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- HDR does not = Light
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- Did a Little Housecleaning and a Re-focus
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- 5 Quick Steps to better HDRs – Step 5
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- HDR – How Many Exposures are Enough?
- Follow up on “HDR Styles” Nik Presets download
- Triggertrap Mobile – LE HDR Trigger – Product Review
- Thought for the Day – First take a Great Photo
- HDR Styles
- Gray Skies forever? Photomatix Pro
- HDR – What is it we actually do?
- Shooting the HDR Night Cityscape
- Measuring & Exposing for Dynamic Range
- OnOne Photo Suite 7 now availble in 3 versions
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Tag Archives: HDR Software
If you are a big fan of the “Grunge ” or “Painterly” Styles of HDR or if you would like the HDR look to your Single images but just can’t be bothered with all the work. Well I may have a easy and inexpensive fix for your desire.
Topaz Adjust 4 from Topaz Labs
Now you may be saying, “Peter that’s certainly not your style” and you are right, it isn’t. But I have to be honest and cognizant of the fact that those styles are some of the most popular for people that enjoy HDR Photographs. And I will let you in on a dirty little secret of the Photographic Art world. Grunge and Painterly HDR styles far outsell realistic HDR styles when it comes to selling prints. So I think it would be a little foolish of myself to deny those styles or force my opinions on anyone.
Topaz Adjust 4 is a Photoshop Plug-in which you might guess means you need Photoshop but they do have a free product called Topaz Fusion Express that makes their programs compatible with Lightroom, Aperture and iPhoto along with a couple free editing programs like Irfanview.
Topaz Adjust 4 is available by itself for an inexpensive price or in a Bundle of 10 Topaz programs which works out to a very inexpensive price per program when purchased that way.
It works like most Plug-in, it is available under the “Filter” menu in Photoshop. I would suggest as I usually do, before applying or launching Topaz Adjust 4, you duplicate your layer so the effect is applied upon that layer only to give you more flexibility as I will discuss later.
Launching Topaz Adjust 4 brings up a familiar LR Style panel. Presets on the left, Adjustments on the right and Image preview in the center. The program launches quickly and also auto-previews the last used previously preset. The speed tells me this is not a processor demanding program.
There are Presets that mostly deal with color pop and those that deal with increasing detail and then of course a few that do both. You can also Save your own presets as well as Import and export them to share with other users. I found most of the presets on the heavy side but again, that’s ME. For most users the presets will be just about right and I am sure many just choose one and don’t even touch the adjustment panel
The Adjustment Panel on the right starts with an Exposure section which is where you would do work to compress the exposure of the image to get more of that HDR look, Next below that is a section to work on how much detail you want in an image and you really can go anywhere from mild to wild with these controls. The next section down controls Color if you want to add some saturation pop (or take some away) and finally there is a Noise section which seemed to be effective but limited in adjustments. This may not be a problem if you buy the bundle because you will have Topaz De-Noise which can be launched from this application. Any adjustments made were applied and the preview refreshed rather quickly.
OK, I’ll admit it was fun
NOW comes the confession. I actually had fun using this. Yeah it’s way beyond where I will normally go with images but it was nice to just play and get some wild effects on some of my images in my portfolio. And that is part of it. It can be very image dependant. Using the Automotive images I shot in the previous post were not so successful but when I opened some images from a car show I shot two years ago they worked perfectly and were well suited to any treatment I applied.
Use it on a layer
Now I mentioned using them on a new layer earlier. This is appealing to me and how I work because although I may not love the wild style, I can, by varying the opacity of that layer, have as as little or as much of that style as I want and by doing that was certainly able to find something pleasing to my eye. I certainly could see using the Detailed preset for some work.
So summing it up, it’s kinda like how I eat. I try to eat healthy as much as I can, but the truth is, I loves me some hot wings. Topaz Adjust 4 may just be your hot wings.
