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Posts tagged “HDR Efex Pro

My 100th Post! – My Favorite Things About Photoshop

Since I have reached this major milestone, I decided this week I would show a few examples of what I use the most in Photoshop and what is the most fun for me when using Photoshop. In some of these cases, I will be mentioning certain products or people but that is mainly because I really like what they do – they do not know me. Also, no external plug-ins will be discussed here.

Several things were done in Photoshop to process this image of a sailboat model of the USS Constitution located at The Casements in Ormond Beach, Florida. The most important is that a 32-bit tone-mapped image was created in Photoshop’s Merge to HDR, saved as a TIFF file, and then brought into Lightroom 4.1’s Develop module using the sliders to bring out all the details. This now makes Photoshop’s HDR processing on par with several of the other HDR software programs. The TIFF image goes back into Photoshop to finish up using another one of my favorite tools – Puppet Warp – to straighten out the extreme warping in the original image (it was actually applied twice). It was a difficult image to work on since it has a square glass encasement and the horizontal louvered blinds in the background. Just using the arrow keys is sometimes enough to push and pull the image pins the correct amount and Puppet Warp works much better than Lens Correction or the new Adaptive Wide Angle filters for me. Puppet Warp can be used in a Smart Object for readjusting later if needed.

I am slowly really getting into textures – they just do so much for a boring image. The texture above was created using one of the best panels you can apply to Photoshop and that is Dr. Brown’s (may be the top Photoshop guru of all time and works for Adobe) Paper Texture Panel – biggest time saver for anyone that likes to experiment with textures! This is one feature I use all the time and can’t believe I used to go through my textures individually to try them out. To really enhance this process, create a folder on your desktop that contains several sub-folders to place copies of your favorite textures. He recommends keeping these folders to around 20 textures as it takes a while to load if it is much bigger. I have sub-folder on textures I created, my favorite textures I use all the time, and a few on textures I have downloaded or bought. You can switch folders very quickly in the panel. This image used Paul Grand’s Scratches Texture and Gavin Hoey’s beautiful grunge frame 1. I am also putting a plug in here for my favorite texture guy, ShadowHouse Creations, who offers all kinds of beautiful textures for free, and I use them all the time. I reference his textures in many of my older blogs.


Those wonderful brushes in Photoshop! My very first blog featured the above image where I actually used a Photoshop Mixer Brush to paint in the petals of the flowers. This is still one of my favorite painted images – the Oleander flowers in the original were not near as pretty. The background was a Karen Sperling texture called 08Sperling (I believe this now has to be purchased – not sure how I got it) that added was a very delicate complement to the image. She is actually a Corel Painter Master and does some wonderful things in that program.

Totally indispensable! The last step I always do before I save an image. A few months ago I viewed a short video tutorial at Kelby Training called Mastering Curves: Adjusting Tonality by Ben Wilmore, another great Photoshop guru, who teaches how to use Curves correctly. (I have found the Kelby Training tutorials to be the best you can find on every aspect of photography and photoshop.) The basic thing to know about Curves is that by selecting the hand tool in the top left of the adjustment panel and dragging straight up in the image it lightens it up, and down darkens it. If you get two dots close and rather flat on a Curve line, you will lose detail.  A black layer mask can be created to target just the areas you want changed. It is a pretty simple technique but can improve an image quickly. Also you can save Curve settings if you want to apply them again. The image above of the beautiful birds in the Spring at the Rookery used several Curves Adjustment Layers to match the tones for the composite.

I have been using this Double Edge Frame layer style a lot on my images – gives a nice clean look with colors that can be sampled from the image. Also plain black borders can easily be created. To download this layer style for free or directions on how to create it, see my blog referenced above. There are many other uses for layer styles that I love, but I use the frames the most. Also a couple textures were added here with Dr. Brown’s Paper Texture Panel.


I love the way you can go back in and fix your settings if you do not like the way they look. Most of the plug-ins I use have Smart Object capability and this is why I use them. I can’t tell you how many times I have gone back into Nik’s Viveza 2 and adjusted my control points! Just another great Photoshop feature. The image above of the Hilton Time Share swimming pool on the Big Island in Hawaii used Smart Objects for both the Nik HDR Efex Pro using Granny’s Attic preset and Viveza 2. Also two Curves Adjustment Layers were used.

I could go on and on about all my favorite features I love. The above are some of the ones I use the most. I thought about writing on the new Defringe section in Lightroom 4.1 and Adobe Camera Raw that works wonders on this problem – better than any of the noiseware software available for controlling the ugly fringe problem. The new sliders in both are much improved and both now do a great job on reducing noise too. Also the Graduated Filter is much improved. Back in Photoshop I love being able to use LAB mode to sharpen some of my images selectively. Content-Aware tools cannot be beat but I still use the plain old Clone Tool the most. And the improved Sharpen Tool is fabulous for those little areas that need a detail boost. I even love the Color Replacement Tool that hardly no one uses! And all the blend modes just add so much to an image. Needless to say, there is a lot to like about Photoshop and so many ways to do things. I guess the real fun is learning new ways to use it and that is why I blog! Hope you have enjoyed some of what I have learned these past couple years!…..Digital Lady Syd


Digital Lady Syd Reviews Nik HDR Efex Pro 2

I am a big HDR fan. There is always a big discussion about which is the best application – the NAPP Photoshop Guys RC Concepcion loves Nik HDR EFex Pro, Matt Kloskowski swears by Photomatix Pro, and Scott Kelby love Photoshop’s HDR. As you can see everyone is all over the place on this issue. Several people have felt that Nik has a very steep learning curve and it is hard to get good results easily. Even with the first version of HDR Efex Pro, I have not had many problems getting good results. Therefore, I was pretty excited to hear a new version had come out. All the images in this blog have been processed using this new version.

