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High Dynamic Range imaging, or HDR, has become increasingly popular with photographers. And you might assume, if you know about HDR, that you need to capture multiple images at different exposures in order to create an HDR effect. But that's actually not the case. You can create an an HDR type of effect for any photo. Now, keep in mind, just because you apply an HDR effect doesn't mean that you're going to maximizing the tonal range in the image. And capturing more than your camera was able to. If you only have one frame, then you're limited by what your camera's capabilities were.
To include maximum shadow detail in an image, for example the dark shadows under the fender here, you would need to capture multiple images. Since a scene like this simply exceeds the camera's ability to capture a wide range of tonal values. But in terms of the creative HDR effect, we can work very easily with a single image. The HDR toning adjustment will only work on flattened images. So, if you're working on a layered document or on an original that you want to protect, then I suggest choosing Image Duplicate from the menu.
And then turning on the Duplicate Merge Layers Only check box if the image has layers. And then, click OK to create that duplicate copy. You can then apply the HDR toning effect to this version of the image and save it as a separate file. So, we'll go ahead and close that original image. And now I'm ready to apply that HDR toning effect. And so, I'll go to the Image menu and choose Adjustments, followed by HDR Toning. That will bring up the HDR toning dialog, and you can see there are a variety of options available to us here. My recommendation though, is to start off by taking a look at the various presets. You can see the default settings are enhancing detail. In fact, more detail than I really thought existed in this particular image, looking under the fender here.
I'll go ahead and go to the top of the list of presets here, in this case, City Twilight. You can then use the arrow keys on the keyboard to navigate among the various items on the list here. You'll notice that there are monochromatic as well as color versions of the image, changing from relatively basic to rather wild. Once you find an option that you're happy with, at least as a basic starting point, then you can start working through all of the various adjustment options that are available to you here. In this case, I think I'll stick with this Scott Five preset, because it's producing a pretty cool effect. I'll turn on the Smooth Edges check box.
You'll notice that I have some rather harsh edges in the photo, and smooth edges will help to smooth those out a little bit. I can also adjust the Edge Glow effect, the Radius determines the size of the halos being added in the image. And the Strength determines the intensity of the contrast that's being enhanced within the photo along those edges. We can also adjust overall brightness with a Gamma slider, that's essentially a mid-tone brightness. And Contrast Adjustment Exposure, as the name implies, will adjust the overall brightness value focusing its attention on the white point. We also have a Detail slider.
I can reduce that value if I want a more ethereal type look in the image, or increase it if I want a little more detail to be present. And if you take it all the way to the maximum value, of course, you get this exaggerated look in the photo. The Shadow slider allows us to lighten or darken the various shadow areas of the photo. A positive value is essentially lightening those shadows, and a negative value is darkening. But of course, that doesn't necessarily mean that the shadows will be darker than they originally were. Because it depends upon your exposure and other settings. We can similarly adjust the overall brightness values for highlights, increasing or decreasing that effect, for the brightest areas of the photo.
We also have Vibrance and Saturation. They both increase the intensity of colors within the photo, but Vibrance focuses most of its attention on the colors that are not very saturated. When you're increasing Vibrance, and the colors that are saturated when you're decreasing Vibrance. So with a positive value, we're essentially bringing up the colors that are not already very saturated. I can also increase or decrease overall Saturation for the image, in this case I think I'll tone it down just a little bit so that it's not quite as cartoonish. We can also click to expand the tone curve and histogram section. And here, we can adjust the overall contrast in the image using that Tone Curve.
So, that gives us a pretty good degree of control as far as the overall tonality. In this case, applying a S-Curve in order to add a little bit of contrast to the photo. I'll go ahead and collapse the Tone Detail section just so that we can see the entirety of the curve in this case. At any time, you can reset the curve with the button at the bottom right, and you can also observe the input and output values for the selected anchor point. So that you have a better sense of the strength of the adjustment in that particular area. But in general, this tone curve behaves in much the same way that the curves adjustment does in Photoshop. You can continue playing with the various settings here. And I think that's the right word for it.
It really does feel like playing when we're applying what can be such a wild adjustment. But do keep in mind, it doesn't need to be this wild and exaggerated effect in the photo. There are a variety of photorealistic options in the preset popup. And of course, you can adjust the various settings that are available to you in order to tone down the overall effect. But as you can see, we can create wide variety of possible HDR types of effects for a photo using just single frame without the need to capture special images in order to produce this type of effect.
And of course, once you found the settings that you're happy with for the HDR toning up effect, you can simply click OK in order to apply that change.
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