Here are some of images and the original to compare to ( Click to enlarge)
If you would like to buy or try Topaz Adjust 4 click here
Hope that helps,
Note: HDR Efex Pro has been replaced by the much imporved HDR Efex Pro 2 and is now part of the Great Nik Collection by Google
For about a year now I have been chomping at the bit to test drive HDR Efex Pro from the cool folks at Nik software. But because of some technical deficiencies on my end, I never got to do that. So recently I upgraded some software that allowed me to test it out. Coincidentally I was invited over to Nik software for lunch and just to talk about HDR, where it is and where it is going. The people there are really great and I even had some Durian Fruit for dessert after lunch. For those of you that don’t know, Durian is an Asian fruit that smells and TASTES something like a cross between old gym socks and garlic…Mmmmm. It actually was fun to try.
(Click on Images to enlarge in a new window)
Nik software is a very high quality company and software manufacturer. They have a very large engineering staff in Europe and aren’t just a couple guys playing in their garage. They have a wealth of experienced and knowledgeable people to draw on and put out some very compelling and imaginative software. I got to play with a number of their offering but the spotlight of this article will be on, of course, Nik HDR Efex Pro.
Like all of Nik Software (except for their new Ultra-Hip Snapseed iPhone Ap) it is a plug-in requiring a “Host” program. They work with Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom and Apple Aperture. For this review I was working with Adobe Lightroom 3.
After selecting the images in LR that you want to use in your HDR (yes you can do single image HDRs), you simply right click (Mac Control Click) them and say Export to HDR Efex Pro. Or with the images selected you can go up to File> Export with> HDR Efex Pro. This will open up the HDR Efex Pro workspace. It’s an interface familiar to LR users, Presets on the left, working controls on the right in an descending order of importance and the image preview in the center. The preview updates in real time and is fully scalable up to 300%.
The first process that occurs is the merging of your files and then the image goes through alignment and De-Ghosting if selected. The first time you open HDR Efex Pro, you may need to go down to settings on the left and select what you actually want to occur on opening of files and it will sticky that setting, however you can go up top of the panel and change those setting and realign/deghost the image again with different settings. Alignment work very well for the most part, occasionally there was some confusion in background sections that had very complex areas of tone or contrast. This didn’t happen often but was visible on two images I did process. I’ve been assured that this is something that will be addressed in updates from Nik. For Chromatic Aberrations, Nik recommends taking care of that in RAW before processing but I did find in a few cases there was some chromatic aberration from the alignment itself but only very occasionally.
De-ghosting worked great especially if you used the Global setting and High. Those of you that remember the example I showed of De-Ghosting with the Pelicans in flight will be glad to know I used the same image and it came out very well with just a little bit of cloning work to do on the final image. While Photomatix’s Semi-manual option is extremely good at what it does and may eliminate even the most stuborn ghost, for the most part the automatic operations of HDR Efex pro are great for most usual occurances.
Once you have your image aligned and de-ghosted as necessary, You can move to the left side of the panel to the preset area. Nik includes 33 factory presets from mild to wild as well as the ability to store your own presets and also export those preset to share with other users. I’m really not a big preset fan but the advantage is it shows new users a lot of different styles that are possible and they can see where the settings are for that look and then modify or at least understand what different controls will allow you to achieve.
Moving to the right side of the panel are the adjustment controls. Upon opening, all the controls are reset to zero. I actually wish they would sticky to last settings used or at least allow me that option without the need to make a preset. Sometimes I will work on a file and want to redo it afterwards with just a few modifications of what I used. Speaking of which, I wish that HDR Efex Pro also had the ability to save a file as a 32 bit Radiance HDR file so that I didn’t have to go through the tedious and time consuming merging/alignment process, if I wanted to redo a tonemapping or try a different style. The program does have the ability to OPEN them, it just can’t save as one. It of course is possible to save as a Radiance File using a merge in Photoshop or “That other HDR program” But I would rather not have to use another program or another step.
As I mentioned before, the adjustments are arranged in a descending order of importance. The first being Tone Compression which will determine your overall balance between highlight and shadow or if over-boosted, the lack there off. But this is the most important adjustment to make and then go on to make other adjustment and maybe return to it for a slight tweak. Below that are your global adjustments for Exposure, Contrast and Saturation which are self-explanatory to photographers. Next is an adjustment for “Structure” I don’t know how to best describe Structure, It’s kind of like sharpening but not really. Its like sharpening of tone and not contrast. And with judicious use if it will increase the… well..Structure or textural detail of an image. Used correctly it can add some interest, used too much it starts to look like the faux HDR software effects like Topaz Adjust or Lucis. You may or may not like this effect. Structure is a control that is a part of most Nik Software offerings.
