This topic has always interested me. There has been so much written on this so I am not going to go over all of it. I have found that for me a little trial-and-error works as good as anything when it comes to this type of processing. Luckily in Lightroom there are presets that will give you a quick look to see how an image will stack up as a monochrome type image, and there are many black and white presets for Photoshop’s ACR (Adobe Camera Raw) that can be downloaded. The St. Augustine, Florida lamp lights RAW file had a really bright blue background and very black wrought iron with little detail. By converting to more of a sepia tone, the detail came out very clear. The really interesting thing is that to get the detail to pop out of the ironwork, an Invert Adjustment Layer set to Soft Light Blend Mode at 92% opacity was used.
When an image just seems overwhelmed by color and I am having trouble controlling the feel, applying a black and white conversion or introducing a slight color effect can calm down the whole image. That is what happened in the above image that was taken near the summit of the large volcano, Mauna Kea on the Big Island in Hawaii, of the Caltech Submillimeter Observatory (apparently to be dismantled in 2016) where the Keck Telescope is also located. The little observatory was lost from view in both the strong browns of the surrounding dirt and foreground gravel and the soft blues of the Mauna Loa volcano in the background and the sky. It was processed totally in Lightroom using the Basics section sliders and a preset I had created from reading David duChemin’s book Vision & Voice – Refining Your Vision in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. I call it the duChemin Massai Chocolate split-tone & vignette preset. Only those two sections of Lightroom 3 were used to create the preset so it still works with Lightroom 4. In Split Toning the Highlights Hue was set to 34 and Saturation t0 30, Shadows Hue was 0 and Saturation 6, and the Balance slider was set to -25. In the Lens Correction section’s Manual tab, the Lens Vignetting Amount slider was set to -63 and the Midpoint to 18. I have used this preset several times as it has a very nice subtle tonal appeal. That was basically all that was done to make this a much more interesting image.
Another one of my favorite images from Hawaii but once again, the detail would have been lost if it had been processed as taken. The original RAW file had very little detail in the rising hillside and water and the color was totally dull – almost a flat-looking black and white. By converting it to a nice cool water tone, the image takes on new life. The image has several filters stacked in Nik Color Efex Pro 4: BW Conversation using Dynamic Contrast method, Photo Stylizer which give it the beautiful blue glow using Method 1 at 28% Strength, Low Key, Lighten/Darken Center, and Detail Extractor using 7 control points to selectively bring out the details in the image. Nik Viveza 2, Imagenomics Noiseware filter, and OnOne PhotoFrame were also used to complete the image.
Here is another example of a very busy and overly bright image that really loses its appeal in color. Since it is the oldest drugstore (built in St. Augustine, Florida, in 1739) in the United States, it already has a that vintage feel to it. Therefore a sepia tone really adds to the effect the image should be portraying. This image was an HDR image taken in bright sunlight during the hottest part of the day. It was processed into a black and white using Nik Silver Efex Pro 2, the the background original was layered on top and a black layer mask was added to bring back a hint of color in the windows. Topaz Lens Effects was used to add a slight vignette effect, and finally OnOne PhotoFrame acid burn controlled 05 was added. For both Topaz and OnOne website links, see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog.
It appears that if you have a really nice image but the colors just do not create the correct effect, or if the image gets lost in all the powerful colors or brightness of the day, give the black and white or sepia tones a shot. You do not have to have one of the mentioned filters – Photoshop has a wonderful Black and White Adjustment layer that also adds any monochrome color. Great way to get a quick impression of whether this effect will work on your image. Definitely do not write off an image just because of color issues – it may turn out to be a great shot!…..Digital Lady Syd
Yep, it can actually do a pretty nice job of creating an HDR effect. I am providing you with the information needed to get the same effect so here we go. The image above is of the inside of one of the most beautiful libraries you will ever see, the Minsk Library in Belarus. I love the results and how Color Efex Pro 4 (CEP4) has turned this image into a reasonable HDR look with just a single image.
To create this effect, the following steps were done:
1. First process the image in Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) or Lightroom to adjust tone and contrast. On four of these images, I used my SJ-Vivid Drawing Look preset as a starting point. Gives a nice starting point for a pseudo HDR effect.” Then adjust the exposure or any other settings to get the feel you want. (To get the actual settings, see my Tidbits Blog “Settings for Vivid Drawing Look ACR & Lightroom Preset and NIK Color Efex Pro 4 Pseudo HDR Recipe.”)