The above image was taken at the Halifax River (Intracoastal Waterway) at Fortunato Park in Ormond Beach, Florida. The skies had been building all morning and we did have a big drenching in the afternoon. I had been wanting to try some HDR imaging with my wide angle AF-S Nikkor 10-24 mm 1:3.5-4.5 G Ed lens – for some reason I have not tried this. I love the results I got above using 5 images between -2 and +2 bracketed. For all the steps and settings used to create all the images, see information listed under “Steps and Settings for Each Image.”

What I Like!!!!

1.  Sliders corresponding to the new Adobe Camera Raw sliders have been added in the Tonality section which makes it very user friendly. Temperature and Tint sliders have also been added.

2. The new Graduated Neutral Density section is proving to be very handy to even out the tone in landscape images. I have used it several times now – it can have a very nice subtle effect.

3. HDR Method section gives you more flexibility than you had in version 1.0.  You can now adjust individually the Depth, Detail and Drama of an image.

4.  The Detail in the images is really good – seems better than other programs I have used.

What I Don’t Like!!!!

1.  (UPDATED) The Smart Object issue that included the problem of ending up with an 8-bit image and no changes appearing after applying the plug-in is no longer an issue! Nik has released a new update – Version 2.002. (If you had bought an earlier version, be sure you have this new one applied now.) This will create a 32-bit image with the Standard CS6 version (they suggest using Photoshop CS6 64-bit compatible version due to the high memory usage) and I am no longer having Smart Object issues. Thank you Nik! I feel much better about recommending this plug-in now.

2.  They have deleted several of the presets I liked – Clean City 1 and Clean City 2, for example. I cannot seem to figure out if there are equivalent ones in the new version, but so far I am struggling with this. When I compared Granny’s Attic preset from version 1 with version 2, I had trouble seeing how the settings have anything to do with each other. I wish they would put a list of equivalent presets together for those of us who were familiar with the old version.

3.  Personally I miss all the method drop down choices we had in version 1.0. Again not sure how to recapture some of those settings to apply to the upgraded version.

4. If you opened HDR Efex Pro 2 up from inside Lightroom, then when saving your tone-mapped image there is no choice where to save it – it goes back to the one with the original HDR images. Small nag here.

5.  I am slightly concerned about all noise I am encountering when using the program, especially in the sky area. Using the Noise Reduction Luminance slider in Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw should help reduce noise issue.

Here is great link to Nik’s Support Page that discusses various questions about HDR Efex Pro 2 – scroll down for the page for more information on this plug-in.
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This image was taken under the Granada Bridge in Ormond Beach, Florida. This time the HDR settings were created using just the Default setting and going through all the sections. A preset was created at the end to retain the information. See Picture 2 for detailed steps and settings. This took a good amount of adjusting to get the look I really wanted but it did come around. I might mention that it is a good idea to go through the On Demand Video Lessons Nik has presented on how to use the program – they give you a good overall feel for the program.
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This is all that is remaining of the beautiful old Hotel Ormond that was torn down after a fire in 1992. Once again in this image Nik HDR Efex Pro 2 was accessed from Lightroom.  Since you can’t save the settings down as a Smart Object, there is no reason not to do this from Lightroom where you can continue processing the TIFF image with Lightroom sliders before going into Photoshop. See Picture 3 below for further processing information.
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This shot of the pennant on top of the cupola in image above gave me real problems. Five images were taken into Nik HDR Efex Pro from Lightroom and some really horrible white filled in edges around the pennant wrought iron pieces appeared. It looked awful and totally unsuitable to process. Therefore I decided to take the image into PhotoMatix Pro 4.1.1 (the major competitor) to see if those marks were also visible in that program – oddly enough, no problem! Also, in Nik HDR Pro Efex 1.0, there was no problem. This really disturbed me since I really like Nik products and this should not be happening. I took the image back into HDR Efex Pro and this time choose a different image to use for deghosting. This seemed to be the magic bullet – once this was done the image turned out much better. You can still see there is some white around the point in the HDR Efex Pro image. See the comparison of the tonemapped TIFF files below with Nik HDR Pro 2 on the right and PhotoMatix Pro 4 on the left.

This may look pretty bad, but it actually was fairly easy to clean up. Since the detail and color is so much better in Nik’s HDR, I decided to stick with it even though the other program did create a little better tonemapped image in this case. Also, there is more noise in the Nik image and I am not sure why that happened. Imagenomics Noiseware was used to clean this up some. The PhotoMatix image also had quite a bit of noise in it. For more info on processing, see Picture 4 below.