Below that you have controls for overall Black Level, Whites and then a Warmth - color balance control.
Below these all is a drop down box for HDR Method. Nik HDR Efex Pro has 4 different HDR Algorithms in 20 different preset flavors and then a strength slider. I don’t know, sometimes too many things to play with is a bad thing and I think this is one of them. In the first place the difference between presets is not always visible unless you up the strength and then that tends to make it look overblown and you end up going back and forth and never really knowing what looks better or not. If it was me I would get rid of this part and just have the four algorithms and a slider, done!
Selective adjustments allow you to place up to 64 “Control Points” anywhere on the image and make Local adjustments to those areas individually. This is HUGE! After you make a control point and adjust the area you want it to affect, you can make all the adjustments that are in the upper part of panel to just that control area. ( the Screen shot only shows the first three adjustments but the list can be expanded to all in the top panel) Not only will this eliminate some dodging and burning later in post processing but it also allows you other adjustments that dodging and burning will just not do. You can leave HDR Efex pro with a totally finished product and may not need to ever touch it in another program. Like I said, HUGE and this may be the ONE reason you buy HDR Efex pro.
Next down are the Finishing Adjustments. The first of which allow you to add an Vignette to the image with either black or white edges or various lens vignetting effects. Worked fine for people that don’t want to take it out to other software.
The next and last item is something else that I am really happy they included, a levels and curves adjustment. This something that I, without a doubt, always do to an image in an external processor and it’s nice to have it included so I can make some tweaks and then if I need to, go back and make other adjustments based on that tweak. You can’t do that if you bring it into an external processor afterwards. The only thing I wish is that there was more difference in color in the included histogram, The background is black and the histogram a very dark grayand it makes it hard to see with my old used eyes.
On the very bottom is a Loupe and a Histogram. The histogram is a RGB + Luminosity Histogram but again the luminosity is in Black against a dark gray background and you hardly know it is there. An easy fix for future updates ( I hope)
And then you have the save button at the very bottom, You can save the image ( and re-import and stack in LR) as a JPEG or either 8 bit or 16 Bit Tiff files.
Okay so enough about the way it works, I know you want to know, How DID it work? VERY well actually. But it is such a different animal than Photomatix. I feel more comfortable using Photomatix but I also have been using it for 5+ years. With Photomatix I always have a default starting point of adjustments I start with on every image and then go from there. With HDR Efex Pro, I could never find a starting point that worked well with every image. So I would start from scratch every time. But that’s the way I work, Others may be able to find a preset close to what they want and tweak from there quickly.
When I processed I really didn’t try to duplicate the look I got in Photomatix (HDR Efex Pro’s only real competition or vice versa I guess) because what would be the point of that? Wouldn’t that preclude me from maybe getting a result that was even better? So I just worked in HDR Efex Pro and tried to get an image that looked the best it could without comparing it to what I got in Photomatix (well - until later).
If you are a detail freak, HDR Efex Pro is the one for you, there is detail in sharpness as well as tone. Comparing images in Photomatix, the Photomatix images sometimes looked “Fogged” compared to the HDR Efex Pro one. Some times that is good, sometimes that is bad, depends on the image and of course your taste. That increased detail also brought about a slight increase in noise with HDR Efex pro. But nothing that couldn’t be fixed with Noise Reduction in Lightroom or a plug in like Nik’s own DFine. Sometimes results were very close, sometimes image looks could not be more apart. I really hate to use this analogy, but Photomatix looked more like film, HDR Efex Pro like digital. You can decypher that however you like. Neither one right, just different. Like Vanilla or Strawberry Ice cream. I love them both, they just taste different. ( I do take Ice Cream donations BTW)
I could talk on and on about the results but it’s probably a better idea to show you some side by side so maybe you can determine the look you like. Remembering that I tend to go for a more natural “as the eye sees” result. If you are more of a “Grunge” style artist, either software will work but you may find your way to Grunge Nirvana a little quicker in HDR EFex Pro.