2. Next, either open the image as a Smart Object directly from ACR or Lightroom, or convert a duplicate layer to a Smart Object (right click on layer and choose “Convert to Smart Object.”) before opening the plug-in. This is really an important step since CEP4 will save your settings and control points when working on a Smart Object layer.
3. Go to Filters -> NIK -> Color Efex Pro 4 plug-in. My SJ Pseudo HDR1 recipe can be downloaded here. NOTE: Appears the link will not work if the download button is pressed directly, but if you right click it and select “Save Link As”, it will download. (To import, go to the Recipes section on left and at bottom click on the Import button, then navigate to file – it is put in the Imported section, or put the file in this folder for Windows Users: [User Name]\AppData\Local\Nik Software\Color Efex Pro 4\UserPresets). The Detail Extractor may need to be adjusted, especially if the image has too many artifacts or too much noise – try setting the Effect Radius to Large in this filter. Other filter effects may be added such as a Vignette or Color Effects. For settings, click on my Tidbits Blog link above in Step 1.
4. Press OK button to apply the filters . If you do not like the results or want to add another filter, change settings by double-clicking on the actual plug-in name (Color Efex Pro 4) underneath the Smart Object layer. If you click on the symbols to the right of the line, a Blending Options (Color Efex Pro 4) dialog box appears where the opacity and blend mode of the plug-in results can be changed. (Try this out to get some more interesting effects.) Can also paint with black on the Smart Filters layer mask to reduce the effect of all the filters applied to the layer.
5. A noise filter may need to be applied at this point. It can be done right on the Smart Object layer – the filter will be added on top of the Color Efex Pro filter. Not all images need it, but it can happen whenever you are doing an HDR type effect. (If you do not have a noise reducer, the image can be brought back into ACR by using Dr. Brown’s script as explained in my blog “Edit Layers with ACR Script” and using the Noise Reduction panel – I do this all the time and it works great!)
Basically your image is finished unless you want to add a Curves Adjustment Layer to adjust contrast or add a layer style stroke or border around the outside. Many resources say to sharpen the image at this point – try it but watch your noise carefully.
Once you have the Pseudo HDR1 recipe in place, it is very easy to get good results. Just remember to use a Smart Object so you can go in afterwards and tweak a slider or two or add another filter to the stack if you want.
This Tower of London image was first processed in Lightroom using the SJ Vivid Drawing Look preset. Once in Photoshop but before going into CEP4, clouds were added onto a layer above the image from my SJ-Clouds brush set, and then a layer mask was created to paint out any overlap. A composite layer was created on top (CTRL+SHIFT+ALT+E) which was immediately converted into a Smart Object. This image was created using my recipe as in the first image, but then a Bi-Color User Defined filter was added to make the sky and clouds bluer (Upper color a blue R94/G111/B155 and Lower color off-white R192/G192/B192) – it started as an ugly gray.
Another good example of what you can do with just one image in CEP4. This image just used the Pseudo HDR1 recipe. I did adjust the Detail Extractor slider in that filter and that’s it! The original image was adjusted a bit in Lightroom using no preset before bringing into Photoshop. The image was taken at the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Oahu, Hawaii.
This beautiful Great Egret was processed in Lightroom with the SJ Vivid Drawing Look preset and then in Photoshop using NIK’s CEP4 plug-in and the recipe provided, but also adding Vignette Blur and Vignette filters. Back in Photoshop a layer mask was added to selectively sharpen just the bird.
This image (of me and my photography buddy, Gary, at the Old Drugstore in St. Augustine) uses the same Lightroom Vivid Drawing Look preset and CEP4 Pseudo HDR preset. I am actually shooting into a huge mirror on the wall!
I really wanted to present the range of images that can be converted into a fairly convincing HDR effect with just one image. I hope you get a chance to try this recipe out and see what you think. This may be the easiest way to get that pseudo-HDR look that I have found! I will show several other examples over the next few weeks – it is really easy to do and gives a nice look to just about any picture. Once again, it goes to show why this updated plug-in from NIK is really great!
Hope you enjoy the recipe and let me know what you think!…..Digital Lady Syd
Related Blog Links by Digital Lady Syd (or click under Categories – HDR Effect):
NIK Color Efex Pro 4 – Digital Lady Syd’s Review!
Another Pseudo HDR Image with NIK CEP4 – Got to Love the Effect!
Pseudo HDR in OnOne Perfect Effects
The New Film Efex-Vintage Filter From NIK CEP 4
Digital Landscape Effects with Nik Software
NIK Color Efex Pro 4 – First Try!