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Bottom Line

Since it is a Nik product you know it is good. Not sure I see that much difference with the first version, but I imagine as I work with it more, I will find more things I like about it. Nik has great webinars on their site and they will be doing several on this new software, so I should be able to get more information on how to use it effectively and will pass it on. I use Nik a lot for my HDR processing, but sometimes I will use one of the other HDR software programs to get the look I want. At this point that is all I can say. It is reasonably priced with its major competitors, it was and still is a fine program! I can’t say enough good things about how quickly Nik responded to the major issues this plug-in had – that in itself makes using their plug-ins great!……Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
HDR Using Photoshop Merge to HDR and Nik”s HDR EFex Pro and Silver Efex Pro? Wow!

This and That – Just Having Some Fun!
Nik HDR Efex Pro Example
Keeping Focus Where You Want It Using Focal Point 2 and Color Fill Adjustment Layer

Steps and Settings for Each Image

Picture 1: I accessed the program from inside Photoshop for this image. The settings for Nik HDR Efex Pro 2 are listed here:  Settings for Nik HDR Efex Pro 2: Started by applying Granny’s Attic preset. Tone Compression:  Tone Compression slider  65%, Method Strength  35%: HDR Method: Depth  3rd dot, Detail  2nd dot, and Drama  4th dot; Tonality: Exposure  6%, Shadow  100%, Highlights  73%, Contrast  65%, Blacks  95%, White  0, and Structure  28%; Color: Saturation -54, Temperature 0, and Tint 0; Selective Adjustments: 3 control points spread across lower water with same settings, Exposure  34%, Contrast  -1, Saturation  0, Structure  -100, Black  0, and Whites  57; Vignette: Lens 2, Place center in lower middle, Amount  -2, Circle – under little c, and Size  67%; Graduated Neutral Density: Upper Tonality  -0.51 stops, Lower Tonality  0.44 stops, Blend  61%, Vertical Shift  -30,and Rotation  0, and Levels and Curves: Film (EV+0). Created preset SJ ICW Ormond Beach. As you can see, there are a lot of things that need to be adjusted. In this case I wanted to take the plug-in through its paces so everything was tried out. To get this image to look like it does there were several other steps that had to be taken: Nik’s Color Efex Pro 4 was used to add stacking the Cross Processing filter set to Method 802 at Strength 29% and overall opacity slider set to 80%, and Polarization with Rotate set to 106 degrees, Strength of 200%, Highlights 50% and overall opacity slider set to 68%. A layer mask was created to paint out some of the sky that got over-processed.  A Curves Adjustment layer was created to add some additional contrast to the image. Imagenomics Noiseware was added set to the Landscape preset, and Nik Viveza 2 was used to add some sharpening to the far shoreline and smoothing out of the foreground water. A new layer was created to sharpen the shoreline more using the Sharpen Tool. Finally a layer style from Wow-Frame 09 was used to finish up the image. This was not a really quick image to process but the final results look like the extra time was taken to get a beautiful result and the Nik HDR Efex Pro2 worked like a charm.

Picture 2:  First the five images were opened in Nik HDR Efex Pro 2 from Adobe Lightroom and these settings were used.  Tone Compression: Tone Compression  68%, and Method Strength  63%; HDR Method:  Depth 3rd dot, Detail 2nd dot, and Drama 3rd dot;  Tonality:  Exposure  -11, Shadows  41%, Highlights  -100%, Contrast  -19%, Blacks  100%, Whites  53%, and Structure 51%; Color Saturation  11%, Temperature  0%, and Tint  0%; Selective Adjustments – no control points placed;  and Finishing:  None used. After saying OK, the tone-compressed image is brought back into Lightroom as a 16-bit TIFF file. This is really great since you can now adjust your images more with Lightroom’s sliders – in this case Contrast (-20), Highlights (+29), Shadows (-20), Blacks (+43), Clarity (_45) and Vibrance (+35). This is also when the colors were adjusted individually to bring in the correct color: Luminance:  Red (-9), Orange (+46), Green (+20), Aqua (+100), and Blue (+19) and Saturation: (Red (+11), Orange +35), Yellow (+33), and Blue (-13).  The Lens Correction section was used to select the lens and check Remove Chromatic Aberration. Finally the image was taken into Photoshop CS6. The image just looked bland to me so this time Topaz’s new photoFXlab was used to bring out the contrast – layer duplicated in plug-in and with the InstaTone tab and 500 px selected, Memory Drift by Richard Baxter was applied to the image inverted in the Masks tab and just clouds painted in. Then another duplicated layer was created this time InstaTone 500pxx Swinging by Miles Story was applied – the clouds were painted out in the Masks tab. Now the layers were stamped (+From Stack) and in Adjustments tab these settings were applied:  Exposure  .27, Contrast 1, Dynamics 17, Sharp 0, Highlights  -50, Shadows 16, Whites 0, and Blacks -8. Stamp again and paint in detail in distant shoreline and houses with Detail Brush Strength set to 0.29, stamp again and smooth clouds using Brush Strength of -.59 on clouds, stamp again and desaturate using Brush Strength of -0.51 on clouds and set layer opacity to 88%, and stamp again and pain in a little saturation into the sky and burn the center and horizontal lines of bridge. Noiseware was applied and it was done.

