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Adjusting overall tonality

From: Up and Running with HDR Efex Pro 2.0

Video: Adjusting overall tonality

Total adjustments tend to be relatively important for a high dynamic range image. Since it's really all about tonality and the way we're processing the tonal information from our original captures. Much of those tonal adjustments can be taken care of in the tone compression section of the right panel in HDR Efex Pro. But to really fine-tune the overall tonality of the photo we'll want to work with the aptly named tonality section of adjustments. I'll go ahead and click on the header for tonality in order to expand those adjustments, and then we can take a look at the various controls that are available to us. We'll start off an exposure control and this adjusts overall brightness of the image but with an emphasis on the white points.

Adjusting overall tonality

Total adjustments tend to be relatively important for a high dynamic range image. Since it's really all about tonality and the way we're processing the tonal information from our original captures. Much of those tonal adjustments can be taken care of in the tone compression section of the right panel in HDR Efex Pro. But to really fine-tune the overall tonality of the photo we'll want to work with the aptly named tonality section of adjustments. I'll go ahead and click on the header for tonality in order to expand those adjustments, and then we can take a look at the various controls that are available to us. We'll start off an exposure control and this adjusts overall brightness of the image but with an emphasis on the white points.

I'll go ahead and increase exposure and you can see that the image is brightened but we're also losing some detail in the brightest highlights of the photo. I can back off that exposure if I'd like in order to maximize the amount of detail retained within those highlight areas in fact darkening down those highlights a little bit. But overall we'll tend to want a resonably bright photo even with a HDR image we might not be to terribly concerned about losing detail in the brightest highlights. For example with the sun in the frame you're not going to expect to see a tremendous amount of detail. You can continue fine-tuning the overall setting for exposure, but then you'll want to turn your attention to some of the other adjustments that are available to you.

Chief among these are shadows and highlights, and these allow you to brighten or darken the darkest areas for shadows, and the brightest areas for highlights. And adjusting these sliders, you'll see that we only effect a relatively narrow range of tonal values within the photo. So as I decrease the value for shadows, the darkest areas of the image are darkened. And as I increase the value for shadows, those darker areas are brightened up. Obviously, in many cases, you want to maximize the amount of detail that's visible in an HDR image. But you also want to make sure in most cases not to make those shadow areas too bright because it does lead to a little bit of an artificial appearance in the photo.

We can also lighten and darken the highlights, of course, and the adjustment is very similar. In this case, you'll notice that, for the most part, it's the sun in the sky that's being effected because that, of course is the brightest area of the photo. The rest of the image is relatively moderate in terms of those bright value. We can also increase or decrease overall contrast in the photo. This will have an impact on the shadows and the highlights adjustments that we applied previously preferred. In many cases, I'll prefer to adjust overall contrast and then fine-tune by going back to the shadows and highlights adjustments.

In addition, we have blacks and whites values, and these are very similar to shadows and highlights. The difference is that they're focusing on a narrower range of tonal values. So if I reduce the value for blacks, you'll see that the darkest values get truly blackened up. They get truly darkened up quite a bit, and we can also brighten those dark areas of the photo. And we have a similar adjustment for whites, of course. We can brighten and darken just the brightest portions of the photo. So again blacks and whites are very similar to shadows and highlights. The real difference is that the blacks and whites sliders effect a narrower range of tonal values within the image.

Then finally we have the Structure slider, and if you're familiar with the clarity adjustment in Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw, this is very similar. It allows us to enhance or reduce localized contrast. It's very similar to sharpening, but happening across a broader area of the photo. If we increase the value for structure, you'll see that we get a bit more localized contrast within the photo. And if we apply a negative value for per structure, you'll see that we get a smoother image with something of an ethereal type of quality to it. I tend to like to increase the value for structure for most images, but not for every single image.

Obviously, you'll want to evaluate the results within each photo individually. So you can see the range of tonal adjustments available in the tonality section on the right panel in HDR Efex Pro. Really provides us with a good range of adjustments for fine-tuning the overall brightness and contrast, focusing in on specific tonal ranges even within the photo.

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Up and Running with HDR Efex Pro 2.0

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Tim Grey
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