HDR Using Photoshop Merge to HDR and Nik”s HDR EFex Pro and Silver Efex Pro? Wow!
Every time I listen to a new webinar or tutorial on Photoshop, a different way of doing something pops up. That is exactly what happened this time when I listened to Creating Texture, Color, & Sharpness by Katrin Eismann, a recent Nik Webinar. I have always loved Katrin – she was a good presenter at the Photoshop Worlds I attended and has a great book called Photoshop Masking & Compositing that is currently being updated. Katrin has come up with an interesting way of processing HDR photos and I have to say it works as good as any other method I have tried. Katrin uses this method whenever she wants to bring out the image texture, color or sharpness.
The above image is the Subaru Telescope on top of Mauna Kea (altitude 13,460 feet) on the Big Island in Hawaii and is located near the Keck Telescopes. Katrin uses a very basic way of processing her HDR photos. This image was composed of five HDR images (hand-held – I was lucky as it was very cold and windy when this was taken) and follows her basic workflow. Below are the steps to create this type of HDR image:
1. Without making any changes to the images, in Bridge select your HDR images and go to Tools -> Merge to HDR Pro or in Lightroom select the HDR images, right click, and choose Edit In -> Merge to HDR Pro in Photoshop.
2. Once opened up in Merge to HDR Pro in Photoshop, a tone-mapped image appears. Check the Remove Ghosts box and one of the thumbnails will be selected with a green border around it. Click on each thumbnail to see which image has the most pleasing effect in the areas with movement such as the wind in the trees, water movement, clouds in the sky, etc. Choose the image that has the most pleasing look in these areas. Click on it to choose if not the one selected. No other adjustments are made – just click OK and go out of Merge to HDR Pro. She does this step because of the ease of using this “deghosting” feature. Say okay to go back into Photoshop.
3. Right click on image layer and select Convert to Smart Object.
4. Go to Filter -> Nik Software -> HDR Efex Pro. This takes your single Photoshop processed HDR image into the Nik program. She starts by looking at the presets – her favorite is the Clean City 1 preset even for landscapes. Katrin usually increases the Global Structure slider to 20% or so to make the detail sharper. At this point the Method can be changed globally and Control Points can be added to increase or decrease the individual effects in localized parts of the image.
5. Go to Filter -> Nik Software -> Silver Efex Pro 2. She likes the High Structure (Harsh) preset but look at others for one you may like. The color filter, film type, grain, tones, edges, and vignette can now be changed or added. Try all the sliders to get the right effect. Click okay and go back to Photoshop.
6. The image is now black and white but color is what is needed. Therefore, double-click in the right-hand side on the little icon for the Silver Efex Pro 2 Smart Filter line item. This brings up the Blending Options dialog box. Try out different blend modes on the image and set different opacities. If parts of your image are too dark or too light, go back into your filter by double-clicking on the text in the left side of the line item and open up the filter again – add a control point and/or adjust sliders to fix problem areas – this is the beauty of Smart Filters! You can still set a different blend mode and opacity for your top Smart Filter Layer too!
That’s it! Pretty simple technique that gives some really nice detailed images. For the top image while in Nik HDR Efex Pro, Clean City 1 preset was used with a control point added to the building itself (Structure slider set to 100%, Contrast to 30% and Warmth to 85%) so texture and detail of the building could be further captured. Since I wanted a golden sunny tone, the Fine Art Process preset was selected in Silver Efex Pro 2 and changes were made to the Color Filter Details settings (Hue 53 degrees and Strength 150%), and Finishing Adjustments Toning settings (changes to Strength 73%, Silver Hue 30 degrees, Paper Hue 50 degrees, and Paper Toning 73% – gives the yellow glow) and Vignette settings (Amount -6%, Full Rectangle, and Size 33%). For this image, the Hard Light Blend Mode was applied at 42% opacity to the Silver Efex Pro line item (see Step 6).
Here is another image of the smaller telescopes on Mauna Kea – this is a pretty busy place for so high up in the air and that is snow in the center left! Now, what is really cool is that the same settings for the first image were applied to this image without even going into the programs. You still have to take your images into Merge to Photoshop Pro and create a single tone-mapped image and then turn the layer into a Smart Object (Steps 1 and 3 above), but then all you do is drop and drag the individual smart filters line layers into your new image and it now matches the first image in tone and color. If the result is not quite right, go back into the individual filters and delete any localized Control Points that will still be set from the first image. The above is not as pretty an image as the first one, but it definitely got the correct tone and color saturation as the Subaru Telescope picture. To finish off both the images, I added Nik Viveza 2 to the Smart Filter layer. The Smart Filter layer was duplicated (CTRL+J), then flattened by right clicking on the layer and choosing Rasterize in the pop-out menu. The final steps are your own workflow – I added layers for clean up, noise removal, Sharpen Tool to add localized sharpening, final contrast using a Curves Adjustment Layer, and OnOne PhotoFrame grunge 13 (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website).
These beautiful mums are only 1 1/2 inches across and I grow them in a container on my porch. Still followed the workflow above using the Clean City 1 preset in Nik’s HDR Efex Pro with Global Structure set to 23% and Method to 20%. In Silver Efex Pro the High Structure (Smooth) was used instead of Harsh, and Control Points were added to the Flower Centers (Contrast 29%, Structure 100%, Amp White 29% and Fine Structure 80%) and one around all the white petals (Brightness 9%, Structure 70%, Amp White -100%, Amp Black 85%, and Fine Structure 97%). The Silver Efex Pro Smart Filter line item layer was set to Soft Light Blend Mode at 79% Opacity to turn the B&W image back to color (see Step 6). Viveza 2 was used to add more localized contrast. Next noise was removed and the image was sharpened. OnOne PhotoFrame acid burn controller 11 was added in a deep blue – this is a frame that really complimented the image and covers a lot of background distraction. A layer mask was added to the PhotoFrame to paint back in the parts of the flowers that should be not be covered with the frame.
I am going to try this process out on several other images but so far I have to admit, they all look pretty sharp, colorful and detailed. Listen to the above linked webinar – it is very interesting as Katrin also covers several other topics. Try this method and see what you think!…..Digital Lady Syd
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