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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.
We're going to look at one more masking approach to try to pull some dynamic range back into a more reasonable zone. In your Chapter 4 folder, you should see a RAW file called View. Open that up and you're going to get a RAW dialog box here. So right off the bat, you can see that I've got a huge dynamic range issue in this movie. It's a backlight situation. I've got this huge bright window out here and I was trying to expose over foreground. So I'm going to start by doing my normal raw conversion stuff. I'm going to do some highlight recovery to get as much detail back as I can, and that puts a little bit back in there.
I can try and get more with the Exposure slider and look, there is some other blue sea and some green. There is no reason to go much further than about there. Now that darkens my foreground. So I'm going to fill that back up with Fill Light, which is roughly akin to firing a flash into my scene. I'm looking to be careful about the edges of toes. You always need to be worried about the edges of toes when you're using Fill Light. Actually you need to be worried about high contrast edges that can pick up some artifacts.
So that looks pretty good, but it could be better. I think there is more saturation and color to be had out of there. Let's see what it looks like if I go ahead and open this image and apply some additional adjustments to it. I'm going to, as we've been doing, make a Levels adjustments layer and I'm going to darken it. And when I do, I get some nice additional color saturation in there. I don't get much more detail and that's actually not because of a dynamic range issue, but because of a fog issue. It was foggy out there and there is not actually any detail to add.
So what I want to do now is create a mask and really, the whole point of this particular movie is to show you that masking around irregular things like this doesn't always have to be intimidating, because sometimes you can really get away with murder, because you don't actually have to cut an extremely accurate mask. So what I want to do first is fill my mask with black, which I'm going to do by going to Edit > Fill, with foreground color of black. And before I do that, I have to make sure that this bit is selected; otherwise I could inadvertently fill my image with black, which I could fix with an undo, but I don't have time to be hassling with lots of undoes and things like that.
Now what I want to do is grab a paintbrush, some white paint, and just start painting into my mask here to punch a hole into it so that what's underneath that part of the mask will get the effects of the Levels adjustment that I've created. Now you can see that I'm not being real careful about where I'm painting. In fact, I've spilled over a little bit onto that post, but it doesn't matter. It just looks like a little bit of discoloring there. I suppose if you're really a wooden post expert, you might notice that that looks a little strange, but most people are not.
And personally, I find you just shouldn't trust those wooden post experts. They are not the people you should be hanging around. So I'm just going to brush these things into wherever I go now. If I mess up, there I've darkened that, and even that doesn't look that strange. It could just be that that's a natural stain of the wood somehow. But if I mess up, I can fix this by going back in and painting into the mask with a different color. For example, maybe I decide that I really don't like that bit so dark. So I'm going to swap my colors here back to black.
You can see over here where I'm punching holes in the mask. So I'm just going to fill that part of the mask back up, and I can undo my masking there. So this is just another way of going in and effectively expanding the dynamic range a little bit by doing some localized lightening and darkening. We've got a little bit of a tricky situation with this tree here. Am I going to darken the whole tree or not? I kind of like it in the fog. So I'm not quite sure how I'm going to handle that, but that's maybe just something you are going to experiment with and see how you like the look of it.
It looks a little strange to have the tree darkened up there but not the posts around it. So I'm going to undo that, but I've brought a lot of detail to the sea and to the wooded hills over here. If I turn off this adjustment layer, you can see the difference. I like having that extra color saturation. This plainly is not an image that's meant to be a work of fine art. I was simply trying to capture this moment to make everyone who gotten left at home feel terrible that they weren't laying by the Mediterranean. So it's really a vindictive kind of image and therefore it's critical that I be able to see what's in the distance over there.
That's all I'm trying to do is to bring out that detail. So before and after. I've managed to expand my color range a little bit, get a little more detail in there, and I haven't had to be especially picky about how I'm doing this masking. Other scenarios are not going to be so forgiving to this type of effect, but just because you see trees and things doesn't mean you shouldn't give this a try and see if the places where you're masking efforts spill over into other content, actually just see if it matters or not.
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