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Non-HDR compositing in HDR Efex Pro

From: Nik Creative Effects Workshop

Video: Non-HDR compositing in HDR Efex Pro

What we're looking at here, is a series of long exposures about 30 seconds each, of lightening storm passing by. As you can see some of the shots are quite good, and some are quite dull. So, what I wanted to do was take some of the better shots, like this one and this one here, and combine them together. There are techniques for doing this in Photoshop. However, I wanted to see if I could do this using Nik's HDR Efex Pro. And it turns out that you can do some pretty interesting compositing, that's not exactly HDR but taking advantage of some of the tools that you'll find in HDR Efex Pro. So, I'll start by taking these two images.

Non-HDR compositing in HDR Efex Pro

What we're looking at here, is a series of long exposures about 30 seconds each, of lightening storm passing by. As you can see some of the shots are quite good, and some are quite dull. So, what I wanted to do was take some of the better shots, like this one and this one here, and combine them together. There are techniques for doing this in Photoshop. However, I wanted to see if I could do this using Nik's HDR Efex Pro. And it turns out that you can do some pretty interesting compositing, that's not exactly HDR but taking advantage of some of the tools that you'll find in HDR Efex Pro. So, I'll start by taking these two images.

And opening them in HDR Efex Pro. Normally when images are sent to HDR Efex Pro, it will look at the metadata of the files and determine what the exposure was, and more importantly what the exposure difference was. Typically when you're shooting HDR, you are going to be bracketing your photos. However in this case, these photographs are not bracketed. So, as you can see the first dialog that comes up is asking me what the exposure value difference was between shots. I can manually set any difference from 1 3rd up to 4 and 2 3rds stops difference between each shot.

Or I can go ahead and just manually adjust it here. Since these two shots are the same exposure, they are essentially the same. And you'd think that you could just leave these both at zeros, since they pretty much are the same exposure. However, I found that if you leave them both at zero, the final result is really not that great. So, it's probably a good idea to pick a shot that's maybe just a little bit darker or a little bit lighter than the other. And go ahead and add a difference in here. Looking at these, I'm going to say that this one's ever so slightly darker than this shot here. So, let's take that one and we'll over expose it by 1 3rd of a stop. Once that's done, you can click OK, and then HDR Efex Pro will pick up where it left off.

It needs to align the images, and do some other work to prepare it for use inside of the filter. Before I start playing with any of the sliders, the first thing I'm going to do is just go through the presets and see if I can find something that is a good starting point for what I'm working with. As you can see, the first couple are really quite light and probably not really what I want. But as I go through here, you'll see some that are quite dark in here and might work out as a good starting point for my effect. I find that using the presets as a starting point, are always a great way to get going. As you can see, some of these are quite dramatically different. I'm going to start with this one here, called Full scene compression. The overall scene is actually looking pretty good already. But I think I'll take the exposure down just a little bit more. And I'm also going to take the structure up quite a bit. The structure slider will allow me to really enhance the clouds and also some of the texture that we're seeing in the ground, down at the bottom. And it's also really going to make this center point pop here. Right where I have all the lightning bolts.

Let's bring that up just a little bit higher. Now, as I bring that up really, really high, you'll notice that the center area is starting to look really, really cool. But I'm definitely blowing out the outside. This is just going to give you way too much. So, I think I'll take advantage of the U Point Technology and add a control point in here, to further amplify the purple cloud in the middle without over affecting the rest of the image. So, I'll take the structure back down a bit, back to where the rest of the scene looked a little bit more natural and realistic. And then, I'll go ahead and add a control point. Click on the Control point. Click on the scene.

And then make it as big or small as you'd like. If you haven't played with the control points before. It's a good idea to enable the masking which is here, so that you can see exactly what it is that you're affecting. As you drag this around the scene, you'll see what part of the clouds you're actually affecting with this control point. I really want to focus in on that purple area of the clouds. So I'm going to leave it right about there. Now I'll increase the saturation on that to really bring out that purple color. If I click on the triangle here, you'll get additional control points that you can add to this particular U point.

Let's go ahead and change this structure, that's what I was playing with before, now I want to bring that up quite a bit higher in there. I think the overall saturation could be up a little bit higher in here. So, I'll go back up to the top, take the overall saturation and increase it just a little bit. This little piece of blue sky here is a bit distracting to me. So, once again, I'm going to add a little control point there. And if we check the mask on that, you can see that it does a very good job of isolating that particularly bright blue sky. And then I'll take the saturation down on that a bit.

And then I'm going to take the exposure, and bring that down a little bit as well. I think the overall image could do with a little vignetting. So let's go ahead over here to the finishing adjustments, and add a bit of a vignette. As you can see, there's a series of presets in here that you can choose from. Most of these are little bit too much for what I want here. But I think the basic, Lens one is probably going to be enough. Cuz you could always open up the details and change it manually as well. Let's make that a little bit darker, make a nice big transition. And we can play with the size as well. We can make the size bigger, or smaller on there. I think I like it the way it is.

Click on Save, and you've just created totally unique composite. Something that wasn't originally destined for HDR, but turned out to work out quite well using this tool.

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Nik Creative Effects Workshop

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Joseph Linaschke
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