrast 0
Lighting adjustment Natural
Smooth Highlights 0
White Point .250%
Black Point 2.22%
Micro Smoothing 30
Saturation Highlight 3.8
Then just a levels adjustment layer and a little dodging and burning in Photoshop
Those are just a few of common problems people have or maybe they don’t even know they have and a few ways to fix them and yes, there are more than one way to fix any of them but these are some of the most effective measures because they go to the source of the problems.
As I think of other problems I will throw them in as a quick tip
Hope that helps,
I’m a cheater… and I’m lazy
Neither one of them knows the other exists, they’ve only passed each other in Lightroom
And on top of that, I’m lazy and impatient
Truth is, sometimes I like one and sometimes I like the other. But sometimes I think of one while I am using the other…and here’s how.
Photomatix Pro can both open and CREATE Radiance HDR files (this is the 32bit file that is the result of your merge) Nik HDR Efex Pro can only Open them it can’t create them.
Truth of the matter also is that Photomatix Pro is better at merging files especially for deghosting and complex images.
So normally what we would do is; Select the images we want to make an HDR with and just export and do the merge with the program we are going to use and that works fine.
But like I said I am lazy and also impatient and the last thing I like doing is watching progress bars go across my screen and spinning doohickeys. I wanna work NOW. So why do that twice.
What I do is; I do my merge in Photomatix Pro and have it show the 32Bit file before it goes to tone mapping.
After the merge, at that point I save the file as a Radiance HDR file.
Then I go on to Tone map in Photomatix Pro. But when I want to see the results I would get in Nik HDR Efex Pro I only have to open the Radiance HDR file and go, no waiting for the merge.
And like I have said before. It’s not that one program is better than the other, they are just different. They just plain do things differently and you can’t make either one look like the other.
I just hope that neither one finds out or they will both leave my computer and I would be stuck with HDR in Photoshop, and she’s just plain homely
Hope that helps
Reader Steve in comments on the article Shooting Architectural Interiors reminded me that there are times we need to have speed and efficiency on our side. Or we just want to get through the boring part of processing images…that forever wait of watching progress bars on our screen.
So in those cases one of our options may be batch processing. I thought I would give a quick run through of batch processing images in Photomatix Pro 4.1
It’s a pretty simple process, IF you have your Ducks ( or exposures ) in a Row. This process will only work if all the images you have in your folder are in a series of shots, Say 3 Exposure auto Bracketed or 5 exposure.You have to make sure you don’t have any stray single images or messed up sequences. So once you have your folder in order you can proceed with the batching.
In the Photomatix Panel, Click on Batch Bracketed Photos and the new window will pop up.
The nice thing is we an make a choice here. Do we want to just merge the images and have our 32Bit image done with which we can Tone Map them separately at a later time. Or do we want the full process done and when it is all done we have a fully Merged and Tone Mapped image waiting in our folder when we get back from the run to Starbucks?
If you have a bunch of bracketed images that are of the same subject and conditions, you may be able batch including using Tone Mapping settings that you can set before you begin the process. But if you have a batch of images that are all over the place you may want to just have the images merged to the 32 bit file and then tone map each image separately. Believe me if you have a lot of images to work on. Even Merging all the files ahead of time is nice. Not that is saves any time. But you can go off and do something else while they are merging instead of sitting there while you do them one by one.
So we can see by the screen. That we have a bunch of choice and selections to make.
Click to enlarge in a new window
First off we choose If we want to Merge the files and then if we want to apply any Tone Mapping to them. We can choose any of the Tone mapping styles and also set the setting within them.
Next up in order is the number of images in the sequence, If we simply have say all 3 image sequences, we can choose that. But suppose we did some 3 image sequences and then also some 5 image sequences? Clicking on the advanced button will bring up a new window that allows us to have the software detect the sequences and it does so on a on time between shots process, If it detects an amount of time that is adjustable but say 4 seconds between, it assumes that you have started a new sequence. You can even choose to only merge 3 out of 5 exposure shot if you so choose in this panel.
