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 »
It’s like a square is a rectangle but a rectangle is not a square…so let’s explore this
I recently was reading an article explaining dynamic range, in it, the author went on to explain when a camera has a limited dynamic range it will only show shades of gray not black and white. And I thought, no, that’s limited tonal range, not dynamic range.
Most everything we use in photography has a Full Tonal Range when lit with the same constant light source
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:
As I discussed in this article: How many Exposures are enough the most important part of the -How many exposures do I shoot – is the fact that you need to cover the entire dynamic range of the scene. As the article pointed out the spacing between exposures was not AS important as covering the entire range.
In this article Measure & Exposing for HDR I told you how to meter different areas of the scene to know the range of shutter speeds you would need to shoot to cover the dyanmic range. But even though it’s a good way to get you close, there still can be some margin of error because of course we know…sometimes the meter gets fooled. Continue reading »
Readers familiar with this site know I am not a big fan of the “Grunge” Style of HDR. I don’t say don’t do it, it’s just not my cup of tea (I think I have been watching Wheeler Dealer, the British show, too much this week, Mate!). Although I do admit I would like to have some fun playing with a grunge style but every time I do my “Fans” or my customers give it a big thumbs down and say they like my more natural or “As the eye sees” style of HDR. And I agree for the most part, I do what works for me.
But what if I were to do a Grunge style, what would it look like? Well, I don’t think it would look anything like the Grunge presets in popular HDR programs. But how would I do it? With a little known technique that well started for me, as a mistake: Double Processing.
Double processing? What’s that? Well quite simply, it is taking your image and running it through your tone mapping…Twice!
So let’s take a look at a couple images from my portfolio down as I normally would do with pretty much my normal process in Photomatix Pro 4.1
The first one is from the old artillery bunkers above the Golden Gate Bridge and the Marin Headlands
The Next Image is from an abandoned filling station in Vista New Mexico.
Now let’s see what these images look like using the standard Grunge Preset in Photomatix.
So how do we double process in Photomatix. It’s really quite simple. If you are using the Standalone version, after you do your first round on normal tone mapping, you hit process and it applies the tone mapping. Usually at this point you hit save. Well instead, we just press the Tone- Mapping Button again and it takes the image right back into the tone-mapping screen and applies the previous settings again to the image. Or you could change them up a bit if you wanted to go for a different look.
If you are using Lightroom and the image gets taken back into Lightroom after the tone-mapping, simply export that single image again into Photomatix.
For mine, I just applied the same settings again (Strength 70, Saturation 70, Light Adjustments: Natural, Gamma -1.20)
Here are the results
Ok not bad, but let’s take it just a bit further and bring in some more of the detail that the Grunge style has. We’ll do that by using some different software. Topaz Adjust 5.
Have I told you how improved the new Topaz adjust 5 is? They have some REALLY useful presets and I’ve begun using some of them on standard images to make what I get in camera look more like what my eye sees when I am shooting. For this example, I just used the “Detail” preset in Topaz Adjust 5, Just to increase our detail and add a bit of edge contrast.
And there you have it, MY version of Grunge. Might not be your style, might not be something my customers would even buy. But it was fun and a different way to do things for those times you might want to go over the top a bit. Or if you’ve already been going over the top, a better workflow that may improve your images.
Okay, now where did I put my Cup of Tea mate?
Hope that helps
OK, so last week I had a challenge and I did an HDR Portrait, but it was a composite, marraging a HDR background with a standard image shot with OCF (Off Camera Flash). It was fun, it came out right but it wasn’t what I saw in my mind. How it should be done. One Take, 3 exposures done in real time.
I had to shoot some stuff for a magazine article on Saturday night with my beautiful model Noelle. We finished the shoot and she was tired, cold and hungry but I saw an opportunity for something and asked if she would do one more shot. She sighed and pouted. I said you don’t even need to smile, just stand there. She said OK one more.
I quickly set up the tripod and did 3 quick series of three shots. The first exposure (0) was shot with Noelle lit by an off camera flash, the other two were shot with just the natural light of the scene and I asked her to stand as still as possible since the exposure times would be quite long
I shot at ISO 400, f/11 and Shutter speeds of 5 seconds(with a flash burst on her which stopped her motion), 1.3 seconds and 20 seconds. I had no idea if this would work.
These are my 3 images, The first image was about how dark it was at the time. It was 5:52 well past the 5:15 sunset.
The OCF Shot
The 20 Second exposure which she did really well holding still
I knew the biggest problem I would have would be ghosting from the merge of the OCF shot and the 20 Second shot. The first image was no problem since she didn’t even show up in it.
