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High-dynamic-range imaging or HDR has become quite popular, but it also involves a little bit of extra work in the capture. You need to capture several images at different exposures and then blend those images together. In order to maximize the range of total values represented in the final image. If you've only captured a single image, you can still achieve a similar effect to that HDR look. Let's take a look at how it's done. The effect requires a flattened image, and so I suggest creating a duplicate copy of your overall image, not just a copy of the background image layer but an entirely separate image file.
To do so, you can choose Image > Duplicate from the menu, that will bring up the Duplicate Image dialog. The default is simply to add the word copy to the file name, which I think is perfectly fine in this case. If this had been a layered document, you can also turn on the Duplicate Merged Layers Only check box, which will cause a duplicate you're making to be a flat version of the original. In this case I'm working with a low-res JPEG for demonstration purposes, and so I don't have any layers. I don't need to turn on that check box. But typically for this type of scenario, I would likely already have some layers. I'll go ahead and click OK, and that creates my copy of the image. At this point, I could close my original, just to make sure that I don't cause any harm to that image by mistake.
I can then apply my HDR Toning adjustment. I'll go the Image menu, and then choose Adjustments, and then choose HDR Toning from the sub-menu. That will bring up the HDR toning dialog and you'll see we have a wide assortment of adjustments here that we can choose from. There are several presets that you can start with for example, we'll see a monochromatic artistic interpretation of the image, or perhaps a more saturated version of the image. You can go through each of these and look for an adjustment that you think produces a nice result in your photo. Obviously, there are some very dramatic differences between all of these. It's up to you to figure out what you think is the best starting point and then take it from there.
I'll go ahead and leave the options set to default just, so that we can see a little bit broader range of adjustments as we're working here. Under Method, you'll want to make sure you're set to Local Adaptation. The other adjustment have few or sometimes no adjustments available and you certainly want to be able to fine tun the effect in the image. So, with that option set to Local Adaptation we can go through the various settings. We can affect an edge glow effect, this sort of creates a halo type of appearance. Similar to what you might see with certain sharpening settings.
And we can adjust both the strength and the radius of that effect. If I increase the Strength Value, you'll see that we sorta hit that sharpening effect, that clarity effect, in the image. And then we can adjust the size of the halo effect. In essence, gradually transitioning the effect or keeping it relatively abrupt. It just depends on your personal preference. We can also choose to smooth the edges of those transitions. I'll go ahead and leave that option turned on and for now I'll leave a relatively dramatic adjustment to the image.
It's certainly looking to be a bit dramatic. I'll then look down to the Tone and Details section. The Gamma slider allows us to effect the overall mid tone brightness, so here we can adjust the overall brightness, focusing on the mid-tones of the image. We can also adjust the overall exposure, which in large part, can be thought of as a white point adjustment. But in general, it's brightening and darkening the image with an emphasis on the highlights. And we can adjust the level of detail visible within the image. A lower value will create a surrealistic effect, and a higher value will create a hyper-realistic effect, you might say, with lots of detail and lots of contrast.
I'll go ahead and leave the option set here, assuming I want a relatively dramatic result. I can then move down and adjust the Shadows and Highlights. As I increase the value for Shadows, you can probably see some areas of the image getting a little bit more detail in them. In this case it is a relatively subtle effect, but that allows us to open up a little bit more shadow detail within the photo. We can also adjust the highlights, brightening or darkening the overall highlights. Again there is no one right answer for any image. Each photographer is going to have a different opinion about what works best, and for each image you might actually want to apply different effects.
The final two sliders are Vibrance and Saturation. Those allow us to adjust the intensity of colors within the image. Vibrance operates primarily on the colors of lower saturation when we're increasing it. And have higher saturation when we're decreasing the value. We can also adjust the overall intensity of color with the Saturation slider. In this case, I think I'll leave the colors a little bit saturated, and I might boost the vibrance up a little bit to help equalize those lower saturated colors. That's looking pretty good I think I'm also going to bring the detail value back up, just to create a little bit more of a dramatic type of effect within the image.
That's looking a little bit interesting obviously very unique and not necessarily the way you would want to interpret your photo. But the point here is that we have tremendous flexibility in creating a very unique image appearance. It's very, very similar to what you could achieve with genuine high dynamic range imaging. But it also gives you an opportunity to apply some creative effects to an image that was captured as as a single frame. We can also adjust the overall contrast for the image. And this adjustment behaves just like the Curves adjustment in Photoshop, so we can use that to fine tune the overall appearance of our photo. Once you've taken the time to fine tune all of your adjustments, and you're happy with the image.
You can simply click the OK button in order to apply the effect to the image. And be sure to save this copy. This is not the original image that we had opened. This is a copy that we're working with and so we'll want to be sure to save it in an appropriate file format. Of course, possibly applying different adjustments to the image before doing so.
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