HOW TO USE LIGHTROOM CC”S NEW MERGE TO HDR COMMAND
Images in this blog are of my local Flagler Beach, Florida, and were taken with my Nikon 10-24 mm wide-angle lens. This week I decided I should address this new technology that is only in Lightroom CC. Since I have not been shooting HDR for a while, it is not something I use that much. I have always used Photomatix and Nik HDR Efex Pro 2 plug-ins for my HDR images, so this is definitely an interesting update for Lightroom. Many die-hard HDR fans are not liking the results. My take on this process is that it is very good and it comes with Lightroom so you don’t have to buy it. I will probably use it when I can.
So I am going to go through my Lightroom workflow real quick so you can see the screenshots for each step. The actual shooting using bracketed images to create an HDR image is a huge topic that I am not covering in this blog. It is recommended that you first do the Merge to HDR before doing any other changes in LR, especially the Adjustment Brush changes.
1. Need to first highlight each of the images to be merged into HDR. My images selected were using Exposure Compensations of -2 1/2, -1/2, and +1 1/2. Adobe says you only need to use 2 images, but some people say noise appears unless 3 are used. Apparently 3 images are enough to get good results, even if you have more bracketed.
2. Right click on one of the selected images and choose Photo Merge -> HDR. The following dialog will open showing the basic merged image.
I decided to use all three HDR Options even though a tripod was used to shoot these images. Always use the Auto Align to be sure they are lined up correctly. Use Auto Tone to bring in the information for the light and dark tones from each image. Only need to use Deghost when you have some sort of action in the image. This could be people moving around or, as in this case, clouds and waves that can be moving quite a bit so the High setting was selected. By checking the Show Deghost Overlay, you can see where it deghosted. I believe it was quite windy when I took these images, so that is why the plants on the right foreground were deghosted. With each change selected, the image updates.
3. Click the Merge button when all settings are correct.
Above shows the expected rather flat merged DNG image. The DNG file format is the same as a RAW file – it is just Adobe’s file extension for RAW files. I do not usually save my RAW files as DNGs, but use Nikon’s NEF file format when I import. This is really just personal taste.
4. Apply settings to really pop your image.
First adjust the Exposure slider which now can be set between +10 to -10. The normal settings are from +5 to -5. Now since the blacks and whites are making the image so flat looking, set these. To get the best Auto blacks setting, hold SHIFT and double-click on the word Blacks – it will now be set at the position to get the best effect. You can still adjust it more if you do not like the results. Do the same for the Whites slider. Then add some Clarity and Vibrance to finish up. See the image under Step 6 to see the settings along with the HSL settings.
5. Use Lightroom’s Adjustment Brush to Dodge and Burn localized areas. The Adjustment Brush was used to some Brightening to very localized areas – the waves and some of the rocks. Above is a screenshot showing these areas as painted as a red overlay on the the image, and the brush settings used to get these results. Just a little Exposure was added (+0.47), some Clarity, and Sharpness so the waves show up a little better. Note that in this case the brush was set to a 100% Flow, but I do not always do this. For a more gentle effect, use a lower Flow amount and build up the effect as needed.
Above the Adjustment Brush was used to add some Darkening or Burning effect to some localized areas – only the Exposure was set to -0.39 and a few parts of the sand were darkened. You can see the white dot that shows where the dodging was added before. Just click on it to further adjust the dodging effect.
6. Adding HSL slider settings.
Here are the settings used for the Basic settings and the HSL Luminance settings for this image. I did not feel it needed anymore changes to the colors other that the Oranges and Blues adjustments. Overall the image looked pretty nice and balanced to me.
Below is another image created using the HDR process in Lightroom. I am really pleased with the lack of noise in the image – the DNG file was very sharp, but the colors still needed a little tweaking. Some overall sharpening was done to the image in Lightroom and an Adjustment Brush was used to even out the shadows in the dark window shutter behind her. Also two Radial Filters were applied – just decreased Exposure slider for the darker vignette effect, and then increased it slightly to get the face and body lightened slightly. In Photoshop some clean up was done using the Spot Healing Brush and Clone Stamp Tool to remove a restraining rope that ran in front of the umbrellas. Also a final Curves Adjustment Layer was applied to just add a bit more contrast in the blacks. This could have been done in Lightroom as well.
That is about all there is to it! It is very easy to do and by having the Lightroom sliders available, it is easy to adjust just the way you want. You can still work on the image in Photoshop or add some special effect presets in Lightroom. Lots of options. Hope you try out this new command, and try out shooting some HDR if you have not tried it yet. I believe it can really take your image to a higher level of detail and color. Chat at ya next week!…..Digital Lady Syd