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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.
I am here in Photomatix. I still have my process set to Tone Mapping. I'm going to reset down here by hitting the default button to get my settings back to normal, because I want us to look at the other Tone Mapping method. I'm going to change this method pop- up menu from Details Enhancer to Tone Compressor, the other option, and right away my image changes. Now as I mentioned before, this is still a tone mapping process. It's still cherry picking tones from that big 32-bit mess of data and putting them down into a smaller 8 or 16 bit data space, but it's doing it in a way that yields and image that's a little less HD-yR and more like a normal photograph.
I have got shadows that are punched in the darkness here. I don't have overexposed highlights, but my overall tonal relationships are a little more like a normal photo. So let's take a look at the controls that we have here and see how we can adjust this. Brightness, Tonal Range Compression and Contrast Adaptation, I am grouping these together, because these three sliders really work together to adjust overall brightness and contract. I am going to crank up the brightness here because this image is too dark. I can tell that just by looking at it, which is a pretty easy way of telling whether it's too bright or too dark, but I've also got my histogram over here.
So I'm keeping an eye on my whites, making sure they're not over exposing too much. And I'm trying to get this blob of mid- tone data up to be a little bit brighter, shows some of the stuff over here. So it's just an overall brightness adjustment. However, note that it is respecting my black point. It's mostly a mid-tone adjustment. It didn't wash out my shadows, and it also did a pretty good job of respecting my white point. It didn't blow out my highlights. Tonal Range Compression is for all intents and purposes a contrast adjustment.
It's doing something much more complex than simple contrast. It's changing the way that tones from that big 32-bit space are compressed into the smaller data space, but the overall effect is a contrast change. Contrast Adaptation is a lot like a saturation adjustment. It's going to let me put more saturation into my image and I get a little bit of brightening in that process. So these three controls work pretty well together. I want to try and get a little more contrast back into my skies, so I'm going to drop my brightness down, so that I can fiddle with my Tonal Range Compression here, get that stuff looking a little better, and then brighten the whole thing back up again, maybe back off from this little bit.
I also have White Point and Black Point, which are additional controls that I can use for brightening and darkening my image. Again, these sliders are not working in real time. I have to let go of them before I see their effect. This image doesn't really need a black point adjustment. I am clipping my black point already. So you can think of these as, again, just like the White Point and Black Point in the Levels dialog box of an image editing program. One difference for you Windows users, here on the Mac, the White Point scale goes to 10 and on Windows it only goes to 5, but the actual effect that's being applied by either extreme is the same.
So don't worry if you're seeing different numbers in this video. The control works the same and you can get the same effect that I'm getting here. And I'm just filling with all three of these in concert, trying to get overall brightness good but still have some contrast in the image. Color Temperature is just what you think it is. It adjusts the Color Temperature of the image, lets me warm it up or cool it down. And then Color Saturation is just a saturation adjustment and you may be saying, well, you've said earlier that Contrast Adaptation is a saturation adjustment. Well, Contrast Adaptation is making some contrast changes.
It's also giving you a bit of a saturation adjustment. Color saturation is truly just a full-on saturation adjustment. I don't want it quite that much. We have adjusted this image and you may think, well, that doesn't really look like an HDR image to me, but let's go back to Bridge for a minute and look at one of our original exposures. Here's the shot as the camera wanted to expose it and you can see I don't have a lot of detail in here. I got pretty good detail in there, and my underexposed one, I picked up a little, and these have gone pretty dark. And then back here, you see that I've good detail in here.
This was looking a little bit like the underexposed image, but I've got better color saturation throughout and better detail throughout. So the Tone Compressor method of the tone mapping process is going to give you expanded dynamic range, but without that super HDR look.
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