I knew I needed the best de-ghosting in the business so I turned to Photomatix Pro 4.1 and it’s selective De-Ghosting tool. I made a selection around Noele and then used the 0 exposure to de-ghost. It worked really well with just a little orange halo around her head which I worked on in PP.
I merged the 3 image s and then used the following settings in Photomatix Pro 4.1
Tone-Mapping: Detail Enhancer
Detail Contrast 4.0
White Point .250%
Black Point: .200%
With the image the best it could be I brought the image into Photoshop. The biggest job there was first cloning all the Bird Poop off the area she was standing, It glowed. After that I did an over all levels adjustment and some dodging and burning on her face and dress. A little work with the saturation brush to remove the orange halo around her head. And a little dodging of the white water.
I still wasn’t satisfied with her look, as much as the increased saturation from the HDR process improves landscapes, it is damaging to complexions. So I once again turned to the B & W contrast layer placed below the top layer and I reduced the opacity of the top color layer to about 65% I then created a mask around her so that the rest of the image’s color remained at full saturation.
The last process was to run the entire image through some noise reduction. This time I chose Neat Image because it does a good job of retaining detail in skin areas while reducing noise
And this was the final image
If I had it to do over again. I wouldn’t have done it when Noelle was already warn out by a full shoot. I would have shot earlier so I wouldn’t have needed ISO 400 and I think I would have made the OCF shot the -2EV exposure. Since the flash exposure is the same regardless of shutter speed. I actually could have got that shot and had her run off because she wouldn’t have been captured by the low ambient light. I think it would have made for just a bit more detail in her and no problem at all with ghosting.
Overall, I’m really happy with it. It was a beautiful evening and a great night to shoot. I would have liked it if Noelle was a little more energetic but I understand why, but in a way I actually like her melancholy with the shot itself. She really did a great job the whole day and I can’t thank her enough for all the work she did.
Let me know what you think. I did it. HDR + OCF = OMG!
I was challenged to do this by a few people, last week a Long Island Photography group asked if it was possible (most said no). Then this week, a friend sent me a link to Joel Grimes and his commercial work blending HDR and sports photography and kind of challenged me to see what it would look like if I did it. (Never challenge me)
I’ve had this idea for almost a year now but I had a different vision for it, which I still will try next weekend when I have a model for a different reason but if we have spare time I will try my other method. But inspired by the above I thought I would give an HDR Portrait a whirl using compositing of two images using Topaz Remask 3 to make the selection masking process as easy and precise as possible.
First let’s take a look at out two images.
Our background: this was an image I shot in San Diego’s Balboa Park a little over a year ago. It is a 3 exposure HDR, finished in Photomatix Pro.
The Model Image was shot two months prior when I was shooting images for my book, How to Take Great Photos. It is a standard photograph shot using OCF
The first thing I did was take my background image and it needed more of an HDR look to it…yes I actually wanted to grunge it up a bit. I could have started from scratch and reprocessed the image in Photomatix, this time with a heavier hand. But I knew that wasn’t really necessary as I had a tool that would do it with much less work: Topaz Adjust 5
I opened the image in Photoshop, duplicated the background and then used my plug-in for Topaz Adjust 5. I went to the HDR Presets and selected HDR Heavy Pop Grunge. This provided just the look I was after
With my background image as I wanted it, it was time to move to my Model Portrait of lovely Noelle and to start the masking process for a smooth and precise selection
Opening the image in Topaz Remask 3, It was a simple task of painting red what I wanted to remove, painting green what I wanted to keep and using the Blue Compute brush to paint a line around the subject to compute what stayed and what went
After about 15 minutes to really get things right, slowly refining the mask till it was perfect. I had the mask I needed for the selection
Bringing it back into Photoshop, here is the selected image of our model Noelle.
After a few adjustments it was time to drag our model onto ourBalboaParkbackground. Using the move tool, I simply dragged the selection onto our background image. At this point I needed to mirror flip her so that she was facing the right direction to fit into our scene. I did that with Edit>Transform> Flip horizontal. Then, again using the move tool, positioned her where I wanted in the frame.
At this point she really wasn’t blending well into the scene so I thought she needed a little HDR look to her too. I duplicated the layer and again I returned to Topaz Adjust 5 but this time I went a little lighter handed and used one of the Vibrant Collection presets: Detail – Strong.
Now she had the detail I wanted to match the background but she still didn’t blend with the tone of the image as much as I would have liked. So I used a trick I showed you a year ago when I did the shoot at the harbor. I duplicated the model layer again and this time opened Topaz BW effects and selected the Platinum preset.
I then turned the color layer above back on and changed the opacity of the color level to about 65%. Now she seemed to blend in pretty well, but I still wanted her to look more natural because going too far can highlight things that are not flattering to a woman.
