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All right, so here I am working inside the Stylish young couple.psd image. I went up to the Image menu, I chose Adjustments, and then I chose HDR Toning. I went ahead and clicked Yes in response to the fact that I had to flatten the image, and now I'm confronted with the default settings. Now, even though they're terrible, admittedly, don't let them concern, you because we can do much, much better than this. Now, notice that we've got some presets that you can choose from, all of which work with this default method, and the most powerful method as well, which is Local Adaptation. And if you want to, you can go ahead and play around with some of these.
I don't find any of them to be terribly useful, like Photorealistic ends up creating this photorealistic effects. Really? Is that what that is? And then you can try the low contrast version of that effect, and so on, but you have it from me that not a single one of these presets is going to do anything useful, where this image is concerned anyway. But before we start plowing into these settings here, before I show you how they work, let's take a look at the different methods that are available to us. I'll start it off with this guy right there, Equalize Histogram. It has no options.
It just does its thing. Now, it is a fairly intelligent function, in that what it's trying to do is spread out the luminance levels inside the image. So if it perceives an awful lot of shadows, it's going to scoot those shadows into the midtones. If it's confronted by an awful lot of midtones, as in this image, then it's going to scoot those into the highlights, and so on. And so its ultimate goal is to more or less flatten out the histogram. And you can see over here in the Histogram panel that it has managed to spread the colors down from the shadows into the midtones, and all the way over into the highlights.
And notice that big clump of what were formerly red highlights have spread away, essentially. And if you want to update the histogram, you can, just by clicking on it. And notice things are pretty darn and flat, actually. They're kind of flat and trending toward fewer and fewer luminance levels, as we go from the shadows to the highlights, but it's the much more uniform histogram than we saw in the past. Then you might ask, well, so what good is that? None that I know of, but that is what's going on with the function. It's not very likely you're going to use it, but I want you to know it's there.
We also have Highlight Compression, which is going to compress the highlights like crazy. Notice that. We just basically lost a ton of highlights. They got smushed over into the midtones, and the idea here is you can recover highlights inside of a fairly blown out image. HDR Toning is fairly remarkable in its ability to do that, but it's not very delicate about it either, and there are no options for controlling its behavior. And there's other ways to pull it off, by the way, so you don't need this option. Next, comes Exposure and Gamma.
This one does offer some controls, and it's very easy to use, once you get use to it, but you just have to use it properly. So you just have two sliders here: Exposure and Gamma. Exposure is going to control your highlights, that is to say where your highlights cut off, where the y clip, and Gamma is your midtone control. There is no shadow control offered to you here. Now what I recommend you don't do is start dragging the Exposure slider triangle around, because you're going to clip highlights or shadows like crazy very, very quickly, even with very small maneuvers.
So I'm going to reset exposure to 0, and I'll tab my way down to Gamma. And I'm going to go ahead and raise this gamma value, and I'm going to take it up to let's say, about 0.7. And notice that I'm brightening Gamma using a value less than 1, so this gamma value behaves in the opposite way of the Gamma value associated with Levels dialog box, just so as you know. Anyway, I'm going to take this value down to 0.7, which brightens the image incrementally. And then I'm going to Shift+Tab my way back to the Exposure value.
And I'm going to take that value down, and I'm not going to do it by dragging the slider triangle; instead, I'll nudge the value down by pressing Shift+down arrow a few times, and I am keeping my eye on the histogram in the background by the way. Notice what I am trying to do is recover the clipped highlights that exist inside the red channel and apparently inside the blue channel as well. So I'll take that Exposure value ultimately down to -0.45. So when you press Shift+down arrow, you reduce the value in 0.1 increments. When you press down arrow, you reduce the value in 0.01 increments.
And that ends up, it appears to me, getting rid of any clipping in those highlights. And I'll go ahead and update the histogram to confirm by clicking on that little caution icon. It's looks pretty darn and good. I'll go ahead and click OK in order to accept that value. Notice, as soon as I do, what was formerly RGB/32, so that we're working in this 32-bit per channel space, I'll click OK, and we're returned to our 8-bits of data per channel. Once again, that's why it's impossible to bring layers along with us, because layers are not permitted to survive that kind of color transformation.
All right, now let's see what we've been able to achieve here. This is the original version of the image: quite dark, as you can see by comparison, although there are some rich contours and volumetric details going on here. And this is the after version of the image: breathed a lot of life into it. It has pretty much changed the shape of the histogram. This was before, if we are looking at the Histogram panel. Notice that we've got all kinds of shadows going on, but we also have clipped highlights. And then if we were going to try to correct those clipped highlights inside the Levels dialog box, we would just bring the clipping over.
We would just scoot this edge over to the left, which means we would have no highlights left over in this region. Whereas with HDR Toning, we've basically smooth off the contours of those highlights, while bringing them back into the visible range. So it's a fairly remarkable transition. You do have to keep an eye out for elevated levels of noise, however. All right, so that's how you work with the Exposure and Gamma control inside of HDR Toning. In the next exercise, we'll take on the Local Adaptation options.
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