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In this course, photographer Ben Long describes the concepts and techniques behind high dynamic range (HDR) photography, a technique used to create images that have a wider range between the lightest and darkest areas of a scene than a digital camera can typically capture. The course begins with some background on dynamic range, on how camera sensors detect shadows, and on the kinds of subjects that benefit from HDR. Ben then describes and demonstrates several methods of generating HDR images, starting with single-shot HDR, which relies on masking to subtly enhance the dynamic range of a shot. Next, the course covers multi-exposure HDR, which involves shooting several photos of a scene, each at a different exposure, and then combining them using software tools. Ben demonstrates how to use Photoshop and the popular Photomatix software to process HDR images whose appearance ranges from subtle to surreal.
As you may have already discovered there's one kind of downside to working with HDR, which is you may be coming back with three times the data that you normally would or five times or seven times depending on how many images you're shooting per scene and assuming that you're shooting every scene HDR, which of course you won't be doing, but still, if you're working on some HDR images when you're out there, there is very good chance you're going to come back with a lot of data that needs to be processed. Fortunately Photomatix has some excellent batch processing tools that make it easy to go through a whole folder of bracketed sets and come up with merged images, all without you having to do anything once you've started the batch process.
You can get to the Batch Processing controls under the Automate menu up here or over here in Workflow Shortcut you'll see Batch Bracketed Photos, Batch Single Photos. So let's take a look at the process of Batch Processing Bracketed Photos. So let's assume that I've come back with a bunch of bracketed sets. I have not renamed my images, so they still have all of the original camera names. They are all organized in a folder somewhere. I can use this dialog box to manage the automatic merging of all of those images. This might look a little bit intimidating, but I promise you for the most part there is not a single control in this dialog box that you have not already seen.
However, the order that they put things in this dialog box is a little weird. They start with processing and then you go to picking your source image. So let's start down here in the lower left corner where we are going to take our first step, which is to pick the images that we want to merge. I can choose to work on an entire folder or just on individual files. Personally, I find it easier to just pick a folder full of images. So I'm going to go out here to the desktop to my Exercise Files folder and I'm just going to pick Chapter 6 here and say Select Folder. And sure enough it's loaded in all of the images from that folder.
Now I want to look through here and make sure that they are all just RAW images, that I don't have any JPEG or TIFF images or individual shots. If I did I could select them and click Remove to get rid of just those images and winnow this down to simply the bracketed sets. I can also filter by different file types to make it easier to find images that maybe don't belong in here. I can also tell it whether I want to recursively go through and process any subfolders that are in this folder.
So we're just going to stick with this. We're going to process this whole set of images. Now I was shooting three shot brackets, so it's pretty safe to assume that 69, 70, and 71 are one set. 72, 73, 74 are second set. I would want to double check that in Bridge or where my browser is and make sure that those are the correct sequences and if there's a stray image in there I would want to get that out of there so that my sets don't get mixed up. So having picked my source images, I'm ready to save what I have done with them and that's the process section up here.
Obviously there is your bracketed sets. I need them merged. I could do that either by the full-on tone-mapped merging 32-bit HDR files, or I could do the Exposure Fusion stuff, or I could do all of these to each bracketed set. I can do multiple HDR processes at the same time. So let's say that we're going to do just the normal merge of a bracketed set into a final 32-bit HDR file. So, I check this and then I go over here to settings and I get a whole another mess of options. Lot of these you've already seen. The odd one out here is going to be Force Exposure Values spacing to, and it defaults to 2.
I shot my three set images as a shot as metered, a shot underexposed by one stop, a shot overexposed by one stop. That means my entire bracketed set has an exposure value range of 2 stops. So I've kind of done this step. I don't need to force exposure values. If I was shooting maybe some sets, underexposed two thirds, overexposed two thirds, and other sets underexposed one -and-a-half, and so on and so forth, I could tell it to force them all to this particular exposure value range. If you're shooting properly, for the most part you won't need to worry about this.
Ghosting artifacts, I can turn that on or off. Obviously I don't get the manual ghosting control, as this is going to be all automatic. I can tell it to reduce noise, chromatic aberrations. If I was working with JPEG or TIFF files, I would want to check this box. Because they are RAW files, I don't need to worry about that. Then I have got white balance controls. You've seen all these controls before. You haven't seen this one. When source images are in TIFF format, process strip by strip. This is nothing you really need to know about, other than that this can help speed up the process if you don't have a lot of RAM and you're working with really big files.
That's the only time you need to worry about that. So I'm going to say I want to reduce noise and I'm not worried about any of these other things. So I'm going to say OK. Now if I wanted, I could also do an Exposure Fusion on all of these just simply by checking these boxes and configuring their settings and these are all the settings that you've learned about already. I am not going to do those. I just want normal merging. So I've merged these, but all that's going to do is get me a 32-bit file. I now want to tone map them, so I need to turn on one of my tone mapping options, and again, these are just the same things that you normally find in Photomatix, the settings, and these are all of the same parameters.