Picture 3:  In Lightroom image was opened up in Nik HDR Efex Pro 2 using these settings: Started with the Structured 1 preset; Tone Compression:    Tone Compression 64%, and Method Strength  81%; HDR Method:  Depth  4th dot, Detail  4th dot, and Drama  5th dot; Tonality:  Exposure  41,  Shadow  -31, Highlights  20, Contrast  27, Blacks  100, Whites  97 , and Structure  80; Color:  Saturation  34,  Temperature  -6, and  Tint  2; Selective Adjustments: Two Control Points in clouds set the same, Method to -59, White  59, and Structure  -100; Finishing: Vignette – Black Frame 2, Amount  -41, Circle under a, and Size  72; Graduated Neutral Density – Upper Tonality  0.02 Stops,  Lower Tonality  0.54 Stops, Blend  91, Vertical Shift  -100, and Rotation  0; and Levels and Curves  – N/A. After processing in HDR Efex Pro 2, these Lightroom sliders were used:  HSL: Luminance – Red  -13, Orange  -59, Yellow  -96, Green  -33, Aqua  -24, and Blue  -11; and Saturation – Red  -2, Orange  43, Yellow  19, Green  6, and Blue  -26. The Profile was set and Remove Chromatic Aberration was checked in Lens Correction section. Nik Viveza 2 was used to sharpen the flag and body of the cupola. Imagenomics Noiseware using Full (weaker noise)  preset. My layer style for the frame was used and colors sampled from the image (see DLS Free Layer Style Frames blog).

Picture 4:  The pennant image was taken into HDR Efex Pro 2 from Lightroom. These settings were applied: Started by applying Bright 1 preset. Tone Compression:  Tone Compression slider  56%, and Method Strength  27%: HDR Method: Depth  3rd dot, Detail  2nd dot, and Drama  2nd dot; Tonality: Exposure  11%, Shadow  -17%, Highlights  49%, Contrast  44%, Blacks  71%, White  53, and Structure  16%; Color: Saturation 0, Temperature -2, and Tint 0; Selective Adjustments: 5 control points with 3 spread across sky and all set to Saturation +37, 1 placed on the cupola set to Saturation -27, and one placed on the pennant with settings of Exposure  6%, Contrast  0, Saturation  59, Structure  49, Black  0, and Whites  -42; Vignette: set to Off; Graduated Neutral Density: Upper Tonality  0.33 stops, Lower Tonality  -0.23 stops, Blend  40%, Vertical Shift  -20,and Rotation  -24; and Levels and Curves:Neutral with points set at 15 over and 15 up, 9 over and 14 up, and 13 over and 0 up. In Lightroom the image was cropped, the Lens Profile set, Removed Chromatic Aberration was checked, Exposure set to +0.39 and Contrast to +63. In Photoshop the Nik Color Efex Pro 4 plug-in was opened using these filters stacked: BW Conversion using BW Conversion set to Filter Color 53 degrees, Strength 73%, Brightness -16%, Contrast 49%, Shadows 31%, Highlights 32%, and overall Opacity 58% – two control points placed on pennant and red cupola area so color really showed through; Pro Contrast: Correct Color Cast 15%, Correct Contrast 47%, and Dynamic Contrast 96%; Vignette: Color black, Shape 2, Adapt Edges 52%, Transition 77%, Size 20%, and Opacity 26% with center placed on pennant; and Image Borders: Type 1 at Size -54%. A Curves Adjustment layer was applied to increase contrast in image. Imagenomics Noiseware was set to Stronger luma noise preset. Unsharp Mask applied to just the lettering and pennant with Amount 64, Radius 11.7 and Threshold 3.


This and That – Just Having Some Fun!


Usually I try to have a particular theme for my major blog. I have been busy this week but doing all sorts of different things so I decided to just post some of my favorites. The image above is from the Big Island in Hawaii and it was not a first pick when I was processing. After I got a chance to play around in Photoshop with it though, it turned out to be one of my favorites. Sort of represents the kind of terrain that the trees in the area have to contend with and the light was very nice at this spot.

This is a 3-image hand-held HDR shot that ended up with a lot of different steps, starting first with Photoshop’s Merge to HDR to align and remove any ghosting. That tone-mapped image was then taken into Nik’s HDR Efex Pro and one of my favorite presets, Grannys Attic, was applied. Next Nik’s Color Efex Pro 4 was applied using another one of my favorite presets, Midnight at 3% blur, which gives the tree more of a silhouette feel. Wow – not finished yet! Next Topaz Adjust 5 (see website link in my Tidbits Blog sidebar) was applied with the Timeless IV preset. But there’s more – one of my favorite textures, Shadowhouse Creations Paper Texture Scratchbox4 which has a golden lower half and a light greenish-turquoise top half set to Overlay at 80%, gives the image the warm vintage tones. A Levels Adjustment Layer was added for some tonal contrast. Finally, my Thin Double Edge Frame was applied (see DLS Free Layer Style Frames blog) – it creates a really nice slim framing and the colors can be changed easily by sampling within the image. Done!

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This wall art image is on display in the open-air one mile long corridor that contains all sorts of art at the Hilton Waikoloa Village on the Big Island in Hawaii. Just one of the very unusual pieces that is available to view on your leisurely stroll about the resort, but this guy means business or else he has some really bad breath!