With One Good Photo – Try the Pseudo HDR Effect
I ran across this little video by Matt Kloskowski for Lightroom called “The Clarity Super Edgy Trick” but can just as easily be done in Adobe Camera Raw (ACR). The following image is an example of the technique.
To get this nice grunge/HDR effect, the following steps need to be done.
- First do adjustments to image and crop size in Lightroom or ACR. Set the Clarity slider to +100 at this time.
- Select the Graduated Filter (G) (11th icon from left at top) and set just the Clarity slider set to +100 (In Lightroom go to the Effect drop-down and choose Clarity – set slider to +100).
- Click and drag at bottom of image so the top line is totally off the image. Clarity at 100% will have been applied again to the whole image. Everything above the green line in ACR or top line in Lightroom is getting the full 100% Clarity so make sure this line is dragged totally off the bottom of image. Hold SHIFT while dragging to keep the line horizontal with image and it is easier to control.
- Repeat Step 3 by creating a new Clarity Graduated Filter and do this as many times as you want. Usually this means 3 or 4 times.
If you want to apply the Clarity to just part of the image, use the Adjustment Brush set to Clarity at +100. The same brush can be applied several times by just creating New Brushes.
In the image of the cupola on the old historic courthouse in Fairfax, Virginia, I started with Matt’s 70’s Look preset in Lightroom (here is the preset for ACR), applied the Clarity slider at +100 in the Basic Module, and then set two Graduated Filters with Clarity set to +100. The image was finally brought into Photoshop and a rather brown colored sky was changed to a blue color using the Color Replacement Tool Brush. (See my Tidbits blog – “Like a Chameleon-The Color Replacement Tool” on how to do this.) I added some clouds using my SJ-Cloud Brushes Set.
Do watch when applying the Clarity Slider to landscapes – a bright sky next to a treeline can look bad as it tapers away from the trees edge. Since Clarity works on contrast at the edges in the midtone areas, if you do not want the grungy look, keep your setting to 40 0r 50 and do not use this technique.
One of my favorite shooting spots in Mesa, Arizona, is this old Buckhorn Motel in the center of town. In this case, the image was adjusted in Adobe Lightroom and the Graduated Filter was also applied twice. The image was processed using OnOne’s Perfect Layers Lightroom plug-in. In Perfect Layers, the image was duplicated with the new layer set to Screen at 52%, a Shadow Creations Another Mixed Texture Set – Texture Seattle was added as a texture layer set to Normal at 88%, and then the Masking Bug Tool was used on it to get the interesting side borders. This can all be done in Photoshop if you wanted to create this same effect without the plug-in. After opening image in Photoshop, a NIK Color Efex Pro 3.0 Tonal Contrast plug-in effect and an OnOne PhotoFrame were added to finalize the look. The tonal contrast could have been adjusted without the plug-in by using a Curves Adjustment Layer and/or Levels Adjustment Layer. Use Hue/Sat Adjustment Layer to pop the color.
The Magnolia Tree pod image was created by applying my Vivid Drawing Look Preset in Lightroom (here is the preset for ACR) first, adjusting the exposure and clarity sliders, running the Graduated Filter three times with Clarity set to +100 and once with Clarity set to +37, and opening it up in Photoshop. Three effects were then added on separate layers to get this final result, all using NIK’s Color Efex Pro 3.0 (Tonal Contrast, Glamour Glow and Vignette Blur effects were applied – they are coming out with a new version shortly so I will report back on this when available). Sharpening and an OnOne PhotoFrame finished up the photo. It gives a very different feel from the two images above.
With this beautiful Great Egret, Matt’s 70’s Look preset was applied (same preset as first image-link to download above). The Adjustment Brush was used to selectively apply the Clarity/Sharpening as too much tends to give the whites a very dirty look. The Adjustment Brush was used with Clarity set to +100 and Sharpen +100. I painted over the head and beak of the bird. I then applied one more new Adjustment brush and painted just the beak and eye area. The image was opened in Photoshop, and NIK Color Efex Pro 3.0 Glamour Glow (default settings) and Brilliance and Warmth effects were applied. An OnOne PhotoFrame was added and that was it. Very easy and the face is very sharp using the Clarity technique in Lightroom or ACR.
I just have too much fun trying out this technique. It is a very easy one to do and the possibilities are many. Try using a couple different settings in the Graduated Filter or Adjustment Brush. Save the Filters as presets (they can then be used for both). I have to hand it to Photoshop Guy Matt Kloskowski for coming up with this interesting technique. Give it a quick try and see what you think…..Digital Lady Syd