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In this exercise, I am going to show you how to achieve a kind of fake HDR portrait look by adjusting the settings associated with our Shadows/Highlights non-filter. In case you're not familiar with it, HDR stands for High Dynamic Range and the idea typically is if we can't expose the scene properly in to first place inside your camera, then you shoot at different exposures, bring it into Photoshop, and merge them altogether in order to create this impossibly lustrous scene. Where this portrait is concerned, what we're going to is we're going to create a kind of HDR look that results in a very tactile looking image.
This guy's face, for example, it's really going to leap out. It's going to look great. We're not only going to raise the shadows, so we're going to increase the brightness of the shadows and downplay the highlights a little bit, but we're really going to seep into all the nooks and crannies of this guy's face. So he just appears to be hyper- developed is basically the idea. So I've gone ahead and save my progress as Better shadows.psd, found inside the 06_filter_masks folder and if you're working along with me, go ahead and double-click on Shadows/Highlights in order to bring up the Shadows/Highlights dialog box.
If you're working on your own image, you may find the various settings I show you to work out pretty darn nicely or you may want to use them as a jumping off point. But we've already seen how you can make the shadows lighter by raising this first Amount value, like so, and you can make the highlights darker by increasing the second Amount value. But you also have more control if you turn on this Show More Options checkbox and this turns Shadows/ Highlights into a super powerful feature.
However, it does make for a little bit of confusion, if you're not familiar with how these settings work. Now bear in mind, this is a filter, even though I keep calling it a non-filter. It is a traditional filter inside of Photoshop. Meaning that it has a Radius value that's measured in pixels, so its resolution dependent ultimately at the end of the day here. This Radius value is going to determine the size of your halos, just as it does with the High Pass filter. The big difference being that you're applying light halos to the shadows and dark halos to the highlights.
Now, the first thing I am going to have you do is I am going to have you change this Shadows value to 90%, so we're going to send it through the roof so that we can keep track of what we're doing here. Now the Tonal Width value affects what is considered to be shadows. So if you increase the Tonal Width value all the way to 100%, then you're saying basically that everything inside the image is being treated at shadows. In other words, not only the darkest colors, but also the lightest colors fall in the shadow range and there is a natural drop-off that's associate with this. So your blacks are going to be more affected than your whites for example, but everybody is being affected to some degree or other.
You don't typically want that. And in fact, I am going to take this value down, so we're just focusing on the darkest colors in the image by taking it down to 30%. So notice the difference. I'll go ahead and take this value back up to 50% right there, this is the default setting, so that half of the luminance levels are shadows and the other half of the luminance levels are highlights. But if I take this value down, so I am taking it down to 40% and then down to 30%, you're seeing that we're affecting fewer and fewer luminance levels, but we're really focusing our attention on those luminance levels as well.
Now then this Radius value allows you to distribute the effect, if you raise it so that you're not really seeing the halos at all at this point, because they're 153 pixels thick ultimately, even though they do drop-off, they are blurry of course. Now if you take this value down to something small like 10 pixels, you're definitely going to see those halos throughout the image. I think that's too small. That's almost always too small by the way. However, if you do want to be able to dig into some of the areas, like get into some of the creases in the folds inside of this fellow's face or some other fellow's face, then you want to keep the value pretty low.
You know what I'm going to do just so you can see it happen in real-time. I am going to take this value up to 100 pixels and then I am going to press Shift+Down Arrow incrementally here to continuously reduce this value and you'll see how we're digging into some of the smaller regions as I reduce that value. So we're affecting more and more areas of his flesh and in fact, now I am able to get into his top eyelid at a value 10 pixels, where if I raise it to 20 pixels, I no longer affect that eyelid, as you can see.
Now the eyelid is not that important and I don't want to be able to see quite this degree of haloing going on. So I am going to take this value up to 30 pixels. As I say, these values that I am showing you here tend to work pretty good for a wide variety of portrait shots. So give them a try. If you end up wanting to go your own way, of course, you can tweak the values. I am going to drop down here to the Amount value for Highlights and I am going to just change that to 30%, so we're already pretty well there in the first place. I am also going to take the Tonal Width value down to 40%.
So just down 10% from its default and then I am going to increase this Radius value this time. Instead of decreasing it, I am going to send it up and you probably won't see too much difference as you raise that Radius value, but it's a good idea to try to spread out those dark shadows into the highlights as much as possible. Now you may recall that we had set the blend mode for the Shadows/Highlights non-filter to Luminosity. So we're just affecting the luminance levels inside of the image. We're not affecting the colors at all. So this color correction value right here doesn't make much of any difference.
In fact, I can take it up to 100 and we're not seeing any difference between that and were I to take it down to -100 like that. See, no change on screen. That's because the colors are not being factored in to the equation where the filtering effect is concerned. However, Midtone Contrast, that is something that we want to go ahead and raise and that's going to affect the amount of contrast that's occurring inside of the midtones. The idea is that you can easily washout the image by brightening up the shadows and darkening down the highlights. You can be left with nothing but Midtones.
So you need to try to increase the contrast of those midtones in order to balance the effect. So I am going to press Shift+Up Arrow, Shift+Up Arrow, Shift+Up Arrow. I want you to keep an eye on what's going on at screen and then I am going to take it up a few more clicks here. I am going to take it ultimately to 35% and notice what that does. Look how amazingly sculptural this face is now. I think it looks absolutely awesome. Now you probably don't want to toy with the Black Clip and White Clip options.
This controls how many of the luminance levels inside of the image are going to clip to black and how many of them are going to clip to white. By default you're saying just 1 out of 10,000 luminance levels essentially is going to clip to black and 1 out of 10,000 is going to clip to white, because we're looking at 0.01%. Anyway, that's fine. Leave that alone. You can switch your defaults out if you want to. You can Save these as your defaults, in case you're going to be doing a lot of fake HDR portraiture, up to you. What I am going to do is I am going to click OK in order to accept that effect, and now let's see the difference here.
This is before and this is after. Thanks to the modifications that we applied to the Shadows/Highlights non-filter here inside Photoshop.
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