This time I tried a sharpening technique in Photoshop’s Merge to HDR (see John Paul Caponigro’s blog Creative Sharpening with HDR Software) as a first step. Next, using Russell Brown’s Paper Texture Panel (see links at end for blog link), two Flypaper textures were added, Paper Texture Creme Anglaise Taster set to Blend Mode Exclusion at 100% Opacity which turned the whole image dark and Paper Texture Touchstone Taster set to Color Burn Blend Mode at 64% Opacity. A slight S-Curve Curves Adjustment Layer was added to increase contrast a little. Finally OnOne’s PhotoFrame (see website link in my Tidbits Blog sidebar) acid burn controlled 04 frame was used with the color being sampled from the image.

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Oh no! Where did he come from? Back in my blog again?? – this is my office-mate Ted – had him way before he got famous. Seems to be enjoying himself. Hum! (See my Tidbits Blog My Office Friend Ted.)

Ted was processed using the wonderful Topaz Simplify 3 plug-in (see website link in my Tidbits Blog sidebar)  and here are my settings used: Simplify – Colorspace YCbCR, Simplify Size 0.52, Feature Boost 3.83, Details Strength 1.51, Details Boost 1.27, Details Size 0.62, Remove Small 0, and Remove Weak 0.16; Adjust – Brightness 0.01, Contrast 1.07. Saturation 1.03, and Saturation Boost 0.97; and Edges – Mono Edge Fine, Edge Strength 4.47, Simplify Edge 0.39, Reduce Weak 7, Reduce Small 0.07, and Fatten Edge 4.11. A composite was created above this layer (CTRL+SHIFT+ALT+E) and set to Linear Light at 37%. Next Sarah Gardner’s texture Blush Cherry was added (the website is no longer offering this texture but ShadowHouse Creations Pastels Texture Set Pastel-10 is very close) set to Soft Light Blend Mode at 100% Opacity lightened up the image. A text layer was created using Sassys Teddys 3 font and a Layer Style with these settings were added to the text layer: Bevel & Emboss set to Contour and Texture, Style Inner Bevel, Technique Smooth, Depth 100, Direction Up, Size 7, Soften 0, Angle 25 wit Use Global Light checked, Altitude 30 and the rest default settings; Outer Glow set to Normal Blend Mode, Opacity 100, color R77/G30/B19, Technique Softer, Spread 0, Size 237 and the rest default settings; and Drop Shadow – just dragged around on screen a bit in Multiply Blend Mode and Black, Opacity 75%, Angle 25 & Use Global Light checked, Distance 29, Spread 0, and Size 7. Whew! Finally the same Layer Style was applied as for the first image using different colors in the frame.

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Thought I would finish off with an effect that reminded me of one of my kids favorite books from forever ago, The Berenstein Bear’s Spooky Old House. This old building image I use a lot for practice with the plug-ins is in Jackson, Mississippi and stands under one of the most striking buildings in the area, the Lamar Life Insurance Building (see my Tidbits Blog Topaz Adjust 5 Is Here! First Look!).

The processing for this image was practically all in Nik’s Color Efex Pro 4 – four filters were stacked: Detail Extractor, Tonal Contrast, Pro Contrast, and Midnight using Color Set Blue and Blur set to6%. These are some of my favorite filters and are used often with various other filters for different looks. Got to love Color Efex Pro! A Curves Adjustment Layer was added for a little more contrast and OnOne’s PhotoFrame Jack Davis 02i. Pretty simple but really cool looking.

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Hope you enjoyed some of the images I was working with this past week and hope I did not put you to sleep with all the details. Most of these images did not require a lot of work and the plug-ins gave a really nice boost to the final look in all of them……Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd’s Related Blogs:
HDR Using Photoshop Merge to HDR and Nik”s HDR EFex Pro and Silver Efex Pro? Wow!
Using Color Efex Pro and Texture for a Warm Hawaiian Landscape Effect
Russell Brown’s Paper Texture Panel Updated!
White Daisies! Using Color Efex Pro Midnight Filter


Unsharp Mask Filter In LAB Mode


I have been experimenting with all types of sharpening methods over the last few months. I really liked the High Pass Sharpening method that is very popular, the new improved Sharpen Tool in Photoshop CS5, and the Smart Sharpen Filter that so many use. Recently I read Harold Davis‘ book The Photoshop Darkroom where he gives steps to sharping in the LAB Mode. I have now started using this method – it takes a little more time to do, but I believe it really gives the best results. Since I take a lot of time with my images, like to print them, and don’t batch process, it is important that each image gets the best sharpening I can do.

The above image of the fruit shop along the road on the Big Island in Hawaii is an good example of how nice the sharpening can be in an image. Both Nik Color Efex Pro 4 and Topaz Simplify 3 (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) were used in Photoshop to get the rich colors. The LAB sharpening was done after most of the adjustments were made to the image in Lightroom and Photoshop.

Why use LAB Mode sharpening? The most important reason people use it is to keep the colors true and not be influenced by any color shifting that other RGB Mode sharpening may produce. By using a black layer mask, the image is first over-sharpen and then just areas that need the sharpening can be painted back into the image selectively and to various degrees so it does not  have that over-sharpened look. This process also works really well on portraits where just the eyes are sharpened or on areas you want to draw attention to a certain part of an image.

The workflow steps to get this effect are easy:

1.  Apply most of the filters and do  clean up to your image before the next step. Just be sure there are no adjustment layers in the document or they will be discarded upon the conversion. You will need to save the image as an unsharpened version and then flatten it to proceed.

