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In many cases the difference between the brightest and darkest areas of a scene is simply too great to capture in a single image, due to the inherent limitations of cameras. However, you can overcome those limitations through the use of high dynamic range (HDR) imaging. In this workshop from digital imaging guru Tim Grey, learn both how to capture HDR images and how to organize, assemble, and optimize them after the fact, whether you prefer to use HDR Pro, Nik HDR Efex Pro, or Photomatix.
When it comes to assembling the individual frames to produce a high dynamic range image, I consider Photomatix from HDR Soft to be one of the best tools available. And Photomatix is available for use with a variety of imaging applications, in addition to being available as a stand alone application. In this case, I'll be using Lightroom as the basis of my Photomatix workflow. I have a series of images here that I would like to assemble. And so, I am going to click on the first image on the film strip, and then hold the Shift key and click on the last image on the film strip. And that will select all of those images so that I can assemble them with Photomatix.
I'll then go to the File menu and choose Export With Preset followed by Photomatix Pro. That will bring up a dialog, where we can establish the settings that we want to use with Photomatix. First off, we want to make sure to have the Align Images checkbox turned on, even if it doesn't seem there was any movement whatsoever in the scene. It's best to have those images automatically alligned to ensure the best results. I also prefer to turn on the Crop Aligned Result checkbox, so that the resulting image will automatically be cropped. You also have the option of how you want that alignment to be performed. And you can see here I have the By Correcting Horizontal and Vertical Shifts option selected.
And that's generally the best approach provided the images were all captured from the same exact location. If you have any issues where perspective might have been a problem, then you can choose the By Matching Features option. And in that case, I do recommend having the Include Perspective Correction checkbox turned on. But in this case, the images were captured on a tripod, there should have been no movement whatsoever. So I'll leave that first Option selected. I'll also want to turn on the Reduced Ghosting Artifacts checkbox. In this particular situation, there didn't seem to be anything in the scene moving.
But I want to make sure that if there was any movement, it will be corrected for automatically. So I'll turn on that checkbox, and then I'll choose the Width Selective Deghosting tool. This allows me to identify specific areas within the image where I think ghosting might be possible. And we'll see that Option momentarily. When I'm assembling images from Lightroom, I typically do not use the Reduce Noise option, because instead, I will have applied some noise reduction within Lightroom's develop module. But if you were using a different tool, for example, you could turn on the Reduce Noise checkbox. And then specify whether you want to process all images, only those with a normal or under exposure, or only the under-exposed images. Generally speaking you'll see the most significant noise with underexposed images.
And so I would use that Option at a bare minimum, even if you were shooting at a 100 ISO setting. If you're shooting at a higher ISO setting of course, you might want to use the All Source Images option as well. But in this case I'll turn off Reduce Noise because these images were captured at a 100 ISO setting, which is the minimum for the camera that was being used. And I've applied a little bit of Noise Reduction within Lightroom. I will however turn on the Reduce Chromatic Aberrations checkbox because in this case, I did not apply Chromatic Aberration Correction to the images in Lightroom.
This will apply automatically in order to remove colored halos along high contrast edges in the scene. We also have the option to view the intermediary 32-bit HDR image. This is usually not terribly useful for normal purposes and so I leave that checkbox turned on. The 32-bit HDR image is not going to have what we consider a normal tonal range, and so previewing that does not help in most situations. If you're an advanced user though, of course, you might want to take advantage of that option. Once processing is complete, I want the HDR image to automatically be brought into Lightroom catalog.
So, I'll leave this first checkbox turned on to automatically re-import. And I'll also keep the next checkbox turned on, which will cause the resulting HDR image to be included in a stack with the first image that is selected in this range that we're assembling. We can also adjust the file name. In this case, I'll just change the portico name to include the term HDR on the end of it. So I'll go ahead and select this latter portion of the file name and type HDR, and I'll use as my output format the TIFF file format with 16 bits per channel. With those settings established, I'll go ahead and click the Export button. Lightroom will then process all of the images that I've selected, and send them to Photomatix.
Photomatix will then come to the forefront, and we'll be able to fine tune the settings for our HDR capture. An intermediate step that we'll need to deal with is to deghost the image, and you'll recall that I chose the Selective Deghosting option. This allows me to specify particular areas of the image where I think ghosting might be a problem. Sometimes that's obvious. For example, if you had foliage in the scene and it was a little bit breezy, then you'll be able to see some ghosting of the leaves on that foliage. Here, you might assume that since there were no moving objects in the scene, that there should be no ghosting at all.
There are statues in the background and some buildings, there's obviously a building over our head here. And yet there actually is a little bit of blurring in this image. You might notice that the lamp here does not appear entirely sharp, and that's because we have a little bit of a blur, a little bit of a ghosting. I'll go ahead and zoom in, and we'll be able to see very clearly that there is a little bit of a ghosting. We have some redundancy in the lamp here. You can see a little bit of a halo affect, essentially. And in this case the lamp is hanging, and so obviously there was just a little bit of movement back and forth, during the individual captures. I've turned on the Quick Selection mode, and that means that I can simply identify areas of the photo where I think ghosting might exist. And they will automatically be marked as ghosted areas, and that way Photomatix will be able to process those areas that I've specified. So I'll go ahead and Click and Drag on the image in order to draw a Marquee around the area where that ghosting may occur.
It is now automatically marked as a ghosted area. I can click the Preview button to see a preview of that deghosting effect. And you can see that we have a much sharper version of that area. I can then switch back to the selection mode and zoom out as needed, and review other areas of the image for example. But in this case, I think that's the only portion of the image that exhibits any ghosting. So I'll go ahead and click the OK button. Once Photomatix has finished processing the image, it will bring up the initial HDR result.
I can then apply a variety of different adjustments, and then simply click the Save and Reimport button. And this image will be processed into the final HDR result, and the image will then be included in my Lightroom catalog so that I can continue managing it there, optimizing it, and of course, sharing it with others.
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