Next down, You can choose the folder you want to process or the individual files you want to process, I like getting things arrange in the folder like I said earlier and just choosing that.
And then finally you can choose the destination that you want the final images to end up in. What type of file you want the Tone Mapped and the 32 Bit image to be saved as and also if you choose tone mapping do you want the 32 Bit image to be removed once the tone mapping is done.
It’s a pretty smooth and painless process with plenty of options.
I may not always use it for what I shoot since even if I shoot 300 images in an evening I may only choose to do 3 – 6 HDRs from the whole shoot. But other times or in cases like shooting Interiors for HDR you may want to use batching to speed along the process or at least allow you to get other things done while it’s all working.
Hope that helps,
I do still believe if we want to do a true High Dynamic Range image, it should be done right and the time taken to do just that but I have softened my stance on single image HDR.
We do have to be honest ab0ut what it is. We are NOT extending the dynamic range of an image but rather just Tone Mapping the dynamics that are there. In other words we are placing a tone in a different part of the spectrum then it may have been before. Usually this means bring some areas that were lost to shadow up into the midrange and lowering some highlights. Some programs also add some sharpening to bring out detail.
Caution: Never look directly into the sun, Never meter on the sun, Never point your camera directly at the sun, Never!
HDR has opened up a lot of shooting possibilities; one of those is shooting in the direction of the sun and not having to settle for a silhouette. But what about shooting the sun itself? Well that is a little harder.
The first problem is; the dynamic range of the sun to a shadow is beyond even what the human eye can do in one glance. We would (BUT WE SHOULD’T) look at the sun and then our eyes would need to adjust for dark subject area. The human eye is capable in one glance of seeing a Dynamic range of about 10,000:1 the sun would be about 100 times that. (For reference, a good LCD monitor DR is about 1,000:1, a print much less than that) The sun is too bright for even the human eye to see.
And what would the sun look like, to our eyes, even if we did look at it. Would it be a perfect round white ball? Not really, since our eyes really can’t see something that bright a mid day sun would appear as a large diffuse white object in the sky with no clear delineation.
As the sun is close to the horizon upon rising or setting, because of the atmosphere, diffusion and particles (water and dust) in the air, the brightness of the sun becomes much less, while the dynamic range may still be high the sun itself is closer to being viewable and we are able to capture more definition to the edges of that “Circle”.
So are we able to “Shoot” the sun? Yes it would be possible to shoot it but we need to use some special means such as using Neutral Density filters because even at our camera’s maximum (f/22 ISO 100 1/8000) that may not get us the “Ball” of the sun. But again is that what we truly want since that would not be “As the eye sees” In fact it may be actually odd
Sunsets themselves are not hard to do and can be an easy capture. Midday shots will be the tough ones.
We can capture the sun Midday one of two ways, as a large blob or with a star effect. And even though “blob” may not sound that good, it may be in images with a ceratin look, be the right choice. But it is a choice you need to make before shooting because your camera settings will depend on that choice.
Now you may say; Well a Star effect really isn’t how we see the sun. True but it is how we visualize a bright object if even in our mind. After all, when we drew the sun as a kid we always drew those Points around it, we never just drew a circle. This is because it is an effect we can get when viewing any point source light that may not be as bright as the sun. sSuch as stars (which of course are just as bright as the sun just farther away, or even things like white Christmas light, street lights, headlights etc, when we view them at night
To get a Star effect we can do it one of two ways; the easy way of buying a Star filter. They are available with 4, 6 and 8 points in many filter sizes. The nice part about these is you can use them with any aperture but the aperture may dictate how long the star points are. Or, we could do it the hard way, which of course, I always choose. We can do it with aperture.
To get a star pattern on ANY point source light we need to use a very small or tight aperture. Now I wanted to show you some examples of that shooting the sun at different apertures. But of course today in “Sunny”Southern California, it is completely cloud covered. So I will instead use a point source light, a Halogen Lamp, since this effect will happen with any point source light. So for today we will call our hHalogen light Happy Mr. Sunshine.