After a few tweaks here and there with position, and a little use of the blur tool around some of the edges and a little dodging and burning. I had the look I wanted for the image
The last step was to take a soft brush and some dark gray set to a medium opacity and on a new layer add some shadows behind her feet to make her blend in better
At this point I though it best if the image was cropped but I couldn’t decide which way I should crop it to 8 x 10 proportions, so I did both.
You tell me.
I hope you enjoyed that. It actually was a lot of fun and challenging to do. I haven’t been a fan of compositing, preferring to do all my work in camera. But I am happy with the results and of course I really can’t resist a challenge from anyone.
Hope that helps,
I was fiddling with my camera because I needed to answer someone’s question about Aperture priority and AEB (Automatic Exposure Bracketing). Now of course I know and had suggested to people that they use AP + AEB to get their 3 exposure bracket. Of course I also knew that you could do AEB and use Shutter Priority mode, which we don’t suggest for HDR because we want a constant aperture and therefore a constant Depth of Field
What I never realized was that on my Camera (Canon 5D) and other Canons models along with Nikons ( as far as I know, I checked with a Nikon user but would like another confirmation) what I didn’t realize was that AEB was possible in Manual Mode too. On Canon’s in manual, You can choose an aperture and the camera will bracket just as it does in any of the semi-auto modes. I’ll be darned. I should have know this but I didn’t and the 40 years I spent shooting Manual Film Camera, AEB wasn’t even an option on those fully manual mechanical wonders.
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.
I’ve often talked about only shooting HDR when necessary and then have gone on to tell ways of measuring the Dynamic Range to see if it is sufficient to warrant shooting HDR.
But here is a quick way to determine if you do need HDR, It’s not fool proof but usually is a very good and quick way to at least know you may be on the right track.
I was coming back from hiking in the snow in the mountains and I saw this driving home thinking it might be an interesting shot. So I snapped one off. One quick look and I knew it would never be OK without HDR. I was just too tired from hiking to break out everything to set up so I just passed it by. But I noticed the histogram and really made the connection between the two
Here’s the image and the Histogram. Whenever you see two big peaks at each end and a really shallow valley in between, you may need HDR
Hope that helps,
It’s that time of year when the world is aglow with Holiday Decorations, so I thought it would be a good time to do a quick lesson on how to shoot HDD using HDR.
First off, of course we want to shoot these at night, only we really DON’T want to shoot them at night. We want to shoot them at dusk, that time just after sunset and before the sky plunges into total darkness. This way we not only see the beautiful lights we also get a better rendition of the building or houses them selves
So right after sunset I headed over to one of the most spectacular places for holiday light in an old style traditional way, The Hotel Del Coronado on Coronado Island California.
I set up my tripod but before I placed my camera on it, I took a few seconds to measure the dynamic range of the scene, It wasn’t that wide but would take 3 images 2 stops apart. I actually did do a few sequences of 6 shots 1 EV apart but I will talk about them in a post to follow this one tomorrow.
In this first shot I measured the sidewalk in front of me and got a reading of 6 seconds and then I moved to the brightest area of the sky and got a reading of .8 seconds. I merely needed to connect the dots from there.
I shot at f/22 and ISO 320. I chose f/22 because I was hoping to get some star effects on the light and that really didn’t work out unless you look at a couple of the chandeliers visible inside the building. If I were to do it again I would have gone with just f/16 since the point source lights were really too far away and too small to get a good effect on them.
I used a slightly higher ISO because there was a slight wind off the ocean and I was hoping to not have to go with super long exposure times. Plus being the time of year it was there were a lot of visitors and I was trying to shoot quickly to keep them from ghosting the image.
Here is my first shot, shot right after sunset by a small bridge
I processed it in Photomatix Pro 4.1, using most of my standard tone mapping mix, Strength 85
Light adjustment natural, Gamma 1.20 and a little kick of white and black levels.
I wanted to be a little different this time so I did all my final adjustments in Lightroom instead of taking the image to Photoshop. The biggest reason was there were some angular distortions shooting the architecture. So I straightened up some lines and then just added a little Vibrance and Clarity and I was done. No need for Photoshop at all.
In the next shot I changed positions and this was shot about 20 minutes later
The lighting conditions were now the same ISO320 and now f/20 (no reason for the change I just hit the dial by mistake). But the times for the three exposures bow ranged from 30 seconds to 2 seconds, again I covered them in 3 – 2EV exposures, and again, finished up my image all in Lightroom.
I then moved inside to the lobby of theDelto the beautiful all wood lobby and the magnificent tree. Unfortunately due to fire regulations, they now have had to change to an artificial tree and as much as I miss the great real trees they used to display, they still do an absolutely magnificent job of decorati8ng it with a different theme every year.