2.  Go to Image -> Mode -> LAB – Click “Don’t Rasterize” and “Don’t Merge” buttons.

3.  Duplicate the layer by clicking CTRL+J.

4.  Go to the Channels panel and highlight the L channel.

5.  Turn on the top eyeball so all channels are showing but only the L channel is highlighted.

6.  Go to Layers Panel and to Filters -> Sharpen -> Unsharp Mask.  I like Harold Davis’s recommendation to start with these settings and adjust from this point.

Radius  2.7   – The higher the Radius setting, the more sharpening occurs
Threshold 9   – The lower the Threshold setting, the sharper the image
Amount  – somewhere between 50-120

Watch out for noise enhancement, especially when adjusting the Amount slider.

7.  Add a black layer mask to layer by holding down the ALT key and clicking the Layer Mask icon at bottom of Layers Panel. Using a soft white brush set to 30% opacity, paint back in the areas you want sharpened leaving areas with noise or over-sharpened edges unpainted. Paint over several times to enhance the effect.

8.  Go to Image -> Mode -> RGB and press the “Don’t Flatten” button. Now you can add your Curves Adjustment Layer and frames to finish up.

Dan Margulis (one of the first three people ever inducted into the Photoshop Hall of Fame) is the most knowledgeable person when it comes to using the LAB Mode and has written the best book ever on the subject, Photoshop LAB Color. He covers LAB sharpening very thoroughly.


Here is another example of how great this type of sharpening works – it is great to be able to localize where the actual detail is emphasized. This old vintage car was parked in front of the Casa Monica Hotel in St. Augustine, Florida. It is a three image HDR photo processed using Katrin Eismann’s workflow – see my blog HDR Using Photoshop Merge to HDR and Nik”s HDR Efex Pro and Silver Efex Pro? Wow! (used Granny’s Attic preset in HDR Efex Pro and Structure Harsh in Silver Efex Pro). Nik’s Viveza 2 was used to increase the detail and color in the wheels and curtains in the windows. Then it was taken into the LAB mode and processed using the Unsharp Mask Filter (settings Amount 98/Radius 9.4/Threshold 1). Using a brush set to white at 30% opacity, the wheels, curtains and lettering were painted back in. I wanted the rest of the image to have that grungy old feel to it which HDR Efex Pro gave the image. OnOne PhotoFrame (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) Kevin Kubota Flower was added as a last step.


The LAB Unsharp Mask was used on this image of an elephant puppet from Burma that was on display at the Hilton Waikoloa Village on the Big Island in Hawaii. To see how it was processed see my blog Nik Color Efex Pro 4 Just Does It Right! The sharpening was applied as the last step and it was selectively painted in to just the details in the elephant but not the background. This really made the details in the puppet stand out.  Also all the images but the Lightroom image in my blogs Can a Pseudo HDR Image be as Good as the Real Thing? (Part One) and Can a Pseudo HDR Image be as Good as the Real Thing? (Part Two) used this method on the bicycles very successfully.

I am not really sure why, but I definitely see an improvement in sharpness using the LAB method of sharpening. There are times when not that much needs to be sharpened in an image and the Sharpen Tool is enough or Nik’s Viveza 2 adds enough sharpening so this process is not necessary. I do think it works really great on my landscape and HDR images where I want a very clear edge on most of the objects. Give this easy method a try and see what you think…..Digital Lady Syd


Can a Pseudo HDR Image be as Good as the Real Thing? (Part Two)


Last week I used this bike picture to create an HDR image from three bracketed shots. The image above was created from just the 0 exposure to use as a basic single image to try out the other workflows (this one uses only Lightroom adjustments) and to compare with my own single image workflow. See Can a Pseudo HDR Image be as Good as the Real Thing? (Part One). This week I wanted to explore some of the vast number of workflows that give an HDR feel even though all are single exposure images, and try to decide – can a Pseudo HDR image really be as good as the real thing?

The top image used just a simple Lightroom preset (HDR Strong) furnished by Matt Kloskowski, one of the NAPP Photoshop Guys, that gives a pretty good place to start when just using Lightroom for the effect. It is a more realistic look, but still has that detail oriented feel HDR images present. (In this case, three Adjustment Brushes were used on the image: a Sharpen brush painted over just the bikes to bring out the edges cleanly; a Contrast brush to make the white wall in the background appear more gritty; and a Clarity brush painted on the closer posts and the sitting girl.) In Photoshop, a Curves Adjustment Layer was added along with the OnOne PhotoFrame (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) – that was it. I believe this gives a nice realistic look to what I saw but not exactly the HDR feel I wanted to.

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The image above used Topaz Adjust 5, one of the best and most inexpensive Photoshop plug-ins that can be bought. (See sidebar on my Tidbids Blog for website link.) That being said, I also used Topaz Detail, Topaz Simplify 3 and Nik Viveza 2 on the image. In the image below, you can see a comparison as each filter was brought into the final image. To be honest, I really liked the results even though, once again, the HDR image trumped this one for really sharp detail and color saturation.

You can see that just applying the Spicify preset in Topaz Adjust gives a pretty nice start to the pseudo HDR effect. The other plug-ins each added a little more detail and color toning. It seems logical that by trying different plug-ins together, you should be able to get some fairly good approximations to the real HDR look.