To givet a star pattern to a point source light we want to use the smallest aperture available on our lens which in most cases is f/22 (some telephotos go to f/32- f/35)
Let’s look at the different effects that aperture have on this. Same light same Exposure, just changing Aperture
Now let’s look at what the effect of exposure is on the star, as we go from underexposure to over exposure, the size of the star increases. We also see as we underexpose the overall scene enough we loose the star effect completely, another reason we may not want to get a “Perfect “exposure on the sun itself
OK so now let’s go real world and a real example.
The effectiveness will depend entirely on atmospheric conditions the day you shoot. If it is a clear blue sky you will have much better definition, add and haze or light cloud cover and you may not get this effect at all.
I’m going to make it easy for you because I really don’t want you looking into the sun trying to figure this out.
For you initial exposure in your series of exposures for HDR, You first exposure should be f/22 1/400 ISO 100 (If your low ISO on your camera is ISO 200, use 1/800) you could use 1/800 for a tighter pattern if you would like. But a good rule of thumb is to have your sun exposure 3 – 4 stops lower than the Ambient light. This 3- 4 stops lower will work in the middle of the day as well as for sunsets when the sun becomes less bright because so does the ambient light.
For those of you that want to know, the Ambient light during the day would work out to f/16, 1/100, ISO 100 so the above f/22, 1/400 ISO 100 works out to 3 stops less exposure.
For my example shoot I shot this series
6 Images, 1 stop apart. I knew the sun exposure and just needed to get a reading of the shadow area which I spot read and got f/22 1/13 ISO 100. So I just had to work between those two in 1 stop increments. You need to shoot enough to cover the dynamics of the scene and 1 stop apart which is important in this case. We are going to have a tough enough time processing this image in the first place we don’t want to have to worry about posterization or banding around the sun due to too large of steps in between exposures on those areas.
One word of note; Shooting under these condition are ripe for lens flare. So we can choose to try to minimize it or celebrate it. If you want to minimize it try changing your angle to the sun and also remove any filters form your lens as low quality ones can compound the problem. In this case lens hoods won’t do anything to help lens flare since what we normally would be shading (the sun) is included in the frame)
Now comes the tough part; Processing in Photomatix Pro 4.1. The biggest problem any HDR Processing programs have is areas of extreme contrast (This is why we get halos around edges of building to sky) and areas of white (It’s why we get gray clouds that should be white). So here we are throwing both problems at it at once.
So we have to do some things that normally we may not normally do or want to do. Those of you that like Grunge or Painterly effects I will tell you right off that you will have a hard time with your normal work flow. Because as much as the normal settings for Lighting Effects and strength are what give you the effect you like, they will do what they normally do and attempt to make everything a midtone and it will cause a lot of graying on your sun and the sky that surrounds it.
Why this is a difficult process is because of two things, we want to try to keep a tight center for the sun and distinct star points. If we get that look right the overall image is dark. As we try to lighten the image we loose the tight center to the sun and its distinct points.
In this case we use some extreme things that we normally would do; well I guess I should say, I never do. In this case I used the Surreal Lighting effect button, something that I normally never use. And I brought the strength back to 50. This kept our sun’s circle tight but didn’t cause the rest of the image to get super dark which even if we took out into Photoshop would be tough to correct for.
There was a little haloing around the Hopper and a little graying of the area around the sun but noting I couldn’t fix in Post.
Here are the compete settings for this image’
Detail Contrast 0
Lighting Effect Surreal
Smooth Highlight 0
White point .250%
Black Point 0
You may want to try a little Highlights Smoothing in these cases moving the slider towards the middle to get the look you may want.
And that’s it for Photomatix Pro.
