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Now, those of you who have been with me for the few 100 movies it's taken us to get to this point, you'll recall that this is not the first time I've showed you how to create a faux HDR effect inside of Photoshop. In fact, we spent a considerable amount of time in Chapter 17 of the Advanced portion of the series, as well as Chapter 30 in the Mastery portion here, discussing how to create, essentially, faux HDR high-luminance effects, using the Shadows/Highlights Filter. So I figured at least for the sake of comparison, especially since that filter is so much easier to use and doesn't require you to switch between color spaces and flatten off your entire composition and go searching through the History panel for a source state, because it's a more elegant process, how does Shadows/Highlights hold up against HDR Toning and vice-versa? So I've gone ahead and saved the results of the previous exercise as Toning curve adjustment.psd, found inside the 33_HDR_pro folder.
I'm going to switch back to that original image, Stylish young couple.psd, which contains the Smart Object, so we can apply Shadows/Highlights directly to it, and then I'll go up to the Image menu, choose Adjustments, and choose Shadows/Highlights. If you followed my instructions many chapters ago and gave this a keyboard shortcut, then you can press Ctrl+Alt+S or Command+Option+S on the Mac, and then make sure your Shadows/Highlights dialog box is expanded. If it's not, you need to turn on the Show More Options check box. Here is the settings I'm going to apply. First of all, I'm going to get pretty, radical where the Shadow detail is concerned.
I'm going to raise the Shadows value to 75%, which is ridiculous, as you can see, a little bit over the top. However, then I'm going to turn around and expand the Radius value quite a bit; I'm going to take it from 50 pixels all the way up to 150 pixels, so we end up distributing the halos a little better. Then finally, I'm going to take the Tonal Width value down and notice as I do, I'm reducing what's considered to be shadows inside of the image. So I'm going to go ahead, and take that value down to 35%.
So I am now applying a radical shadows adjustment. I'm opening up the shadows like crazy, but at least I'm limiting my changes to just the darkest shadows in the image. Now I'm going to drop down to the Highlights value, and I'm going to be pretty generous here, too. I'm going to raise that value to 50%, and when I say generous, I mean I'm dimming the highlights quite considerably from their original appearance. Tonal Width and Radius, I'm going to leave set to 50 pixels a piece. So 50, 50, 50 for those guys. And then Color Corrections should be 0, because if I take this color correction value up, let's say to 25%, we just get aberrant coloring inside the image.
His face looks pretty good at the saturation level, as does his shirt, and his tie, and so forth. She doesn't fare nearly as well. The midtones in particular are starting to clip, and so she has a little bit of that sort of burnt or sunburnt look, which I don't think is the least bit fetching. So I'll go ahead and take this value back down to 0, and then I'll raise the Midtone Contrast value to 50 and otherwise, these values are just fine. The Black Clip, and the White Clip should be left alone, and that's our effect. So 70, 35, 150, 50, 50, 50, 0, 50, click OK.
We now have an editable Smart Filter that we can change anytime we like. I'll right-click on the filter mask, choose Delete Filter Mask to get rid of it, double-click on the Sliders icon, and I could go ahead and change the blend mode to Luminosity if I want. I doubt that's going to make much of a difference, but we might as well just allow the original luminance levels to show through. And Opacity, I'm going to leave it 100%. Click OK. So that's it! How does that fare? Well, the histogram is looking good. If I update the histogram over here inside the Histogram panel, it looks like we've recovered some highlights quite nicely.
So this is the before version of the histogram, if I turn Shadows/Highlights off, and this is the after version of the histogram, and of the effect as well. Now, on the positive side we have lots more luminance levels in the Midtone range, and we've got some light shadows and darker highlights, the kinds of luminance levels that are going to survive nicely in print, the kinds that also resonate as sculptural details when we look at them. However, on the negative side, the image lacks a little bit of vibrance, and we have some modeling in the woman's skin that wasn't there before, and I'm not sure it really works effectively inside the image.
So anyway, compare that, by the way, to the two HDR effects I have open right now. First, there's Local adaptations.psd, in which he looks really great, actually. His skin tones are wonderful, and they're nice and rich in brown, and her skin tones also come off better, as you can see. We still have plenty of luminance going on, that is we have some darker highlights, we've got some brighter shadows, and so we can see some nice lustrous, volumetric detail going on inside the image.
Same with the Toning curve adjustment.psd file, which isn't as good, I don't think. That's that last effect we created in the previous exercise. But it still looks preferable, in my opinion, to the effect we just got done making, which is Stylish young couple.psd. Now I'm by no means suggesting that HDR Toning is always going to do better in the faux HDR department than Shadows/Highlights; that's not necessarily the case. However, where this image is concerned and a few other images that I've tried out over time, the jumping through hoops associated with HDR Toning ends up being worth it.
So just remember, where HDR Toning is concerned, start with a flat image, rather than an elaborate, layered composition, apply the effect, save off a snapshot in the History panel, undo your modifications, so you get back to your original image, create a new layer, fill that layer with that snapshot that you saved off in History panel, and then merge the two layers, in order to achieve the best effect possible. So once again, here is the easy way of working Shadows/Highlights, and here is the result of the harder approach: HDR Toning here inside Photoshop CS5.
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