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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.
Selectively editing tones like we did in the last movie is basically like dodging and burning in a darkroom. For years darkroom photographers have struggled to selectively tone images using analog dodge and burn techniques, which entail a long time to master. Fortunately, our digital tools are much easier. However, the gradient tool that we looked at in the last lesson isn't appropriate for every image, because you don't always have an area that you want to mask that has a straightedge on one side. Fortunately, Photoshop has lots of it in the masking tools.
Now a full masking lesson is way beyond the scope of this course, but we're going to take a quick look at two more masking examples, both of them instances where a gradient filter wouldn't work. In the Chapter 4 exercises folder you should have an image called cat. Open that up and again this is a raw file, so it'd open in Camera RAW. And I've got pretty much the same situation I had last time. I got a sky that I would like to get a little more dramatic. And I am going to just poke around with some settings here to see how much data there maybe in the sky, what I might be able to do with it, and it looks like there is some more texture to be brought out in the sky.
In doing that though, I am obviously darkening the foreground. So I'm going to need again to do some selective masking. Now I can't use the gradient tool here, because the edge of the horizon isn't flat. It's got this hill in it and some cat ears, and a column and some other stuff, so I need some different masking tools to solve this problem. So this is not a masking chore that I can do in Camera RAW. I'm going to have to do this in Photoshop. I'm going to put these back to their original settings and I'm going to take a look at my Histogram and I see that there are no overexposed highlights.
In fact, I am not even pushing the highlights at all, so I don't need to do any highlight recovery, something that I can only do in Camera RAW. So I'm just going to take these settings and hit Open Image. Actually I'm going to first change this and make sure that we're working with 16 Bits/Channel. Just because that's going to give me more editing latitude. I'm going to be able to push my edits farther before I start seeing posterizing and bending and other ugly things. I hide Bridge back there so we just see our image. So I'm going to start by editing my sky to the tonality that I want, because that's the area that I'm want more dramatic.
So I go to my Layers palette, I go down here to New Adjustment Layer and I choosing Levels adjustment layer. Now everything I'm doing here should be stuff that you are familiar with. You should already know about adjustment layers and how to use Levels and that kind of thing. So what I'm going to do here is just see what I can pull out of the sky in terms of some nice better contrast. So I'm going to work on mostly midtone contrast. I don't want to brighten things up too much, because these areas in here start looking overexposed. And so if I push my Midtone slider over there to the right, I can pick up a little more midtone contrast in these areas.
Now one problem is this bit is starting to look really dark. However, I think that what I might do to this image ultimately is vignette it a little bit, so I'm going to worry too much about that darkening, the little oversaturated. We'll take care of that thing. Important thing to realize is I got my sky the way that I want it, but my foreground is too dark. So again, I've got the situation here where I need to create a mask. So I'm going to now use one of Photoshop's selection tools. This is the Quick Selection tool, which is a brush that you can use for very quickly intelligently making masks and certain types of situations.
I want a bigger brush size than this, so I'm going to use the right bracket key. Left and right bracket in Photoshop always changes the size of your current brush and I'm just going to brush into the sky. And as I do that Photoshop is doing kind of a magic wandy sort of thing. It's automatically searching and trying to figure out where the boundary of this selection should be. And it's done a really good job, partly because I had increased the contrast in the image with that Levels adjustments. So that's good, but I can't stop here, because this is going to be kind of a hard-edged selection.
You can see back here the boundary here between the foreground and the sky, the transition zone, is very blurry because of shallower depth of field. And so this mask as I have it right now is going to be a hard edge. So if I cut this mask like this, there is going to be a very sudden change from my tonal effect to not, and that's going to look very obvious and possibly it will leave a white or black halo on one side or the other of my mask. So I need to adjust the edge of this selection, which I can do up here in the Select menu with the Refine Edge command.
In Photoshop now with the Refine Edge command we got this great thing called Edge Detection. And if I turn on Smart Radius here and dial in kind of a big Radius, maybe about 4 and then grab this brush right here. I've clicked on it to select in. Again, using my bracket to little make a bigger brush. I'm going to brush over the edge of my selection, and then let go and when I do, Photoshop is just going to think about this. It's going to mull it over. It's going to ponder what might make a better selection on this edge.
Now, you can't see the details of it too much when I'm zoomed out this far. But what it's doing is it is examining that transition zone and feathering the edge of the selection in such a way that that transition is going to be much more gradual, rather than a sudden hard edge. So all I'm doing is just brushing over this edge and you may notice, as I brush, there is a little bit of gray coming in here. Those are areas that it is now deciding to include within the selection and it's including them as gray, which means there are not going to get the full effect of the edit, so that's good.
I know that it may not look like much, but let's hit OK and it's going to think for a minute, and there is my selection. Now, in the marching ants view it doesn't actually look any different. That's fine. What I have done though is to select the sky with this nice feathered edge. What I want to do now is invert that selection, because I want to create a mask that blocks this part of the image from that darkening that I applied. So I'm going to go up here to my Select menu and choose Inverse. This is not invert the tones in the image. That's a different command. This inverses the selection.
In my adjustment layer I have this layer mask over here which is currently selected. The layer mask controls which parts of the image will get the effects of this adjustment layer. You can think of it like a stencil. If this is my adjustment layer, which is applying a darkening effect to the image, that darkening effect is being sprayed through this adjustment layer onto my image. Where the image is white, the adjustment hits full on. Where it is black it's get no adjustment at all. Where it's gray, we get somewhere in the middle. So what I can do now is fill in this part of the mask that I've selected with black, to protect this part of my image from the darkening effect of the adjustment layer.
So I'm going to choose black and hit OK and there we go. Look at my mask and you see I've got white up above, meaning the mask is open. I get the full effect of the edit. Black means no adjustment at all. Now these marching ant lines things are annoying so I'm going to hide those. I'm not sure that that I'm done with the mask yet, so I'm going to go up here and say hide Selection Edges. You can also do it with Command+H. So this is looking pretty good now I'm going to show you before and after. This is before. The sky is little blown out.
This is after. I've got some nice detail in my sky and I've got foreground that's pretty well exposed. Now I would like to make the foreground a little punchier. It's a little flat, it doesn't have a lot of contrast, but I don't want to alter my sky and Fortunately I have a mask already built to protect either one of those things. So I'm going to turn on Selection Edges so I can see this again and right now this is the area that is selected. If I make a new adjustment layer with a selection already made, Photoshop will automatically build a layer mask for me.
So what I'm going to do now is increase the contrast in my foreground and I'm getting only the foreground, because of that nice handy mask that I had. And if we look here in the Layers palette, you can see, look, I've got this nice layer mask already built up and because image does needs one more thing, let's brighten up the cat a little bit. This cat was having a rough time with other cats, so the least we can do is brighten him up a little bit. And so what I've done here is just add a little brightening, and actually that's brightening the entire image and I think that's okay. The image was a little dull before.
If I turn this off, you can see, just a little flat. Turn it back on. I get my whites back where they need to be. Now it turns out as I've adjusted this image that I find that it had some vignetting in it already, some naturally occurring vignetting as a result of the lens that I was using. So don't think I need to add anymore, so I'm going to stop here. I think this is looking pretty good. It's going to need to be sharpened. Test print, and all that kind of thing. So here is my before, here is my after. I've good even exposure in the sky, good even exposure in the foreground. This, again, is in a way a form of increasing the dynamic range of the image for selected masking.
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