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This image used OnOne’s Perfect Effects where filters are also stacked in a similar manner as Nik’s Color Efex Pro 4. The image was processed as above in Lightroom, and then taken into Photoshop where the Perfect Effects plug-in was opened. (The following filters were stacked: Photo Filter -> Blue using a custom blue color of R16G32B136 using a Strength of 39; Movie Looks -> Faux HDR; Landscapes -> Golden Hour Enhancer using the Mask Bug to target the brickwork in top of image and Opacity set to 45%; Color & Tone -> Tonal Contrast with Shadows at 52, Highlights at 92 and Clarity 13 and Strength to 50%; and Detail -> Texture Booster with Blacks at 4.) Image was sharpened and the OnOne PhotoFrame added. This gives a very strong HDR feel but the bikes do not stand out quite as nicely against the brickwork. With a little effort this image could be adjusted  to bring it more in line with the original HDR from last week.
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This image gives the closest and cleanest approximation to the true realistic HDR look. It was created using three Lightroom virtual copies of the same image with the exposures sliders set for to 0, -2, and +1.37. Other settings were also adjusted to enhance individual areas of the image. (For example, the 0 exposure image was adjusted to bring out the midtones clearly. The -2 exposure was used to bring out the gritty appearance of the gray back wall and tree. The +1.37 exposure was used to lighten up some of the brick that was too dark and to enhance the silver and white on the bikes. They were all selected in Lightroom. By right clicking on one of the images, select Edit In -> Stack as Layers in Photoshop option in the menu. In Photoshop, they all appeared in one document as individual layers. Now Black Layer Masks could be added (ALT+Click on Layer Mask icon) to the top two layers. With a low opacity brush, carefully paint back in the areas you want exposed at the different levels.) It is a really great way to stretch the tones in an individual image without using any HDR software or third party plug-ins. Create a composite on top and do localized sharpening where needed. I learned this great technique from Harold Davis and am finding I use it a lot to really get great detail in my images. He calls this technique “Hand HDR” and it is described in his book The Photoshop Darkroom. He has a new book coming out Creating HDR Photos: The Complete Guide to HDR Photography that I am really forward to getting.

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I created several other iterations of this image with varying amounts of success. Nik’s Color Efex Pro 4 was used following a very helpful recipe presented in a short Nik blog called My Go-To Recipe for Bringing Out Details with Ellen Anon. The single image was also taken into PhotoMatix Pro and the results were pretty good. Both of these examples had to be readjusted in Camera Raw again before I liked the results. Also processing a single image in Nik’s HDR Efex Pro gives some really interesting results although not all a true HDR effect. Several different Adjustment Layers in Photoshop can help get the color and tone in the image. Experiment to find out which ones work for you.

What an advantage to have a real HDR shot for comparison. Based on this, my conclusions on the pseudo HDR look is as follows:

  • I believe it is possible to get that HDR feel with with just one image, but, and this is a big one, how good the results obtained will be depend on the image you are trying to use. Do not expect a huge landscape with a really large dynamic range to have the detail a true HDR is going to have. If the image does not have a large light to dark range, you will probably have some pretty nice results. The image in this blog has an average range of highlights and shadows, but as seen above there is still some detail missing in all the images.
  • Saturation of the colors can easily get messed up with HDR images, much less with the pseudo imaging look. All of my examples had a real problem getting that nice brick color that my original HDR image contained.  The single images required using Camera Raw processing (sometimes twice) since it is the only filter/program in Photoshop or Lightroom that handles the orange tones. Haloing can occur with the saturation shifts and then other steps need to be taken to reduce the obvious shading.
  • Sharpening is an absolute necessity if doing pseudo HDR – otherwise it just does not have that sharp detail look a real HDR has.
  • Watch the gritty look – it occurs a lot with regular HDR images. With pseudo HDR images, it seems to be even easier to get a totally over the top look if you are not careful.

There are several resources that give some great advice. Ferrell McCollough in his book Complete Guide to High Dynamic Range Digital Photography makes a great statement. “…. the choice to shoot a single image rather than an HDR image set should be based on the contrast of the scene. A low contrast scene is easily captured and tone mapped for a single image, but a medium contrast scene can go either way in terms of quality.” RC Concepcion (one of the NAPP Photoshop Guys) has a great book, The HDR Book, that covers single image HDR processing very well and has some great tips on post-processing to get the look.

After comparing all the results, I believe that my best result was with the Harold Davis workflow – it had the sharpest edges and no halos or noise developed by the stacking of the three exposure copies. It also took the longest time to complete since several layer masks had to be created to get the final look. I still like many of the other processes though – I know I will still use my Lightroom preset from last week’s blog, and both Topaz and OnOne have the potential of creating a very good fake HDR look. But this was not just about how the different workflows create the HDR look.

The real question is – is the final result as good as a true HDR. Based on my experimentation, it is not (and to be honest I am not surprised but my curiosity made me look into this). After doing a lot of research and trying many different methods on the same picture (I am tired of this image!), I don’t think any of the results were quite as good as the original tone-mapped HDR image. You can get close, and if you did not have a true HDR image to compare to, you might think several of the single image results were good enough. But bottom line, the detail, color and tonal range is just not up to true HDR standards. I decided the image I liked best is below because it is not competing at all with the original HDR look. It was created by using the Davis Workflow image and adding Topaz Adjust to it. The Curve was changed to Negative and the Adaptive Exposure, Details, and Color sections were adjusted.  The effect was then brushed off the reading girl. I love the colors – it gives a really fantasy look and the bikes show up great!

