Anything Photoshop or Photography

Posts tagged “Merge to HDR

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


New Lightroom and Photoshop 32-bit Processing Capability


This new feature is taking the Photoshop world by storm! What a great new addition to Lightroom’s 4.1 upgrade. If you have Lightroom 4, you have got to try this. Matt Kloskowski, one of the NAPP Photoshop Guys, created a nice short video, A New HDR Feature in Lightroom 4.1, on how to process your images using the Merge to HDR in Photoshop, and then bringing the 32-bit tonemapped image back into Lightroom to use with the camera raw sliders. The image above is from the Hilton Waikoloa Village – some of the unusual art that is in this complex. After processing the 32-bit image using Lightroom sliders, Nik Color Efex Pro 4 was applied within Lightroom using these filters: Detail Extractor adding (+) control points on only the sculpture itself, Midnight using Neutral mode, and BiColor User Defined Preset 02 Brown/Pink and using (-) control points on the sculpture. The image was taken back into Photoshop (now as a 16-bit psd file) to add OnOne PhotoFrame acid burn controller 06 (see sidebar for website in my Tidbits Blog), which could have also been added in Lightroom. The Nik plug-in could have been added in Photoshop and a Smart Object used to save the setting – instead I created a Note in Photoshop to recall how the settings were used used in Lightroom.
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What is absolutely amazing about this addition to Lightroom is that the images are so sharp and clear with little noise especially in the skies like you get with the other HDR processes. It is totally amazing that neither of these images had any sharpening or noise reduction applied. Wow!

Here is my first attempt at creating a 32-bit image using three bracketed images hand-held of the beach on the perimeter of the Hilton Waikoloa Village – not a very good place to sunbathe but nice and breezy. No other plug-ins were applied to this photo. I was major happy how clear and sharp this image came out. The frame was created using the layer style instructions for my Digital Lady Syd’s Free Layer Style Frames – colors can be sampled from image and changed out easily.

What is happening here is that inside Lightroom you select your bracketed images, right click and Edit In – Merge to HDR. This opens up the HDR program in Photoshop where set the tonemap setting to 32-bit, not 16-bit. Next check the Remove Ghosts box. Close and if you do not have your Preferences set up in Lightroom to save your HDR’s as TIFF’s, you need to do a Save As, name file, and select TIF as your format to bring back into Lightroom. Once back in Lightroom you are free to use all the sliders available to create the look you want on the 32-bit image. The image can be taken back into Photoshop to add your framing or plug-ins if you want, where it is now back at 16-bit mode.
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I am still amazed how great these images are looking. This image is of some colorful plants at the entrance to the Lightner Museum, in the old Alcazar Hotel, St. Augustine, Florida. After processing as a 32-bit image in Photoshop and bringing back into Lightroom, the image was taken back into Photoshop and the new Topaz photoFXlab v1.1 plug-in (see sidebar for website in my Tidbits Blog) was opened and the Dynamics slider applied at 55. I also removed a very small amount of noise with Imagenomics Noiseware. This is my free Thin Double Edge layer style frame (see link above) with colors sampled from the image and that was it. This image is incredibly clear!
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My last example once again was processed in Lightroom as a 32-bit hand-held HDR. I did apply a little Nik Color Efex Pro 4 Detail Extractor to the gargoyle only to sharpen it a little. No noise reduction was applied, only my Thin Double Edge Frame layer style applied to the image. Very easy. This image was taken at Flagler College (the old Ponce de Leon Hotel) in St. Augustine, Florida.

I am going to have to go back through my old HDR images and update them. This process is totally amazing if you want a very natural HDR look. Wonderful new feature! It is a pretty easy procedure to follow and the results are definitely worth keeping!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
32-Bit HDR Using Lightroom and CS6


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


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