I took up position on the second floor ( where I’m not supposed to be) and because I knew it would be an easy shoot, set my camera on AV mode and just did an auto 3 exposure 2EV bracket.
For these images I turned to finishing them in Nik HDR Efex Pro because of the fine detail present. Photomatix does detail just fine. But I enjoyed using Nik HDR Efex Pro for out interior shoot 2 months ago, so I returned to it here.
I didn’t need to do much to get a great image. Compression was 22% a slight exposure adjustment of -.65% added 8% Black and then changed the HDR method to Crisp at 10% and that was it.
Again I finished the image in Lightroom with just a few corrections and slight adjustments and I had a final image
I changed to a vertical camera position and shot this sequence, using the similar adjustments
Well of course I know you are curios so I did one other exposure and instead used Photomatix for the Tone Mapping. Again like I always say, neither one is correct but they produce such different results
I also included a single image to show what it would look like without using HDR for our HDD. It’s OK but just doesn’t have the reality that our HDR does.
And just as I was leaving I spotted this Vignette in a small staircase and just fell in love with the light it had. While I was setting up a Bride and Groom went up there and got a couple of snaps by their friends with their P & S cameras. I SO wanted to shoot them in those chairs. It really could have been a magical shoot but I didn’t have the lighting I would have needed to carry it off.
BUT I LOVE this shot. It’s not Christmassy, but I love it.
I hope this helped a bit to show you how I shoot HDD with HDR. I have been shooting the Hotel Del Coronado for the past 15 years. Without a doubt this has been the best capture ever. Thanks for coming along
So I was reading on a forum the other day about the definition of HDR, High Dynamic Range Photography. Some people argued there wasn’t one, most other argued to make what ever they shot- the definition of HDR and a lot of truly baseless arguments and more of rationalizations. I put a few of my thoughts in but it really went no where and I didn’t feel like arguing anymore.
So I thought I would give MY definition of what HDR is. This, like everything else on my blog, is my opinion. And my opinions are based on my experience or what I have done only. I’m not schooled nor have a degree in anything I have ever done in photography. I speak only from what I have done, experienced, experimented with. Am I right? I don’t know. I only know what I think I know. But I won’t tell you what “they” say. I will tell you what I know.
Looking at the definitions people had for HDR: If it was beyond the dynamic range of a Monitor, It was HDR. If it was processed with HDR software, it was HDR. If it was tone-mapped it was HDR. If it was a RAW image, it was HDR. If it was 3 Exposures from a single RAW image, it was HDR.
All of which I would just say…No.
It seemed most people just wanted to justify that their single exposure or whatever they shot, however they shot was HDR because it looked HDR. Which I will again say…No
There are many things that have a dynamic range. A print (100:1) a Monitor (100:1 – 1000:1) A camera single image (1:1000 – 4:000:1) NONE of those are High Dynamic Range and just because you may exceed one of those examples of Dynamic range does not make an image an HDR. Every one of those are Low Dynamic Range.
My definition of High Dynamic Range Images is based on SCENE DYNAMICS. Scene dynamics that I believe are High Dynamic Range are those that are above what a Camera can caoture in and a single image and are 10:000: 1 or “As the eye sees” or higher such as the 100,000:1 that are very possible in nature (Remember those images with the sun in them?)
If you use High Dynamic Range techniques but capture a low dynamic range scene is it truly High Dynamic Range Imagery? No, I don’t think it is. And yes I have done such things and posted them here and I also showed cases where that scenario goes horribly wrong. I still believe if you can capture the image in one exposure, then you don’t need nor would I advise you to use HDR techniques.
Does that mean I am against single image processing or tone mapping? No, I have softened my stance on that. It actually can be quite fun and I did have some fun using Topaz Adjust 4 & 5. BUT I firmly do not believe they are HDRs. They are what they are – fun.
And if you remember this post, I do believe there actually is a reason to use tone-mapping on single images. But that is NOT to make an HDR, but rather to map tones more closely to how the human eye sees. I believe that the basis for how a digital sensor “Sees” was based on a film model; and not on the human eye.( Alowing that they do account for the eyes sensitivity to colors) It was based on something linear and I don’t believe the human eye is that linear. Just as human hearing is not linear (we are more sensitive to high frequencies than we are to low, well until we get old). So I am fine with people tone-mapping single images. They just aren’t HDRs.
So if you capture what is not capturable with a single image and that range is closer to what is visible by the human eye or higher, I believe you have captured a true High Dynamic Range Image, which of course we have to tone map down to a Standard Dynamic Range Image to be displayed on monitors or in print.
My 2 Cents on the matter