This week I performed just a little comparison of the my HDR programs. I get so confused about which one I want to use and what the differences are between them so I decided to take the same image and run it through each of them. What I found out is although the basic image is the same, depending upon the HDR program used, a totally different look will be achieved. So what my final conclusion is that you need to decide up front what effect you like, and then choose the program that gives this result. That is why running an image through each program is so informative – it shows the subtle differences that need to be known to make the an intelligent choice. So below is the image example and a little info I learned about each software as I experimented. The image was taken of a Hat Rack that is outside a store on St. George Street in the historic district of St. Augustine, Florida. Also, all three images had a little work done in Photoshop – the price tag amounts were removed, the same High Pass filter set to 2.0 Radius and Overlay blend mode was used on each (except the On1 image which was sharpened enough and it caused haloing), and a Red Channel Luminosity Adjustment Layer was applied although different RGB settings were used for each. The top image is a 3 image HDR of the ballroom at Whitehall (Flagler Museum), Henry M. Flagler’s Residence in Palm Beach, Florida. It was post-processed using Aurora 2018.
To begin with, I love this new HDR software. Why? Because it is so easy to use. Aurora (for website link see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) have canned presets (and some more can be downloaded for free from within the program) and the interface is pretty simple. That said, there are a few problems if you are a Windows user. It is hard to navigate around the image when zoomed in is my first pet-peeve. The biggest problem is when using the Dodge & Burn filter which I really like on the image. The program did a great job in removing ghosting but the colors seem to be a little off to me. Below is the result I got using this program. (Here are the settings used on it: AU 2018 – HDR Basic: Temp 9, Tint 16, Exposure -0.44, Contrast -2, HDR Enhance 79, Smart Tone -31, Highlights 24, Whites 36, and Blacks -20; Color Vibrance 44, HDR Structure: Amount 78; Image Radiance Amount 41 and Brightness -20; HSL Sat Red 47, Orange -11, Aqua -67, and Blue -58; Dodge & Burn – set brush to 12% Strength and painted with Darken around the edges and with Lighten on the lighter parts of the hats; Vignette: Amount -62, Size 32, Roundness -51, Feather 53.) Overall, this is a great program, especially for Apple people, but it needs to be updated to the Apple version for Windows people to really get the full punch of the program.
I decided to include this one since everyone probably owns it since it is free. When this program first came out several years ago there was a lot of excitement generated by this HDR software. I found it still works really good. There are lots of presets to try out and that is exactly how this image was started. It looks very different from the above – the colors are much truer. Is that the look I wanted? Maybe. The disadvantage in this program is there is no Dodge and Burn filter which is what I think made the first image more interesting. (Here are the settings used on this image: NIK HDR Efex Pro 2: Selected Pale & Structure and changed Tone Compression to -18%, Method Strength 41%, HDR Drama far left and the Color Sat to -14%. Add control point to reduce the effect on the bright items in the door on right. Added Vignette Lens 3 vignette and changed amount to -5%.) This is not a fatal flaw since this can be done in Photoshop. I am a little disturbed by the slight amount of haloing that I could not figure out how to reduce in the plug-in so I ended up hand cloning out – still some present. I am not sure this plug-in is still available as a stand-alone, but I have never used it this way. Overall, it gives a nice result and I am sure the haloing issue could be avoided with the proper settings.