Here are some side by sides:
To buy Nik HDR Efex pro or to try a free 15 Day trial of the software as part of the Nik Collection buy Google
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Some added fun using my Images
OK, NOW for a little bit of added fun, If you download HDR Efex Pro and want to try it on a sample image of mine (Watermarked) along with a Preset that I made. Just click and download this Zip File here: (example.zip) Unzip it to a folder or your desktop and then load the images into the associated software you use (Photoshop, Lightroom, Aperture) and Export/open them with HDR Efex pro. Once they are open in HDR Efex Pro, you can import the preset I have included in the zip file (Example.bn) and use that to see how I might do it and then play with those settings or try some of the other presets to see what does what.
Nik HDR Efex Pro, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Hope that helps,
On July 16th HDRSoft released a update of Photomatix Pro, version 4.1 (with a subsequent update on July 21st to 4.1.1 just to fix a couple bugs) I wanted to review the new release at that time but some Eye surgery kept me sidelined for a while and I am just getting around to it now. I have been using the beta of this new release for a little while now and used it in an upcoming magazine article.
With it’s full release let’s take a look at some of the changes that have put into the latest version.
On opening Pro4.1 everything looks the same as before and same basic setup to open the images you want to work on.
The first major changes comes after you open your images and in the Preprocessing Options
The first thing we notice is that under Align source images is a new check box to include or exclude perspective correction when aligning the images. This could be helpful in some architecture shots.
You can also now use the slider below to set the maximum misalignment of images that the software will correct for.
Under remove ghosts, they have made the Automatic deghosting more powerful to detect and remove more ghosts.
And in the Selective De-Ghosting tool, when you get to that screen they have added a “Quick selection” option so that you don’t have to select and then click mark selection as ghosted area… Kind of nice, makes things quicker.
Everything else in this panel remains the same.
The next changes and the BIGGEST one comes in the Tone-Mapping / Fusion Panel
First thing you will notice are some cosmetic changes, an 18% gray color scheme, the preview pane has been resized so that the histogram can dock next to it and you can also set in your preferences whether the histogram shows upon opening the tone mapping panel.
Then they re-named the Lighting Adjustments (Which used to be Smoothing) from Low /High to Natural Medium and Surreal, again to have the control name make more sense to the user of what it actually does. I like that
There is a new control under “Show More Options” Smooth Highlights. This control seems to help with some troublesome areas like bright skies that may have grayed out a bit or even some haloing in contrasty areas
Most of the other controls have remained relatively the same with perhaps just a repositioning of their order.
Now, back to the biggest change in this version of Photomatix Pro, the inclusion of a selection tool and the ability to replace the selected area with one of the single exposures instead of the exposure merge. Previously you have to finish the HDR in Photomatix and then take the image into Photoshop, add the image exposure you wanted to replace in a new layer and mask it into the HDR.
I would do this at times when either because of the merge the image lost fine detail in an area that really needed it. Or, when Photomatix Pro just couldn’t get a particular part of the image just right. This was often the case with white puffy cloud skies. Too often they would gray out and I felt one of the original exposures blended into the image would provide a more satisfying look to my final image, especially with my desire for a very natural and not surreal image.
The addition of this tool right in the Tone Mapping stage is really very helpful, both in saving time and allowing you to see what it would look like instantly instead of much later down in the process.
The selections tools worked fairly well, perhaps not quite as adjustable as they are in Photoshop. But the Magnetic Lasso did a good job in testing.
Now I have to be honest, will I ALWAYS use this method? Maybe, maybe not. It depends on the image. There are times when I want the more power I have in Photoshop to manipulate that selection with different adjustments and filters. So even with this addition I may still return to my original method. But in the end I really do welcome this addition to the tools of Photomatix Pro. I know I will use it many times especially for some smaller areas.
All in all this appears to be the best version yet. I’m not sure they made any engine changes but it seems to work fast and the preview, which has be problematic in the past seems so far to perform better.
As always, Highly recommended, I still believe this to be the best HDR Imaging software and the one I will use.
To Download/Purchse/Upgrade to HDR Soft’s Photomatix 4.1.2 you may do so HERE For 15% off your purchase of any Photomatix Software, enter the coupon code: theHDRimage at checkout
You can also read about all the other changes and bug fixes that each release has on the download page