I am one of those people that does love the HDR effect and I do wish I always had the tripod at my beckon call, but usually it just does not work that way for me. I have spent a lot of time trying to get an HDR look anyway. My camera takes a good image most of the time, so the challenge is to find the right program/filters to get that HDR effect without all the perfectly matched images. This blog addresses what I have come up with so far and all sections used Photoshop CS5.
HDR Toning Adjustment Mode
The above Green Turtle Cay Beach is an example of a JPEG image. It was processed in Photoshop using HDR Toning Adjustment Mode. It is possible to get a decent HDR effect with a JPEG image but not all images turn out good using this method.
This image had all the ingredients to make a nice HDR image – the beautiful detail on the restaurant and the windows and stone on the surrounding buildings. (All the rest of the images are camera RAW files.) This process usually gives a bit of the surreal look as shown in the above. Recently Scott Kelby released his CS5′s HDR Pro preset called Scott 5 that creates a really great “Pseudo HDR” effect. All of HDR Pro’s preset along with this preset will appear in the HDR Toning Adjustment Layer also. This preset was used here with a small increase of the Highlights slider to bring out the color a little. Otherwise that was it. If you have only a single image with some great detail in it, try out the preset in HDR Toning. The results are considered hit-or-miss and will probably not be as good as using three HDR images. Check out my blog, Different Images-Same Look Using HDR! - HDR Toning for Single Images section, for more information on this adjustment. Also, several of my images in my blog, Why I Love Topaz Adjust, used this technique before applying the Topaz Adjust plug-in.
Shadow and Highlight Adjustment Mode
This image had the great bright colors that I thought might create a really nice HDR effect. Unfortunately, when CS5′s HDR Toning Adjustment Mode was tried, it just did not look right, even with the Scott 5 preset. Some people have had success using the Shadows and Highlights Adjustment Mode, so that effect was used on this image. It took a lot of manipulation of all the sliders in the dialog, but I believe the “Pseudo HDR” look is present, just not as pronounced as with the HDR Toning Adjustment Mode.
The Sharpen Tool
The image above required a lot of prep work before even thinking about adding an HDR feel to it. The antennae had to be cloned out first.The Color Replacement Tool (see my Tidbits blog, Like a Chameleon – The Color Replacement Tool) was used to make the sky a blue – this tool was used since the sky and steeple were so close in color, it would have been hard to get a really clean selection. By using Options Bar settings as follows: the Mode to Color, Sampling Background Swatch (in this case, sampling the beige sky color to set as the Background Color and my new sky color, #c2d0d8, set as the Foreground Color), Limits to Find Edges, Tolerance 15% and Anti-Alias checked, it was pretty fast to paint over just the sky area. I used my SJ-Cloud Brush Set to paint in a couple clouds on a separate layer and created a composite above (CTRL+SHIFT+ALT+E).
I did not think the other pseudo-HDR techniques would work on this image since it had a rather flat look to it. I also did not want to HDR the clouds that were just added – only wanted the steeple and roof to have the detail effect. This week I listened to a NAPP Grid where Bryan Hughes, Product Manager for Adobe Photoshop, discussed how much the Sharpen Tool had been improved in CS5 and that it now has the best sharpening capability in Photoshop. That gave me the idea to use it for an HDR effect since I only wanted specific areas processed. So that is how this technique began. Select the Sharpen Tool and in Options Bar, set it to Mode Darken and 50% Strength. Paint over all the areas where the HDR look is to be added. Last, add Curves Adjustment Layer to give a little snap to the color. It may not be as effective as a true HDR processed image (the shadows are probably not as opened up as they would be in a true HDR image), but it does have some of the feel.
Lightroom HDR Preset
Many people say that with the correct settings, a decent HDR effect can be achieved with Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw. Here is an example of about as close as I could get to this effect using Lightroom and Photoshop.
For this Hawaiian landscape, a Lightroom preset from William Petruzzo Photography called HDR Effect – Heavy was applied. The Blacks slider was increased a small amount and a Curves Adjustment Layer added in Photoshop for contrast. I tried this preset on a couple other images and got some pretty bad haloing so you need to find the right image to get this nice look. It definitely is worth trying. I am not sure if there is an ACR preset is created at this time, but if you or a friend have Lightroom, you can easily copy the settings over to create an ACR preset.
I hope this has given you a couple new techniques to try and see if you can get a close copy to the HDR effect. I will keep my eyes open for any new ideas and present them as they become available. In the meantime, have fun playing in Photoshop!…..Digital Lady Syd
This week I decided to try something different. I am reading a book called “The Greater Journey – Americans in Paris” by David McCullough. It is a wonderful read – I am afraid I had never learned history like I should have when growing up. This book is about the various Americans who went to Paris in the 1800′s to learn about art, medicine, and other pursuits. In the first section of this book, a very intriguing discussion occurs about Samuel F. B. Morse, of Morse Code fame, whose actual love was painting. From 1831 to 1833 he created this large 9 foot x 6 foot painting called the “Gallery of the Louvre” where he copied 38 paintings from 25 masters. Since the photography era was in its infancy, he was trying to show Americans some of the art at the famous art gallery. I have read some criticism on this painting, but when you realize how small the copies of the paintings are in the image, and all the styles he was trying to reproduce, it seems like a pretty awesome result. His best friend, James Fennimore Cooper and family, is located in the left corner, and Morse painted himself center stage standing over a student.