Maybe the real question is what is HDR? Is it that over-saturated look or that super-detailed look? Or is it a totally different looking image as above that is definitely an HDR look but way out there! My advice is that if you think you want an HDR look, no matter what kind, you need to bracket and take the shots. If you take 5 images, you should be able to get a nice HDR image, even if all the shots are not great. If you could only get one shot, there are some pretty easy ways to get that HDR appearance. It may take some effort to pull the final look together, but at least you got the shot the way you wanted it! Hope you enjoyed this blog and it helps you with your single image processing…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Pseudo HDR Using NIK Color Efex Pro 4
With One Good Photo – Try the Pseudo HDR Effect
Another Pseudo HDR from Me!
Another Pseudo HDR Image with NIK CEP4 – Got to Love the Effect!
Settings for Vivid Drawing Look ACR/Lightroom Preset and NIK Color Efex Pro 4 Pseudo HDR Recipe


Can a Pseudo HDR Image be as Good as the Real Thing? (Part One)



This week I have been pondering this question. Since this is such a large subject for me, I am making this a two part blog so I can show some other workflows to try next time. (See Can a Pseudo HDR Image be as Good as the Real Thing? (Part Two))It seems there is so much software and so many tutorials on both subjects available and it gets pretty confusing. What really works and is it possible to get that HDR look with just one photo (hence Pseudo HDR)? In my many past blogs on Pseudo HDR, I have had a pretty fair amount of success getting one image pretty close to a true HDR look. When creating a Pseudo HDR image, only one image is used. I have to admit that I am horrible about dragging my tripod with me so I hand hold when shooting – many times one or more of the images are totally blurry so I am stuck using just one.

The image above is the actual HDR image to use for a quick comparison. It was taken at Flagler College (the old Ponce de Leon Hotel) in St. Augustine, Florida. Only three shots were bracketed using exposure compensations set to 0, -1, and +1. The shot was taken knowing it would make a great HDR image – the girl never saw me taking the image as she was so engrossed in her book, but she really makes the picture pop. Katrin Eismann’s method for processing HDR images (see my blog HDR Using Photoshop Merge to HDR and Nik”s HDR EFex Pro and Silver Efex Pro? Wow!) was used although there are several other techniques out there that do a great jobs in HDR (see Related Blog Links below for more information on this). Basically I just followed her workflow.
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This image used my SJ Pseudo HDR preset in Lightroom (or ACR) to begin the HDR process on the the 0 Exposure Compensation image. I followed my workflow (see my blog Pseudo HDR Using NIK Color Efex Pro 4 for steps and all download links) which entails using my SJ Pseudo1 Recipe in NIK Color Efex Pro 4. Below is the original NEF file as downloaded from the camera. The presets I created for Lightroom and ACR create a warmer tone than the original image and the processing in both Katrin’s HDR workflow and my Pseudo HDR workflow produced dramatically different colors. To get this closer to what the beautiful brickwork really looks like in the single image, I used Dr. Brown’s ACR script twice to cool down the original major orange yellow tint. Adobe Camera Raw is the only place that is easily accessible to adjust orange (especially for skin tone adjustment) so it was the logical place to work on this color issue. The first attempt I adjusted the HSL panel and changed all three settings for the Reds, Oranges, Yellows and Greens. I still did not like the result so the second time around the Temperature and Tint was adjusted and more Hue changes. I think I finally got the result I like, but it still has a little too much beige-yellow tone in it. (See my blog Edit Layers with ACR (Adobe Camera Raw) Script.) The true HDR image has more colors in the image and the detail is still a little more distinct even though the pseudo image was sharpened extensively. On the other hand, the bikes pop more in the single image and appear to be closer in color to the original image.


Above you can really see in this 2 to 1 blow up of the back wheel chain area the difference between the detail and color toning. (Single image on left and HDR on right.) I definitely like the sharper detail on the true HDR but the color and saturation of the colors in the single image is quite appealing, especially when viewed overall.

When I look at the original, I have to admit I even like the softer tones. Makes you ponder whether an HDR was really necessary in this case – which is a whole other area to cover. Next week I am going to apply some Topaz Adjust and OnOne Perfect Effects filters (for website links, see my Tidbits Blog sidebar) to this image and see if the results are as good. Both plug-ins give some great HDR results with the right image. I also have another totally different type of workflow using just one image that can give some fabulous results when used correctly. Until then, try processing a single image and compare it to your HDR results and see what you get. I am not sure which one of mine I like best…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Different Images – Same Look Using HDR!
Pseudo HDR Using NIK Color Efex Pro 4
With One Good Photo – Try the Pseudo HDR Effect
Why I Love Topaz Adjust!
Nik HDR Efex Pro Example
Another Pseudo HDR from Me!
Problems for Big Ben
Pseudo HDR in OnOne Perfect Effects


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

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Use NIK Color Efex Pro 4 and Silver Efex Pro 2 Together to Create Fabulous Landscapes!
NIK’s Champion Plug-in – Silver Efex Pro 2
Digital Landscape Effects with Nik Software
Getting That Vintage Look!
Where Am I?


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