On1 Photo Raw 2018 HDR
On1 software (for website link see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) has come a long way in the last few years and their HDR filter within the software interface is pretty great. The HDR section is set up so that once the HDR images are selected in the Browse module, the Create HDR dialog opens showing two tabs, Tone & Color tab (with are the standard LR Basic sliders) and HDR Look (which has the compression slider among others). Once the HDR image is saved and created, the program lets you use their Develop module or Effects module to further enhance the image which opens a lot of extra possibilities. (Here are the settings used in image below: Create HDR-Tone & Color – Exposure -0.2, Contrast -12, Highlights 0, Shadows -17, Whites 1, Blacks -14, Structure 17, Haze -9, Temp 4650, Tint 4, and Vibrance 37 and HDR Look: Compression 51, Details 21, Clarity 27, Vibrance 10, Glow 0, and Grunge 7. Effects module: HDR with the settings from HDR Look show up; Dynamic Contrast: Small 6, Medium 61, and Large 43, Highlights 17, and Shadows -4; and Color Enhancer: Red Sat 10; Orange Brightness 10; and Blue Sat -11; and Vignette: Big Softy preset and Brightness -51, Size 38, Feather 100, and Roundness -56.) I have done several HDR images with this program and really like it. I found on a water scene it had a little trouble with the ghosting of some sailboat masts. But other than that I have gotten some great results. In this image it seems that the whites are much better than th two above.
This is very easy to do in Lightroom – just select the images to create the HDR image, right click and choose Photo Merge -> HDR and in the HDR Merge Preview dialog, check the options you want and click Merge. It brings the new HDR image back into LR as a DNG file. I do not use DNG files usually, but have found not problems with it. Now you can do all the same adjustments that are made in LR normally. Major great and easy! The HDR image allows the Exposure slider to go from (+5) to (-5) to (+10) to (-10). I found the resulting HDR image almost sterile looking – no noise, color absolutely correct – almost a flat look. On the other hand it is very realistic. After doing the Basic changes in LR (Settings were: Basic panel-Tint +21, Exposure +0.71, Contrast -16, Highlights -100, Shadows -7, Whites +2, Blacks -48, Clarity +2, Vibrance +18, and Saturation +4; HSL Panel Luminance Orange -20 and Yellow -8; and with the Adjustment Brush set to Exposure 0.80, Clarity 77 and Sharpness 83, the hats were painted over.), the photo was taken into PS. A Color Balance Adjustment Layer was used to add a little more brown-gold look to the image. Since there was not texture at all in this image on the background, a Digital Grain texture I had created a while back was applied on top. It did seem to help a little.
So which of these programs did I prefer? This is such a hard one to decide. I did not use Photomatix Pro as I own version 3.3 and apparently they are on version 6.0 – I did not mind using it a few years ago as it gave very good results. They all gave sharp and clean images. I believe that Lightroom’s HDR effect is extremely realistic and that is perfect when you need something with really sharp lines. It does a fantastic job with this. On1 has this great advantage of also being tack sharp which one of the things I like about this program even when not doing HDR – their Dynamic Contrast filter is just fabulous! Their HDR is also very good. Nik HDR Efex Pro 2 may be lagging just slightly behind, but this is extremely power HDR software and if you cannot afford to buy new program, just download this one. It is still just fine for most image. The new guy for me, Aurora 2018, is really good – it is the brainchild of Trey Radcliff, a major HDR guru, so this is why it is so good and easy to use. I thought it did a really good job on the Flagler Museum image which has a lot of exposure issues in it. Overall, the best way to figure this out is to try them all. I can see if I do not like the results of one software, try a different one – it will look different!
Hope you enjoyed this blog – have a great week…..Digital Lady Syd
Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Checking Out Aurora HDR 2018 for Windows
Trying Out On1 Photo Raw 2018’s New HDR Filter
Digital Lady Syd Reviews Nik HDR Efex Pro 2
HDR Using Photoshop Merge to HDR and Nik”s HDR EFex Pro and Silver Efex Pro? Wow!
This sunset was taken at Spanish Cay in the Bahamas. Just doing a really quick blog and discussing the new HDR filter in On1 (for website, see sidebar link at my Tidbits Blog) Photo Raw 2018 software. I really gave the software a tough image to process – lots of wind so the flags and the lines on the foreground boat were slightly moving. I took 5 hand-held shots. All the midground and background objects looked perfect. But the foreground was a problem.