I then took the image into Photoshop and touched it up with a levels layer and some dodging and burning. I burned the edge of the Hopper with a Midtone Burn tool set to 10% to take care of some of the haloing and then dodge the highlights and burned the shadows a bit on the hopper body itself.
Then I sharpened the image just a bit using Nik Sharpner Pro 3.0 and I was done…well except for one more timy trick.
There still was a little graying in the rays of the sun, that I just wasn’t happy with. So I added another blank layer on the image and I grabbed a soft paint brush set to 20% Opacity , 20% fill and then I sampled the blue sky next to the sun and just painted over the gray area till it became a little more blue. Not super necessary but it just bothered me a bit.
This is the final image
As you notice the image contains a lot of sun flare and I even cloned out one in the grass area but I am fine with them in this instance.
Here are a few other examples of shooting the sun
In this one, I used f/8 and went for the blob look. I wanted the sun to look more oppresive in a harsh environment of the Salton Sea
These two don’t show the difficulty of shooting mid-day but rather using the Star Effect on sunset suns
I’ll leave you with one little bit of trivia. The number of points on your star effect tell you if you have a even or odd nuber of aperture blades in your lens and how many blades.
If you have an even number of blades say 8 as you will see eight points to the star. 16 points are actually produced but the over lap each other and look like 8. If you have 7 blades you will see 14 points because on odd numbers they don’t overlap. (Generally the more blades the better the lens, better bokeh)
Hope that helps,
Yesterday we covered the shooting of automobiles. Today we will concentrate on the post processing of those images and more specifically post processing the images as High Dynamic Range images.
As promised I will take you through this step by step just as I would do the image, so you get to see everything that “I” put into it. Just bear one thing in mind, what I do on my image may not what you need to do on your image. Even though I will give my settings in Photomatix doesn’t mean that those will be correct for your image because every image is different.
They may be a good starting point but I tweak even my starting point to get what I need out of that particular image. Plus you may not even want to have the same effect that I want. If you want a more painterly effect your starting points would be way different than mine.
Starting with the 3 images I showed you yesterday I open them in Photomatix Pro 4.1. Even though ghosting should not be an issue, I still brought it into the manual de-ghosting screen for a check. This image didn’t need any help but as we will see in the image I shot with OCF, there were about 6 areas with Blinkie-Blackies that needed to be fixed. More on that later.
So opening the image in the tone mapping screen, Moving down the list I used: Detail Enhancer, Strength 40, Saturation 70, Luminosity -2, Detail Contrast +6.0, Lighting effect Medium,
Other settings I adjusted;
This got the image as far as I would get with the controls of Photomatix. The image now needs some more local adjustments so I will bring the Image into Photoshop or you could bring it back into Lightroom if that is where you like to work.
This is the image as finished in Photomatix 4.1
For those of you using Nik HDR Efex Pro, I achieved similar results using these setting
The first thing I notice and should have noticed when shooting is that the horizon line is not straight. We want to look at the horizon line and not our vehicle because we shot at an angle to it the front should be lower than the rear. So using the measuring tool and Rotate Canvas; arbitrary, I straighten the horizon. (Note there are other ways to get this done in later versions of Photoshop and in Lightroom)
While I am at it since I have to crop the image anyway I will crop in a bit to eliminate some of the periphery of the background.
With our image now level and cropped at this point I will zoom into 100% and take care of any sensor spots that may be visible in the sky or other areas. Its best these are taken care of now and I use my Spot Healing Brush tool to fix those.
Now it’s time to move on examining the image and see what areas may need work
The first thing I wanted to tackle was the sky and the mountains in the background. Since this is a large area, I decided to use a Curves adjustment layer and mask it just to that area. In The curves box, I brought the highlight across a bit to lighten the highlights and then used my eye dropper to determine where the mountains were on the line and brought those down in levels. I then painted out the rest of the image in the layer mask so that this adjustment only affected the sky and bright mountains. Just to tweak those mountain ever so it more, I burned the shadows on them just a bit.