Here is a small image of what the painting actually looks like.
The National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC is displaying the painting until July 2012. Here is a link to more information on the painting and for a download of a larger version. I am definitely going to see this next time I am in the DC area! It is nice that the book has brought this interesting painting to everyone’s attention again.
Now for the fun! I decided to create my own “Gallery of the Louvre” masterpiece by inserting my images where the master paintings resided. With the magic of Photoshop, the perspective was easy to get inside the painting frames.
This turned out to be a lot of fun to put together. If you would like to try this same thing, I uploaded the template I created and it is ready for download. Just drag your images into the template and place under each of the frame openings. Then Free Transform to fit. Sometimes it was necessary to use the Distort function to do the side view images. I tried to add a little lighting to match the natural light appearing on the images and I used a texture at a low resolution on the images only to get a painterly effect.
I hope you have as much fun as I did with this. It creates a rather unusual way to look at your images – just like in the Louvre in the 1830′s. ……..Digital Lady Syd
I have been doing Photoshop for several years now – I actually learned the program using Adobe PhotoDeluxe, which came with my printer (this was the precursor to Photoshop Elements). When first learning Adobe Photoshop, plug-ins were way too expensive for me. A few years ago, I finally bought my first plug-in, Topaz Adjust (for website link see sidebar in my Tidbits Blog), and it has been totally worth the money! Topaz Adjust is the whole package and at a very reasonable price (at the moment it is $50 – for link see Tidbits Blog tab above).
The image above is one of my all-time favorite pseudo-HDR images – it was taken from the London Eye as it was moving. Therefore I had to use Topaz Adjust if I wanted an HDR feel to the image. To get this particular look, I applied the plug-in twice, first using the HDR Pop preset and next using HDR Spicify preset (use a layer mask to paint out any portions you do not like from the top layer). Remember to open up the shadows by increasing this slider and possibly lowering your highlights a bit – check the contrast slider too.
I do love the HDR effect. Since I am not always very good about using a tripod, especially when taking travel pictures, Topaz Adjust has saved the day many times for me. On the Jackson downt0wn picture, I hand-held my camera for HDR and got such a garbled mess, I ended up using Topaz Adjust’ s HDR Pop preset on the middle exposure image. This preset needed a few adjustments to get the right look, but don’t pass it over with the first glance. Rick Sammon, who is one of the great HDR guys, did an excellent video for Topaz called “Awaken the Artist Within” where he discusses his settings for this preset. What I did was create a Rick Sammon HDR Pop preset using his adjustments and applied these settings with very little tweaking – and it took just a few seconds to do! (Rick Sammon also has written a very good basic book, “HDR Photography Secrets for Digital Photographers,” which I found to be very useful, although both Photomatix Pro and Topaz Adjust have updated their software since its publication. (There is some controversy on what people expected from his book – I still found his discussions on when to use HDR very useful. I hope Rick is considering updating his book as it has the best information on Topaz Adjust and how to use it.)
I wanted to show a comparison of using a single image with HDR Toning in CS5 and the Topaz Adjust HDR Pop preset. For Photoshop CS5, go to Image -> Image Adjustment -> HDR Toning. (Note: the program will flatten your image for this adjustment so save to a single layer first.) This brings up a dialog box that gives a convincing HDR effect when limited to just one image. There are various Presets in a drop-down menu and you can save your own presets here if you find some settings you like. Overall it is a very nice addition to Photoshop and you should definitely explore it. (Check out my previous blog “Different Images-Same Look Using HDR!” for more information on HDR Toning.) The image on the left was created using this technique. A Nik CEP Tonal Contrast filter was also added to get more detail into the image. The image on the right just used Topaz Adjust using Rick Sammon’s HDR Pop preset and the same Nik CEP Tonal Contrast filter. I find that combining two different plug-ins can really make an image pop and that is what happened when the Tonal Contrast filter was applied.
When you look at the two images, they look pretty similar – the HDR Toning effect is missing a bit of detail, the color is not quite the same – even the OnOne PhotoFrame (for website see sidebar of my Tidbits Blog) looks different even though it is the exact same frame for each image. I spent an hour just manipulating this image trying to duplicate Topaz Adjust’s look – I ended up using some Burning to bring out the detail on the white stones and after trying every adjustment layer, I settled two, a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer and the Photo Filter Adjustment Layer set to Cooling Filter (LBB) at 44% density to get the closest proximity for color. Now I would not normally spend all this time trying to get two images looking exactly the same, but I wanted to show it is possible to get a very similar look without purchasing a plug-in. I personally still like the Topaz image as the detail and color makes the image look like it did when I saw it – and after all, that is the name of the game!
Below, the top image was processed using three images with Photoshop CS5′s Merge to HDR Pro and underneath, the Topaz Adjust plug-in on one image.