In On1’s HDR dialog, the HDR was set to Very High for deghosting, but the ghosting effect was still obvious. I decided to compare the results with Lightroom’s fairly new HDR Photo Merge (select images and right click Photo Merge -> HDR) where the Deghost Amount was set to High – had no ghost issues at all! The problem for me is that I liked the Tone and Color effects in On1 better than what could be achieved in Photoshop or Lightroom. So what I did was highlight both HDR images in Lightroom (a tiff for On1 and dng for LR) and right clicked, and selected Edit In -> Open as Layers in Photoshop. In PS an Auto-align command (Edit -> Auto-align layers) and Crop Tool was done first. With a mask applied to the top On1 layer, the problems with the foreground lines and flags were corrected by using the Clone Stamp Tool set to 80% brush opacity. This took a lot of time but I liked the result. Basically what I wanted to pass on is, if possible do use a tripod to take your HDR images – it will help in abnormal conditions. If having a big problem with post-processing it with On1 HDR, then do a second HDR image using Lightroom’s Merge to HDR and stack the images.
This being said, I have used the On1 HDR filter with no problems. This was a very difficult image with the high winds. Also, just to double check, I took the 5 images into Nik HDR Efex Pro2 and a little ghosting occurred in this HDR image with the flags. Therefore, it confirmed it was a pretty hard image to create. Overall with the stacking, the image turned out pretty good – and the sunset really did have those rays. I believe that On1 has some really nice settings to adjust to get very good HDR images. Have good weekend!…..Digital Lady Syd
Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Work Around to Get Luminar for windows to Work with Photoshop (image in blog is a On1 5 shot HDR image)
How to Use Google (Nik) HDR Efex Pro 2
Basically this blog is showing that filters or plug-ins do not have to be applied on a layer with the second one applied on top of the first one on the same layer, but rather they can be applied to the same original duplicated layer and by using layer masks the desired effects from can be inserted. This image above followed a workflow that followed my Nik HDR Efex Pro 2 and Topaz Clarity Together? Tidbits Blog from a few years ago. It had been a while since HDR Efex Pro2 (part of the free download from Google-Nik) was used so it seemed like a good time to try it out again. The original image from the Tidbits Blog is shown below. This image was taken yesterday at the 28th Native American Festival in Ormond Beach, Florida. The displays and costumes really give a nice variety for those who love photography (and the vendors and show organizers are some of the nicest people!). The focus area of the two teapots show more of the HDR plug-in effect and the rest of the image has more of the Topaz Clarity filter effect. Any plug-ins can be used this way, these are just what I was using for this image.
HDR Efex Pro 2
The image was first opened in Lightroom where it was brightened up just a bit. Then in Photoshop, the background was duplicated, converted to a Smart Object (right click on layer and select Convert to Smart Object), and HDR Efex Pro2 was opened from the Filters menu. Note: you do not have to be shooting HDR photos to use this plug-in – it works fine with just one image. (For info on how to use if shooting with more than one image, see my How To use Google (Nik) HDR Efex Pro 2 Blog.) This is another one of those huge plug-ins with lots of sliders and presets to play around with on your images so the Smart Object allows you to go back and adjust it if it look wrong (double click on the thumbnail in the Layer Panel). In this case the Outdoor 2 preset was applied. One of the best things in this plug-in is the Levels & Curves section where besides RGB and the individual channels, there is a the Luminosity Curve that can be adjusted – this was done for this image. The curve was pulled downward to get a nice overall effect. Then the Tonality section Structure slider was set to 31% and the Color Temperature was set to -20% and Saturation 19%. That was all that was done to this preset.