So I can go through here and configure this the way I want or what's probably better is if I defined a preset. I can pick that from here. Now you need to think a little bit about this, about whether this entire batch of images can be tone mapped the same way, maybe that your landscape images can deal with one type of tone mapping, while some images that you shot indoors need a different type of tone mapping. In that case you're going to need to divide your batch in two different batches and process them separately with the appropriate tone mapping. Obviously, that's not rocket science to figure out. I just want to remind you that you need to think about whether one set of tone mapping options can work for the entire set you're going to process.
Again I could check other options down here. Now what I need to do is tell it how many images are in my bracketed set. It defaults to three. I can change it to any of these or I can even tell it that all of these are one big bracketed set. I'm going to set it to 3 and what that means is it's going to say 1, 2, 3, this is a bracketed set. 1, 2, 3, this is a bracketed set, and that's how it's going to merge things. I can hit this Advanced button, which gets me a whole new set of options and what these do is try to automatically detect what a bracketed set of image is.
This works pretty well and it's great if you tend to mix it up. If you sometime shoot three, if you sometime shoot five. So what I can say as well, I know that I was always shooting at least three, I was never shooting more than seven. If I wanted, I could even say they might have an even number of frames and then I'm defining an amount of time, the maximum time between two successive bracketed frames. Typically if you're shooting a bracketed set, if you're doing it the way that we've been discussing here, you're working with the burst or drive mode on your camera. So there's probably not going to be more than a second between different frames in your bracketed set. You could even go smaller than that, but if I put this on 1 second, I know that any two images that was shot more than a second apart are not going to be part of the same bracketed set, and typically you should have said, you stop and you think, maybe you review your results, well, boom! There, you already passed 1 second, then you shoot another set.
So this work as a good filter for filtering out your different bracketed sets. Alternatively, instead of having it automatically detect the number of bracketed frames, I can say select only some of the frames that are in each bracketed set. So if I have specified over here to select five images, I could say of those five images, process only the first, third, and last frames, and I can hold down the Command key on the Mac or Ctrl on Windows to select these. What this is saying is yeah, I shot the set of five bracketed images, but I don't needed to be that granular, I kind of want to speed up my processing time, so take only these three images. This is going to be metered.
Maybe I was set to one third apart or something, so this is going to be metered two thirds, one of third. You known to be honest, I've never used this feature, but it's still there if you change your mind later about, I shot of big bracketed set, I only want to process the small one. So these are just some advanced options, we don't need those here. I'm just going to put this back on to select 3 at a time. Finally down here, the missing component from some of the settings that we were looking at earlier up here, these are a lot of preprocessing options that you work with when you're working manually. For some reason they pulled a line out and stuck it down here by itself.
So I can tell it to Align images. I've got my usual Crop option and then my different aligning algorithms that I can use. So now I'm all configured. Now when I run the batch, these are the settings that are going to be used. As it's running, it is going to show me a preview over here. Now once it's merged, then it needs to do something with them, and that's what these Destination controls are for. I can say take your processed results and just stick them in the Source folder. Wherever the source images came from, stick the results there. Or I can say, nay, put them in this other folder that I'm going to specify. I can tell it the format that I wanted to save that in.
If I'm saving JPEG, I also get a JPEG quality option. In addition to saving out a finished TIFF image, by default it is going to save out the 32-bit HDR file and I can save that out as an EXR. So it's automatically saving the EXR file, along with the finished results, so that I've got my merged 32-bit data file and a tone mapped version. If I don't like the tone mapped version that comes out of the batch process, I still got the EXR version which has already been merged. That saves me the time of having to reemerge again later.
If I want I can say, actually dump the 32-bit file, all I want is the process tone mapped TIFF file. Finally, I get Naming options. these are just ways of specifying how I want the resulting file names named. So that's the batch processing of bracketed sets. There might be other times when I want to batch process single photos. In movie 5_4 "Merging in Photoshop, processing elsewhere," we looked at the option of doing your merge in Photoshop, because Photoshop's align features are so good, and then processing in Photomatix, and we did that by writing out an EXR file.
So maybe I've now built-up a big folder of EXR files, and I just want to process those. That's what I can do here, batch tone mapping. I can select the folder that I want to use, configure my tone mapping options, tell it where to spit out the file, and say Run. This gives me a way of doing my merging in Photoshop and tone mapping over here. The downside of that approach is there's not anyway to batch process the merging of HDR files in Photoshop. So you don't get a fully automated workflow there, simply because of Photoshop limitations.
That's batch processing in Photomatix. It can be a great timesaver, you can start this stuff up, go to lunch, go to bed, go watch some lynda videos, whatever you like to do in your spare time and let your computer crunch away on these files.
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