The rest of the work was just dodging and burning the problem areas. Keeping in mind that if we want to take down highlight you burn highlights you don’t add more shadow. Some times burning and dodging is not as intuitive as we want it to be so you need to work on the right segment. To bring out the wheels and headlights more, I set the dodge tool to Highlight and 10%.
After all my dodging and burning I finished off the image with a sharpening layer using Nik Sharpening Pro 3.0 set to Display: Adaptive Sharpening and 60%
Here is the final image as I see fit
You’ll probably notice these are not HUGE changes to our image but rather just the finishing details that make it the best it can be.
Finishing our OCF image off was a very similar process so I don’t think I should bore you with that recap. The one thing that WAS very different was in the beginning stage when I was merging the files. As I said earlier there were areas that I needed to get rid of the Blinkie-Blackies (For an explanation of Blinkie- Blackies see this post).
These occurred because we had some bright highlights in the 0 exposure from the Off Camera Lights. These didn’t occur in our +2 and -2 frames because the lights did not fire then (On purpose) so it caused a severe difference that the software didn’t know how to handle without some intervention by me
So I selected the problem areas in the De-Ghosting section of Photomatix Pro 4.1 and selected the 0 image as the image to use to de-ghost.
After that, the workflow continued just as I did the other shot. Determine my problem areas and addressing them all as needed.
This is the final HDR + OCF image. (You may note a difference in the trucks color, this is because the color of the light was so different after twilight, I decided to keep that pink hue as that is what was there at the time. I am not a big fan over-correcting white balance to something that wasn’t there)
Now you may ask, couldn’t you have done the same without OCF? Not really because you have to remember one thing. This image was shot well past sunset. It was dark!… as I was reminded by the two packs of coyotes that started their twilight serenade…which led me to pack up and leave. But we never would have gotten the specular highlights on the trucks body without using some artificial light.
Now of course we could have, as we did, just shot earlier when that light was there. But the mountains in the background would have had a totally different look as we can see.
So I hope this help you to try and go out and shoot automobiles. Again you may want a totally different look to your HDR as many people do. So do what you want in Photomatix to get YOUR desired effect. But then take a moment to analyze that result and see where some touch up is needed. You don’t need to do my workflow or my adjustments but just understand it and what does what.
Here are a couple more shots from the night with varying degrees of success
Bokeh is a term used for the Quality of the OOFF (Out Of Focus Field) in an image. NO IT IS NOT the term for an image with a shallow depth of field. That would be: An image with a shallow depth of field. LOL
But a great bokah in an image is a very desirable things. Most times when we shoot HDRs we really don’t worry about this because we are shooting for a very deep DOF. Bokeh would be irrelevant for most of our shoots.
But suppose we want to be different, we want to use our artistic side and we want to shoot a subject and then have a very shallow DOF. No problem shoot away BUT as nice as HDR will make the subject of your image it will have a totally detrimental effect to the OOFF area and destroy any great bokeh your lens may have.
Let me show you, For this image I used my Canon 70-200L 4.0 lens which is known for it’s excellent bokeh. I shot a day lillie in front of my home with 3 exposures and at 200mm f/7.1. Now you may say f/71. That’s not going to give you a very shallow DOF, actually it’s probably still not enough since my Focal Length was 200mm and my distance to subject was 5 feet, that still gives me just a few inches of DOF. Shooting wide open would have given me less than an inch of DOF.
I processed the images in Photomatix Pro 4.1 and used the Painterly preset, Just taking the strength down a notch and adding a bit to the black levels.
Here is that image
Now some may say,” That looks great”. And to an untrained eye it may. Because HDR brings out detail and perceived sharpness it is applying that to the background to the same degree that it does out subject where we do want the fine detail visible. The same thing can occur when someone oversharpens a standard photograph and applies that sharpening equally to the background. You are sharpening something that is not meant to be sharp and it destroys the look of the image.
But now look at the OOFF of a standard image with the true Bokeh of that area.