Now for the Topaz (for website link see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Clarity part. This is one of my favorite Topaz plug-ins partly because of the versatility in it. The HDR Efex layer was turned off and the background duplicated again and set just above the background layer. Since the HDR Efex layer had way too much contrast for the softer vintage effect I wanted, a preset that I created for painting was applied in Clarity. It totally softens the whole image but the colors looked really good. (Here are the settings if you are interested: Clarity Dynamics Micro Contrast -0.86, Low Contrast -0.86, Medium Contrast 0.63, and High Contrast 0.94; Tone Level Black Level -0.19, Midtones -0.36, and White Level 0.19; HSL Filter Hue – no changes; Sat Orange 0.06, Yellow 0.63, Green 0.13, Blue 0.25 0.25, and Overall -0.45; and Lum Orange 0.36, Yellow -0.34, Green -0.42, Blue 0.61, Purple 0.11, Magenta 0.75, and Overall -0.27 – all other colors were 0.00. Adjust these settings around if they do not quite fit the effect you want.)
The HDR Efex layer was turned on and a black layer mask was added (press ALT key while clicking the layer mask icon at bottom of Layers Panel). Just the areas where more contrast was needed was painted back into the image – mainly around the teapots where the focal point is. A round brush set to 50% opacity was used so edges were not too sharp.
Photoshop Brushes for Clean up
Some of the background in the curtains did not look so nice, so the brushes were brought out to paint in some colors and blend some colors on a New Layer. It is so handy to have a good Regular Brush and Mixer for clean up. A pastel with rough edges was used to paint over some greenish shadow colors that did not fit the image. The brush can be downloaded from SDW Haven Pastel Brushes Part 1 – it is the last brush or 11th brush in this free set. (These are the settings used for the brush: Brush Tip Shape: I like it as a small size so it is set to 8 pixels but enlarge it often, Angle 137 degrees, Roundness 100% and Spacing 35%; Shape Dynamics: Angle Jitter 42%; Texture – Rough located in PS Erodible Textures (load by clicking texture patter, then on the cog wheel and Load Erodible Textures, and set to Scale 87%, Brightness -45, Contrast 0, check Texture Each Tip, Mode Multiply, Depth 50%, Depth Jitter 1%, and Control Off; and check Smoothing.) This brush also clean up funny colored edges nicely – just ALT+click in the image on the color to sample, and lightly paint in. I usually paint at 67% opacity with this brush.
Then an overall soft Mixer blender was used to mix up the edges. The brush I use is by David Belliveau from Paintable – here is a link to his free brushes and his How to Blend Colors in Photoshop: 4 Essential Technique blog. David does a great job explaining how to use brushes in Photoshop. On the clean up layers, I just kept going back and forth between the Regular and the Mixer brush adding color and blending until the color and edges look smooth. The Mixer also does a great job of softening lines that appear too sharp in the background. I use these two brushes all the time to both clean up images and paint in Photoshop.
Finishing Up the Image
Last steps involved adding on a stamped layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) Topaz Texture Effects 2 with adjustments to the Crisp Morning Run preset. A Spot Mask was used over the center pots so they were not affected as much by the plug-in. Duplicated the layer and applied Nik Viveza 2 to further sharpen the two middle teapots and add a little more saturation to that area. Duplicated the layer again and Topaz Lens Effects was opened and a Silver Reflector filter coming from the left was applied – just to add a softer effect and emphasize where the light was. Using these three plug-ins one after the other is an example of applying them onto each other and no masking was involved. Therefore the effects of Texture Effects is in the image where Nik Viveza 2 was applied which is in the results of applying the Lens Effects filter. If you wanted to get down to the original Background effect, many masks were have to be created. Subtle but significant difference.
Overall HDR Efex Pro and Clarity are not a bad combination for getting some nice effects in Photoshop. Both images used the filters discussed above. Each filter was added on its own duplicated Background layer and then the parts of the image to be concealed were masked in or out on each layer. For the top image it just did not look as good when one filter was applied over the other one. This is really important to remember if you are liking the effect in two different filters – they do not have to both be applied over each other – just mask in or out what you like on separate layers. And do try out the brushes – they work really well together. Hope everyone is coping with the winter and staying warm. Until next time…..Digital Lady Syd
This week I thought I would just show a quick image that used Nik HDR Efex Pro 2, one of the 7 plug-ins in the now free Google (Nik) Collection. I do not do much HDR shooting anymore, but here is an image taken a few years ago that used 5 bracketed shots. If you like to shoot HDR, I would definitely check out this software – it is different from both Lightroom’s and Photomatix Pro’s HDR results. I had done a previous review years ago (see my Digital Lady Syd Reviews Nik HDR Efex Pro 2 blog) and still love the plug-in as much as before. So here were the quick steps that got this effect:
- From Lightroom, all the images were selected and opened in Photoshop as individual files.
