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.
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