Anything Photoshop or Photography

Different Images – Same Look Using HDR!

This week I am going to just show some of the results from taking images in Jackson, Mississippi. For starters, this is a classic place to get good pictures – HDR (high dynamic range) or not. It has lots of history and many beautiful churches and government buildings that make for great photography.

There is so much information on how to get an HDR look, and to be honest, I do not think it is all that hard once you get comfortable with one or more of the HDR programs. I have been taking HDR pictures for several years and I still love the effect, but there are many people who do not enjoy this type of artistic expression on an image.

Photomatix Pro 4.0

This first image is of an old abandoned church in downtown Jackson.

The effect above was created using Photomatix Pro 4.0. This is the program I used to learn how to do HDR post-processing, and I still go to this software first when processing HDR. It is reasonably priced with NAPP members getting a 25% discount, and  Mark S. Johnson Photography gives a 15% discount. I have had trouble with slight camera movement since I do not always shoot my HDR images on a tripod. The latest upgrade provides a very good correction due to camera jiggle, or tree branches, people or water movement.

The above image is an HDR Image of the beautiful Mississippi Capitol Building using Photomatix Pro 4.0.

Nik’s HDR Efex Pro

I tried using Nik’s HDR Efex Pro in the image below using the Vibrant Details and Colors preset and then adjusted with some control points. That’s it. If you are interested in HDR, take a look at this software – it has a very different interface from the Photomatix Pro program. Since I love all NIK products, it is hard not to like this program.

Because I got curious, I decided to put the Mississippi State Capitol Building into Nik HDR Efex Pro. Since this software has a bunch of presets to try out on the image before you apply the final settings, I decided to use the Vintage preset that definitely gives a nostalgic feel to the image. This effect would have been harder to achieve in Photomatix or CS5 – to get this result an action would have to be applied in Photoshop after the image was created in the HDR program.

Adobe Photoshop CS5’s Merge to HDR

The HDR effect below was created using Photoshop’s own Merge to HDR command. I used my “Use with Vivid Drawing preset” (download in next section) as a starting point and made adjustments to suit the image. Personally, I think CS5 does a pretty good job.

Adobe Photoshop CS5’s HDR Toning for Single Images

I was unable to get three good image shots off (the picture was taken from the car while at a stop light). Therefore, Photoshop CS5’s new Single HDR Adjustment was applied. First the picture was adjusted using my SJ-Vivid Drawing Look Develop preset in Lightroom (download here) or in Photoshop ACR (download here – wrong extension in the zip folder on file – change to .xmp to get it to work) which gives the start of an HDR effect, and then I opened CS5 to finish the look by going to Image -> Adjustment -> HDR Toning. To apply this effect in Photoshop, the image must be flattened so save your original first and create a new flattened version to apply the HDR Toning. To use the settings used here, download the “Use with Vivid Drawing Preset” I created for the HDR Toning Preset field. It needs to be placed in the following folder for Windows users: (User  Name)\AppData\Roaming\Adobe\Adobe Photoshop CS5\Preset\HDR Toning.

Here is another image using the same Lightroom/ACR preset and the downloaded Use with Vivid Drawing Look preset for the HDR Toning dialog in Photoshop. These settings work very well on landscape images with bright colors. Since the sky was flat, it was replaced after running my favorite plug in Kill White that I have added to Adobe Pixel Bender.

There are many good references if you want to learn more about HDR post processing or just to learn the latest techniques. Trey Radcliff is the HDR guru. His “Stuck in Customs” blog (one I have followed for several years and is one of my favorite all-time blogs) is probably the best you will find on HDR, and he has a great HDR tutorial. RC Concepcion just released a new book called “The HDR Book: Unlocking the Pros’ Hottest Post-Processing Techniques” that appears to cover the programs I used above. Richard Harrington has a good video at TipSquirrel called “HDR with Photoshop and HDR Efex Pro” and they have many other HDR videos available – so check these out. This is just touching the “tip of the iceberg” on this subject.

Try some of your other filters (Topaz Adjust with the Spicify preset a popular look right now – see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) or add some textures on these images after you have applied the HDR effect. There are many, many possibilities to get some great looking pictures! Go shoot some HDR images and experiment with the post-processing!…..Digital Lady Syd

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10 responses

  1. Pingback: HDR Efex Pro, Clean City and the Lilly Pad. « Gregs Digital Photo

  2. nice overview of the different products, i just picked up hdr efex for $99.00 special this month
    i have tried them all but love the preset factor, plus the single image processing
    one question, do your plugins work in photoshop elements?

    07/08/2011 at 8:10 am

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