Shooting Automobiles – Part – 2 – Processing
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.
Processing In Photomatix Pro 4.1
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;
- Smooth Highlights 28, I used this to have a smoother gradation of the sky and took some of the gray out of it that can happen in highlights.
- White Point: 2.000%, this actually has a much larger effect on overall brightness of the image than Luminosity ever has. Still not sure why they call it that.
- Black Point: 0.092% just to bring back some of the shadows and blacks in the image
- Gamma: 1.20, this brings the Midtones where I want them. If you watch your histogram of your image, you will see a center peak in almost every image, this controls where that peak is. I prefer it slightly to the left of center but in the end I look at my image more than the histogram to see what look right. It’s just an interesting correlation you may like to see
- Saturation Highlights: 7.0 this controls the saturation on the highlights only. They appeared a bit washed out so I wanted to add a bit more to them.
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
- Compression: 43%
- Saturation: 22%
- Structure: 9%
- Blacks: 12%
- Warmth: 26%
- HDR Method: Natural
Final adjustments in Photoshop
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.
Our Advanced Shoot HDR + OCF
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
Awesome write-up. I really thought that the “Problem Areas” diagram was informative. It lets us know what you are thinking and why you made the changes – which is far more important than just having the “recipe” for the image.
I think it might be useful (at least for me) to have a set of images to play around with. Any chance you can provide the three (-2 0 +2) images from the shoot for us? Maybe with a watermark in the middle (or just downsized a bit?). If not, that’s ok, I still find this very useful!
Thank you! Once again, very great detail of information. I just did a car shoot Sunday, but it was done about an hour and a half before sunset because I don’t have OCF and didn’t know how to do it with my flash attachment. I saw where you explained how to do that, but will have to work on that before I try it with someone’s “portrait” shot!
Great article Peter. I’ve been doing quite a bit of automotive photography lately for a few clients. I’ve been shooting at several car shows where the lighting is pretty horrible, usually mid day sun. I’ve had a few issues with reds in that horrible light, I usually have to go to photoshop to correct it, just can’t seem to get it right out of photomatix. I don’t sell any of the car show images so not a huge deal but if you have any suggestions for deep reds in photomatix I all ears.
[…] Thankfully a few brave souls sent in their versions of the Automobile images I shot for out Shooting Automobiles Tutorial. […]