Very similar look. The Topaz Adjust plug-in used the Rick Sammon HDR Pop preset I created and the Nik CEP Tonal Contrast filter. A PhotoFrame was added and that was it – very quick. The Photoshop HDR Pro image took a lot longer – the trees did not match perfectly and caused me to bring in one of the images to clean this up. It looked a bit flat to me so I had to Burn in some detail. It once again took about an hour to get this adjusted the way I like it. Since I am only using one image in Topaz Adjust, the tree line looks sharp and crisp and I like the way the windows popped. Therefore, once again the Topaz plug-in created a nice effect faster and with great detail from a single image.
Here is what the original middle exposure RAW file looked like straight from the camera, and the one used in the Topaz Adjust image, in case you are interested in what these programs can do with a pretty uninteresting subject.
The one thing I have had trouble figuring out it is when to use HDR and when to use Topaz Adjust. Rick Sammon explains in his book, ” If the dynamic range of your scene is 3 F-stops, you can manage it in Photoshop.” Therefore, if you have an image with a lot of contrast, you will need an HDR program to get all the detail. Otherwise, Adobe Camera Raw (see how to get back into ACR after opening file in my blog “Edit Layers with ACR Script“), CS5′s HDR Toning, or Topaz Adjust can be used on a single image. Raw file format is the best choice, using your image with the most contrast from the HDR set of images, if you took them. You will not get anymore detail in your image using three HDR images that only has 3 F-stops of information. (See above images.)
When doing HDR, you will probably still have to do some adjustments in Photoshop afterwards. Adding a Topaz Adjust preset or a Nik CEP Tonal Contrast filter can finish up an image – it is that extra step that might make the picture better than the average HDR. Use layer masks to mask out effects and Curves Adjustment layers to emphasize contrast.
The final image is another example of using Topaz Adjust but this time it is giving an artsy look by using the Spicify preset and increasing the Noise Suppression. This was another of Rick Sammon’s examples in the linked video above. I made another preset to duplicate his basic settings. Below is the result.
I could go on-and-on with what this little plug-in can do. It definitely adds to my total pleasure while working with Photoshop – and I definitely would not use it if it was not fun! I hope you will download a trial of the Topaz Adjust plug-in. I believe you will enjoy a lot of the results you get. I find that I use this plug-in about as much as the regular HDR programs to get that really interesting effect, whether using HDR or pseudo HDR – and you got to love the way it can make a really boring picture interesting! Good luck experimenting!…..Digital Lady Syd
I admit it – I have certain people that I think are brilliant when it comes to Photoshop creativity – one is the totally awesome Russell Brown and another one is NAPP guy, Corey Barker. They never let you down when it some to discovering new things to do in Photoshop. This week I listened to this short video on Corey’s website, Planet Photoshop, called “Creating Exploding Brushes.” This first image basically looks very similar to Corey’s but I loved the effect. The cloud brush created in the tutorial was used as the background texture – I used my SJ-Cloud Brushes Set Cloud 4 brush. You may download my SJ-Firebrush used for all these images.
This image uses BB Brushes and Mists Sampled Brush 3 to add a fog feel behind the cloud of flames created in this image. This silhouette is from a set called People Silhouettes by redheadstock at deviantArt. A grunge effect was added with OnOne PhotoFrames (see website link on sidebar of my Tidbits Blog).
First used the Gradient Tool to create a radial gradient using Graphix 1′s Muted 6 gradient. Next two different palm trees brushes by Midnightstouch were added. Char Ultimate Grass Brushes and Obsidian Dawn’s Grasses & Plants Brush No. 9 were used. My Firebrush was used to make a background texture, without the layer style used to create the fire effect. A little Warp Tool on the brushes and that was it for this image.
I started this image by painting a sky with the Photoshop chalk brush using a color I really like for skies (#c2d0d8). A tree from MelBrushes Winter Trees and Falln-Brushes Tree Brushes Set 2 (Dead Tree 1) from deviantArt were added. The tree leaves and the bushes were created using the SJ-Firebrush by just dabbing a bit on the leaves with small size of brush and using a couple different hues – can always a add Layer Mask to trees to hide some of the branches. Also the foreground was created using the Firebrush and the bush, from The Grasslands set by Midnightstouch at deviantArt. The birds are from Obsidian Dawn’s Bird Flying Group. Put a frame on it and it is done. All very easy to do and lots of fun!
This image was created using two of Caleb Kimbrough’s fabulous free textures, Summer texture 4 and Subtle Grunge Example 3. I used my SJ-Soft Blending Brush to create the flower stems and the SJ-FireBrush at a small size to create the flowers. I used Nik’s Color Efex Pro Graduated User Defined filter using a reddish hue for the sky and a Vignette Frame from OnOne PhotoFrame (see website link on sidebar of my Tidbits Blog).
This turned out be just sort of a fun blog – wanted to show that if you get an interesting brush to play with, you can get some really cool effects and it is a lot fun. Experiment! (Digital Lady Syd’s Rule No. 1) You can get some surprising results!…..Digital Lady Syd