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I'm sure you've had many experiences where you've had a huge difference in light levels between the brighhtest areas of a scene and the darkest areas of a scene. That's especially true of coarse, when the sun is included in the frame. But there are a wide variety of circumstances where extreme contrast can present a problem. You can see here for example that I have reasonably good detail in the sky, you can see the sunburst but there is virtually no information elsewhere in the image. This is a situation where we might use high-dynamic-range imaging in order to render more information in a scene that would be otherwise very difficult to achive.
Here for example I have three frames, I have a dark frame that was used to try to preserve as much highlight detail as possible. I also hare a middle frame which preserves a title bit of highlight detail, I've lost some of that highlight detail and I'm also losing some shadow detail. But overall this is a reasonably good comprimise if I was trying to produce a single capture. And finally I have a third frame, and here I've lost quite a bit of highlight detail, but I do have a good amount of detail in the shadows. We can take all three of these photos and assemble them into a single image that contains a greater range of overall information, relative to what we could have captured in one frame.
That requires that we utilize Photoshop to assemble the high-dynamic-range image. I'll go ahead and select the first image in the series, and then I'll hold the Shift key and click on the last image in the series so that all three images are selected. I'll then go to the Photo menu and choose Edit In and Merge to HDR Pro in Photoshop. When I choose that option Photoshop will launch if it was not already runing and these three images will be opened in HDR Pro. You can see that the three images are now in a single document, and they've been loaded into HDR Pro so that we can merge them into our final result.
There are a variety of presets that you can use and these are a good way to sort of start experimenting around with some of the various options. For example you can see there is a monoschromatic artistic option which creates a black and white image with some rather significant halos. We also have a photo realistic option which attempts to give us an accurate result as possible. Of course with the understanding that in the real world we couldn't capture an image with one frame that contained this much information for the highlights and the shadows. And then we can also use the various options I recomend working with the local adaptation option for mode but then we can adjust the individual settings.
I can adjust the edge glow and that creates the halos we saw a moment ago with that monochromatic version. We can also adjust the overall tone and detail, and we can apply some more sophisticated adjustments as well. In this case I feel like this is sort of a little bit of a fun subject, so rather than a photo realistic approach I think I'm going to create a little bit more of an, almost animated appearance in the image. Something with a lot of saturation and maybe even with some good edge glow to it. I'll go ahead and take a look at the presets, to see if I have a good starting point.
Perhaps something saturated might be a good starting point. You can see that now I have some colors that are a little bit more exagerated. I can then adjust my other settings. I'll go ahead and increase the radius size and also increase the strength. And as I do so, you'll see that I start to see some halo's throughout the image. I can adjust and fine tune those images as I see fit. In this case, I think I'm going to make some rather large halo's. I want a somewhat dramatic appearance in the image. I can also fine tune the overall gama, that midtone brightness and this will help to introduce a little bit more detail in those midtones. And I can fine tune exposure.
This is a little bit of a stronger adjustment, and so you'll tend to want to use a very small degree of adjustment for exposure if you use it at all. And we can also adjust the degree of detail. And you can see that that brings out even more of an artificial appearance in some areas of the image because it's creating a little bit of an exaggerated contrast. But for this subject, I think that's a little bit fun. I might tone down the strength of the halos here just a little bit. Maybe increase the size just a little so that spreads out a little bit more. I can adjust the overall appearance of shadows and highlights within the image.
So, for example brightening or darkening shadows and brightening or darkening the highlights. In this case I think I might tone down the highlights just a little bit in an effort to allow that sunburst to show through a little bit more. I'm going to take the vibrancy up a little bit more and I'm also going to increase saturation a little. Now this is certainly creating an image with a bit of an artificial appearance to it, but that's what I'm going for in this case. I think that's a little bit more fun for an image of this type. In many cases you might like to take this somewhat artificial approach to create an exaggerated version of the image. Or you might want something a little bit more realistic, where you're just trying to preserve highlight and shadow detail.
Regardless of your goals for an image, the process is relatively straight forward. I do want to point out one additional adjustment if you have any movement within the frame. For example, if there were a moving subject in the frame, or if you had tried to capture an HDR set handheld, then you'll definitely want to turn on the remove ghosts option. If you were capturing a static subject from a tripod, that generally won't be necessary. And so in this case I will go ahead and turn that option off. But in many situations you might want to have that option turned on such as if people were walking through the frame. But I think this is looking pretty good.
As a starting point for this image I will go ahead and click OK. And that will cause Photoshop to process the actual raw captures and assemble them into a single final image which it will then open up in Photoshop. I can then apply additional adjustments to the image if I would like to. But in this case, I think we've created a pretty good starting point for the image. We'll call that good enough. So I'll go ahead and choose File > Save From the menu and then I'll chose File > Close From the menu. That will update the image and close it in Photoshop.
I can then switch back to Lightroom. And you'll see that I have my original frames of the HDR, but I also have my processed image, my final result. Now in this case the image as I've created it does not contain any layers. The three individual frames were merged into a final, single layered result. And I didn't add any additional image layers, nor did I add any adjustment layers. So in theory I could continue working in the Develop module to change the appearance of this image. But generally speaking, once I've sent an image over to Photoshop, I'll tend to continue using Photoshop to fine-tune the image, as I see fit. So in this case, I think I'm finished.
But as you can see, Lightroom makes it easy to leverage Photoshop in order to produce a high-dynamic-range image.
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