Join Deke McClelland for an in-depth discussion in this video Introducing HDR Toning, part of Photoshop CS5 One-on-One: Mastery.
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Photoshop CS5 provides two varieties of high dynamic range or HDR. One is HDR Pro, and this is a killer function, actually, extremely capable and powerful. And what it allows you to do is take multiple exposures of the same scene, like those featured inside the Barn exposures subfolder, inside the 33_HDR_pro folder, here inside the Bridge, and then merge them together to either create a perfectly exposed shot or a highly effective shot. Either way you're drawing every bit of luminance that was available to that original scene.
The other command that's available to you is HDR Toning, and it applies a kind of fake HDR effect, using the same technology to a flat image that is a single exposure making it more useful, for example, portrait shots where it's basically impossible to get multiple exposures without having the portion slightly move. So we're going to start with HDR Toning because it's easier entry into this topic. I'll go out to the little boomerang icon and click on it, to switch back to Photoshop. And I'm looking at an image called Stylish young couple.psd, found inside the 33_HDR_pro folder.
And it comes to us from Felix Mizioznikov of the Fotolia Image Library about which you can learn more at foltolia.com/deke. Now a couple of things before we choose this command. If you're working along with me, I'd like you to have the Histogram panel up onscreen. I'm also looking at the Expanded View, incidentally, so that I'm seeing the entire 256-pixel wide histogram. You may also want to go ahead and update the histogram, if you're seeing a little caution icon. Now, notice that mostly I have an awful lot of shadows inside this image.
So this is a shadow rich image with lots of midtones as well, not all that many highlights except in the Red channel. And the Red channel is slightly clipped, as you can see over here in the far-right side. Another thing to bear in mind is that I've gone ahead and converted this image to a smart object. So I've placed it inside of the protective Smart Object container. The only reason I've done that is to demonstrate how that is not accommodated by HDR Toning. So the one and only way to get to this function and imagine what we want to do here is we want to breathe some life into the shadows, inside of this guy's face, for example.
We might want to temper the highlights just a little bit. We want to also open up the midtones so that this luminance-rich image can really be allowed to breath. Then I'll go out to the Image menu, and I'll choose Adjustments and choose HDR Toning. Again, this is the only way to get to the feature. Now, you might think, based on the company it keeps here, that you can apply HDR Toning as a Smart Filter. After all, we're working on the smart object, the command is available, all these other commands are dimmed. Shadows/Highlights, we know from much experience now, is applicable as the Smart Filter.
Variations, when it's available for you Windows people, you can apply that as a Smart Filter as well. This command is not tend to even exist on the Mac. But HDR Toning is just sitting there as if it's a Smart Filter too. It's not. And as soon as you choose the command, you're going to get this warning saying that HDR Toning will flatten the document. Notice that it doesn't say it's going to rasterize the smart object. It's going to flatten the entire document. So if you've got an image with 20 or 30 layers inside of it, too bad; the entire composition is going to get flattened before you can choose this command.
And that's just the way it works. Now, the reason it works this way is because it's going to convert us from an 8-bit per channel space to a 32-bit per channel floating-point space, and then it's going to work it's so-called magic, because it not all that magical, and then it's going to take us back into an 8-bit per channel space. Photoshop cannot accommodate that conversion back and forth with layers in tow. So the layers have to go. Well that's not actually the end of the world, because I will show you a way that we can still mix this effect with the original version of the image.
And your only options are to either say no, I'm not using this command, or yeah, all right, I guess I've got to flatten image. And in our case, we're going to say yeah all right, but first I want you to notice something up here in the title bar. Notice that we are seeing Stylish young couple.psd, so the title, the zoom ratio, we working on a Smart Object layer that's called smart object. The color space is RGB/8. That /8 means this in an 8-bit per channel image. As soon as I bring up the dialog box, that's going to change. So I'll click on Yes, and now this dialog box comes up. Ignore, if you can for a moment, this hideous effect in the background.
First, I want you to see that the smart object layer has gone away because we have gone ahead and flattened the image. We're now seeing a single Background item there in the Layers panel. And after RGB, there is a /32, showing that we have temporarily transformed this image to a completely different color space. And 32-bit per channel is really the wild west of luminance, because not only is it a much, much bigger space, so forget all that stuff about 256 different luminance levels per channel - you've got thousands upon thousands potentially, but also, they can wander in and out at the visible range.
And so you'll here folks referring to floating-point calculations inside 32-bit per channel. Your luminance levels can actually float beyond white and beyond black. So you can brighten the heck out of the luminance levels and then rein them back using other controls. It's a very flexible, but somewhat intimidating color environment frankly. Now, meanwhile, notice that your image just goes to heck in the background. And this is to be expected. I don't know who in the world designed these default settings, but they are just atrocious under any conditions.
I have never seen them work out anything other than horribly for every single image I've opened. But as you can see, we're drawing out all kinds of noise inside the image, and we're over-saturating the colors, and as a result, we're creating color noise where none previously existed, which is never something you really want to do, but you do have to bear in mind something: that we are seeing a preview of the effect. So the final effect won't look quite this bad. If we were to click on the OK button, it would settle down a little bit, and that's because, once again, we're seeing an 8-bit per channel preview of this 32-bit per channel calculation that's going on in the background.
So Photoshop is not capable of showing you 32-bits of data per channel because your monitor can't even begin to show you. Your monitor is ultimately an 8-bit per channel device. All right, so that's the roughest of all possible introductions to the HDR Toning function. In the next exercise, I'll show you what is meant by these four different Method options.
Recommended prerequisites: Photoshop CS5 One-on-One: Fundamentals and Photoshop CS5 One-on-One: Advanced.
- Using masks and blend modes in radically new ways
- Mastering the Pen tool and Paths panel
- Transforming and maximizing Smart Objects
- Employing Smart Filters to create complex effects
- Exploring the capabilities of Bristle brushes and the Mixer Brush
- Merging multiple images into seamless panoramas
- Exploring the full range of luminance with HDR Pro
- Recording actions and batching-processing images