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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.
One of the great things about Nik HDR Efex Pro are its selective editing tools, which are really fantastic, and we haven't had a chance to look at them yet so we're going to do that in this movie. Even if you are not and do not plan to be a regular HDR Efex user, work through this movie with us anyway because we're going to talk about a lot of kind of aesthetics of editing and some other things that apply to any editing tools that you choose to use. Grab 1413, 1414, and 1415 and merge them in Photoshop. We're merging in Photoshop because HDR Efex can't get a good registration of these because I moved a lot between images.
Open up here and we get our normal merge. We want to be sure we're in 32 Bit. I want you to notice something. Up here we get this weird purple artifact. It took me a while to figure out what it is. It turns out it's actually a ghosting artifact. If I turn on Remove ghosts, it goes away. So if you're seeing something like that in your highlights when you're merging an image, there is a chance it's a ghost, so just take that out. I do want to think about which image I want to use, because as you can see I shifted my perspective around a little bit.
So I think either the first one or the last one. I will go with the first one. We want to be sure we're 32 bit. We're set to Remove ghosts. I am going to hit OK and let it build the file. Here is my finished 32 bit file. It's overexposed. I am not worrying about that because this is a 32 bit image. I know there is data in there. I am going to hide Bridge to get it out of our way, and open this up in HDR Efex. It thinks for a moment and here's our image. It ha already done an initial tone mapping and it ha done a very good job.
As is usually the case, HDR Efex gives you an initial hit on an image that's almost always better looking than anything that you will get initially out of Photomatix or Photoshop's own tone mapping. So the first thing I want to think about is well, what do I want to do with this image? Do I have a goal, or am I just going to start exploring? What had attracted me to this originally was I thought, well, there is cool texture and color on here that might play up real fun in an HDR kind of way. So I am going to start with my Tone Compression slider and compress a broader range of tones down into a smaller space, which is already picking me up some texture.
I was thinking texture and detail. Let me zoom in a little bit here since what I am focusing on here is the mailbox. So I am going to increase the Structure, which is a type of sharpening. I don't want to take it so far that it looks like I am applying a lot of sharpening. I am also going to increase Contrast, because contrast usually gives you an improvement in texture. Now, what I haven't done yet is fiddled with HDR Method. We're on Natural right now. Well, I don't want Natural. I want something over the top. They don't unfortunately have an Over the Top method, but since we're going for detail let's think about Crisp maybe and again, when you first pick one of these, you are not going to see anything right away.
I am going to turn up the Method. You can have a better idea about what these do just as you use them more. Ooh!Now, we're getting somewhere. Boy, that's almost ugly. That's not what we want. Dingy? I kind of like Dingy actually. It really blackens things up a little bit, which I like. So we're getting some good texture on there now. Let's zoom back out. But it's starting to get kind of a Xerox sort of look, so maybe I am not so crazy about Dingy. I am going to turn the Dingy slider down. I am going to lower the Method Strength on Dingy. And I don't know.
It's still looking a little too much like an edited image. I am going to go back to Crisp or maybe even Clean. Clean is a little bit brighter. I might fiddle with those some more later. I feel like as my problem right now with the image is, as I have said over and over throughout this course, your job as a photographer is to let the viewer know what the subject is, and while a big mailbox at a dramatic rakish angle right in the middle of the frame is pretty hard to miss as the subject, it sure is having to compete with that background.
There is a whole lot of stuff going on in this image and it's very easy for the viewer to just get lost. So I would like to tone the background down somehow and I think I could do that tonally by darkening the background, but I think a better way to go is actually to desaturate some of the color in the background. I don't want it to go away completely, but I would like to minimize it some. The background is predominantly green. There is a very easy way to make a selective adjustment in HDR Efex Pro. Over here in the Selective Adjustments section I have this thing that says Add a Control Point. So I am going to click with this control point tool on something in the image that's green, so right there, and I get this weird contraption.
These are all little sliders and this Ex, Co, Sa, these are so many names for the sliders. Exposure, Contrast, Saturation. And this slider up here is an Area of Effect. So I am going to drag that out and I am going to lower the Saturation. And as I do that, things within this circle, and it's also rolled off a little bit outside of the circle, things in that circle that are green are losing their saturation. And the reason I know it are things that are green is because I place this point right here on something that's green. If I pick up this control point and move it onto this yellow thing, my green pops back and the yellow now gets desaturated.
So this is serving to be just a targeted green desaturator. If I hold down the Option key, I can drag a copy of my targeted green desaturator. That's a technical term that I will try not to use again. And I can put it over here to copy that exact control point onto another bit of green. I am just trying to find the right shade of green. I am going to drag this out to be bigger and I am just going to start dragging copies of this thing around, because as I do I am reducing that garish green that's in the background and it seems to me that that's helping to make the mailbox stand out a little bit more.
It's not having to compete with all of that green. If I want, I can actually select multiple control points by holding down the Shift key and clicking on them, or I can click-and-drag a rectangular marquee around them, and now I can edit them all at the same time. I can click-and-drag the Saturation. It sets the Saturation to be the same on all of them. It's not making a relative adjustment. It's making an absolute adjustment. But I think that that's going to actually work for me. So that's helped. I have managed to really pull the color back. These control point tools are just a spectacular way of making localized adjustments.
Let's try another one here. I like the red flag that's ticking up off of the mailbox, but it's competing with this red pole back here. I wish I had been paying attention to that when I was shooting and framed it so that there was a little more separation. I was really focused on getting the shape of the mailbox something in particular and just wasn't paying attention. But what if this thing here wasn't so red and then it wouldn't compete so directly with this thing here? So I am going to take a control point and I am going to drop it right on there and I am going to drag it out so that it covers the whole pole or whatever it is and I am just going to desaturate that. And that's cool! That has desaturated that thing.
I am going to pull it down here so that I don't have to make this so big. So it desaturated that pole. Unfortunately, it also desaturated this, so now they are still the same color. But if I take another control point and drop it on this thing, all my color popped back in here. This control point is now serving to lock down the color on this flag, the mailbox flag. So if I wanted I could even amp up that one a little bit. Here's a little arrow down here. I can click on that and I get more controls.
They're all the same controls that I have over here. I get Structure, Blacks, Whites, Warmth, and Method Strength. So if I wanted, I could put in a localized increase of HDR Method. So let's say I wanted more texture on the front of the mailbox. I can drop this on here, and I am dragging the circle real big, and you may think, well, doesn't that mean you're also going to increase or edit things over here? No, because it's including, remember, it's color sample right here, so it knows that it's going to ignore a bunch of stuff out here.
I am going to increase Method Strength or maybe decrease Method Strength and now I am going to increase it. Anyway, you can see that I am affecting only the front of the mailbox here. I am not sure that I like that edit though. I think what I may do instead is just a contrast adjustment and add some structure. Now we're getting some real localized texture right on the front of that. So that's working well. So this is localized editing in HDR Efex. The same thought process that I've gone through here, you could go through this same thought process in Photoshop.
You could have realized that the green was competing with the mailbox and toned it down by putting in a Hue/ Saturation adjustment layer and painting the mask in. This is much, much faster to do but I do want you to think about that thought process and the general idea, just always having that idea, what can I do to make my subject clearer and clearer and clearer? Let's do one more thing here in HDR Efex. It has such a nice vignette tool and that might be a way of downplaying the background even further and letting the mailbox really pop out.
These same controls are available in Nik's Black and White Conversion tool, Silver Efex, in Viveza, which is a color editing tool. Once you get used to control points, it's hard to give them up, because it's a way of making localized edits without ever having to hand cut any masks.
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