Look at the softness and smooth transition of tone in the background. But we loose the extra tone and detail we may want in the our subject; the flower itself.
So is all lost? Not at all. Through the magic of Photoshop and our friend the layer mask, I took the HDR image and dragged it on top of my standard image and then just masked off the background to reveal the standard image background. Problem solved.
QUICK HINT: If you are dragging an image on top of another image and want to make sure that the two images are aligned. First start by dragging the image with the shift key held down. Then to fine tune the alignment, change the Layer mode on the top layer to “Difference” and the image should turn black, The better you align the images the more black the entire image will look especially on edges. Once you have the images aligned, return to Layer mode to normal.
This is the final image, HDR Subject, standard background with that creamy Bokeh
In this post we are going to talk about shooting and processing Architectural Interiors.
Many of you have probably looked at ads for homes on real estate website or the books you pick up for free at the grocery store. The images are usually taken by the agent to save money or may be even taken by professionals…well that just don’t know any better. They all have the tell tale look. They were shot during the day with tons of light coming into the windows and you get one of two things because of the wide dynamic range present. You get super bright blown out windows and a properly exposed room with quite a bit of flare around those windows. Or, you get properly exposed windows and a room so dark you can’t tell if it is a bedroom or the kitchen.
Now a good photographer could know better and shoot at night when you have more control over light, or they could bring in a huge amounts of artificial lights and get the scene to work. But the truth is, either the realtor has no budget for this big bucks photographer with a truck full of grip equipment. Or they don’t have the time for shooting at night when the home owners are home. Enter HDR.
So lets discuss how to shoot an interior using HDR and then we will go over how to best process that shoot in Nik’s HDR Efex Pro.
Those of you that know me know I am not a big advocate of shooting a gazillion exposures. People think if 3 is good 12 must be amazing. And that just isn’t true. Sometimes it is a waste of time, of computing power and may lead to lesser images because of registration errors, shooting images beyond the dynamic range that is there which leads to soft or noisy images and a host of other reasons. Some of my most successful Landscape HDR images have been shot with only 3 exposures.
But for this lesson I am going to go against my usual wisdom. For two reasons. One is a mater of dynamic range. As much as we may have shooting outdoors, sometimes we can have even more shooting an interior. We maybe have EV15 (Exposure Value) light coming through a window, yet we also may have light as low as candle light in the room or EV4, 11 full stops of exposure. ( for an explanation of Exposure Value, see this great explanation and charts at Fred Parker Photography ) So that is one reason we will want to shoot quite a number of exposures, just to cover the Dynamic Range.
Reason two; Detail. As detailed as the outdoors is, we are viewing it from a distance and you may not see all the nuances of texture that every object has in that scene. In interior photography, everything is closer, more defined and with that we need to have texture that we can see and well, almost feel. The nap of the carpet, the texture of the upholstery. We’re closer we need to see that.
For this example I shot 9 exposures 1 stop apart. Exposures because that was the dynamic range I measured. 1 stop apart because of the desire for detail of tonality.
First I determined the dynamic range I needed to cover. I could not have done this just from where the camera was on the tripod. Because the camera’s meter averages, even in spot mode. It would not have known the correct exposure for the windows light. So I brought my camera to the window itself and metered the light outdoors. This was my beginning exposure. And no, I didn’t need to shoot an underexposure of the outdoor light, I just needed to get it right. This exposure was f/16, 1/125 ISO250. I then moved to the darkest area of the room and metered there, this would be my final exposure and I just need to get between the two readings in one step intervals ( I didn’t do the math, I used the 3 clicks of the dial equal one stop trick) My end exposure was f/16, 2 sec. ISO 250. It took 9 images to get from one to the other.