- Next the plug-in was opened in Photoshop by going to File -> Automate -> Merge to HDR Efex Pro2 – press the “Add open file” and then the Merge Dialog button. You can click the check box for Create Smart Object so you can go back in and adjust effect. (Can apply plug-in from LR by going to File -> Export with Preset -> Merge to HDR Efex Pro2.)
- Check Alignment if images not shot on a tripod. Same with Ghost Reduction – move slider at bottom to show image that shows image with movement that looks best as in clouds or trees. Always check Remove Chromatic Aberration.
- Now just presss Create HDR – a tiff file is created.
- The Default preset is automatically applied to the image. Now the fun is going through all the presets and see which one(s) look best on the image. Experiment with the sliders on the right. Tone Compression is the amount of HDR effect seen – set all the way left there is no HDR effect. Method Strength slider goes from very weak to very crunchy looking. All the other sliders can create some nice effects. If you find a combination you, just create a preset by pressing the (+) sign in the Custom section on the left. The above image used the Deep 2 preset to start.
- Note this image is now set to 32-Bits/Channel – this is a huge file and lots of PS effects and actions will not run on it. I change it to 16 or 8 bit mode so I can do things as in the next step. Go to File -> Mode -> 8-Bits/Channel. This causes the file to be merged down and the Smart Object is rasterized. (If you duplicate the Smart Object and rasterize the layer, turn the eye off the bottom Smart Object layer, and now change the mode, select Don’t Merge Layers, the Smart Object info can be retained in the layer that is turned off – sort of a hassle, but it can be done.)
- Here is a tip from one of my favorite Photoshop people, Scott Kelby, which he offered in his videos on this plug-in. Apply the HDR effect and then take the resulting effect into Nik Color Efex Pro 4 (another wonderful plug-in and is included in the download bundle) and select the Glamour Glow filter set to the default preset. He says it is the magic that really pulls the realistic HDR effect together and does not look over-the-top. That is what was done above.
To finish up the image, the waterfall was blurred so it looks a little more like a long exposure. (See my Smoothing Out Those Waterfalls blog on how to do this.) In this case, two Motion Blur layers were created since the water flows in a couple different directions. Also the slight blue chromatic aberration edging in the small sky in the upper left was removed by using the technique in my A New Look at Chromatic Aberration blog – worked beautifully. That is all that was done.
Here is an image that used the Nik HDR Efex Pro 2 plug-in that was done a while back. Just another good example of how this looks. I really like the effect in the skies. This image used Grannys Attic preset.
The London of Parliament image taken several years ago used both the free Nik HDR Pro Efex 2 and free Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 (see my Make an Ordinary Image Interesting Tidbits Blog for info on how to do this.)
Here is another example using the previous version, Nik HDR Efex Pro – I really liked how this image turned out – it the used Grannys Attic preset, but it had some different parameters in the first edition, which was also very nice.
Hope you will download this Google (Nik) collection of plug-ins – you will not be disappointed. As far as the HDR Efex Pro 2 goes, as Scott Kelby says, try it as it has a little different look from other HDR software and you might really like it. This is true of all their plug-ins – give them a try. I have always loved the Nik plug-ins – they run very smoothly even on older computers. When used with a Smart Object, the settings are preserved, even the control points that are used to localize the effects, so you can go back and adjust later. Sad to see this is probably the end of this plug-in but at least everyone now has a chance to use it. Have a great week experimenting!…..Digital Lady Syd
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.