Do YOU need to do 9 exposures? It depends on what your final destination for your images are. I did test with this shoot and shot HDR’s with 9, 7, 5 and 3 exposures. 9 had the best detail, 7 was very very close, 5 was good, 3 was eh. If you image is just destined for websize on a realtor’s website or in one of those small grocery store magazines, 3, 5 whatever, you’ll be fine and far above those that shoot the windows blown out. But say your image is destined for a big glossy Architectural Magazine or a large print on the wall of an Interior Designer. You want the 9 shots.
So once I determined what I needed for dynamic range , I returned the camera to the tripod and composed the scene . Now I like to turn on as many of the rooms lights as possible to give it a more natural look, or “as lived in” look. I will try to only have one color temperture of light on, Tungsten, Halogen, Florescent, because we will have enough problems with white balance with possibly two different light temperature source, we don’t need 5. For this shoot I was in luck, since the lights in the room were CFL’s balanced for 5000°k or daylight.
My scene was set and I shot the 9 frames. Here they are in contact sheet form. (Click to enlarge) The image sequence runs from the bottom left up and down to top right.
Now that we have our images shot, It’s time to merge and tone map them into our HDR image.
For this shoot, I knew the right tool for the job was Nik HDR Efex Pro Anyone that has seen my workshop in my garage knows I always have more than one tool for any job . For this job HDR Efex Pro was the correct tool because of the amount and quality of detail.
Selecting my 9 images in Lightroom 3 I exported them to HDR Efex Pro. In the first part of the tone mapping, I wanted to get my overall look. So I worked on the right panel and started with the following setting. Tone Compression 22%. Saturation 20%, Structure 4%, Black 6% and Whites 8%
This yielded me this image
Not a bad starting point for overall balance. But the windows just aren’t right. This is going to be hard for any HDR program to get right because the software will look for the brightest points and the darkest points and put them where it thinks best. It just gets them wrong here. All is not lost though, enter the beauty of Nik HDR Efex Pro’s Control Points. I placed 9 control points in this image. In the windows, on the Photos on two walls, on the ceiling and on the fireplace. I adjusted these all individually to get the best balance for all the areas and most importantly, to bring back the detail to the windows.
Here are what the control points looked like and also how it looks when you click on the control points mask so you can really see all the areas that control points are affecting
Once I had this all the best I could I took the image into Photoshop For some final touches and this yielded us our final image.
I wish you could see the detail in the full resolution file. The grain of the leather and the nap of the carpet is incredible and the print this made was really as the room looked. Truth be told if I was going to submit this to a high end magazine I may work on the windows even further which would have taken a lot of time and may not be worth it just for realtor submissions.
As I spoke about earlier, we also need to consider white balance when working with interior shots. In a big budget shoot, we could of course use some gels on all the different light sources to make them all the same color temperature. But we may not have the time nor budget to do such things. We could change bulbs. But most homeowners probably don’t want you messing around with all the light fixtures in their home. So let’s just go simple.
In most instances, I recommend doing a white balance for the predominate light source in our scene. But lets look at the room I shot here and see what the real life experience will be. This also is why shooting RAW is so important, besides giving us the ultimate dynamic range and color latitude, it also allows us to go in later and easily change the white balance of our shoot.
So for this image, the predominant light was outdoor light coming in from the windows along with 3 sources of incandecant light as accents only. The day was cloudy and rainy so setting the white balance for cloudy yielded these results.
Not bad and since I am a landscape shooter I tend to like warm light but I think this is just too much
Let’s try adjusting for the Tungsten Light and see what that returns
Yeah, That’s not any better, in fact I think it’s quite worse. The lights themselves look good but the tone overall is much too cool
Hmmm…OK. Let’s try just as it was shot with the Auto-White balance
To me this is the best of all worlds and the best balance that could be had. Comparing a print of this image to the actual room that day was pretty much spot on for “As the eye sees” my favorite reference. Funny I guess Auto White Balance doesn’t suck as much as some seem to think.
I hope this has helped you understand how to shoot and post process Architectural Interior images, maybe this could provide you with a new income stream selling to Real Estate agents that need every tool they can muster in such a down market.
Hope that helps,