I think this name is quite good for things I’d like to tell you about. HRD stands for High Dynamic Range and there is a huge boom with HDR photographers. The basic idea of this type of photography is to mix multiple exposures and increase a dynamic range. You can do it using several methods, the most complicated is using Photoshop and masks to blend your exposures together. Thanks God, there are few good pieces of software that will do it for you.
The most know is probably Photomatix by HDRSoft. Another cool tool is Photoshop, but version CS5. This exact version has HDR Pro feature that will merge your exposures and do it the cool way 😉 But this article isn’t about using different programs to do this type of photography. It is about something different.
A lot of folks out there think HDR is cool, some are neutral and the rest hate it. That is OK, but many photographers that like HDR images get pissed off when they take their HDR images and then they will start to hate it. How may it happen? Simple, all this softwares like Photomatix or even HDR Pro are made “just” for merging down your exposures, it won’t make the final image on its own. But a lot of people don’t know that and that might be one of the problems they thinkHDR sucks.
So how do you get those cool looking images like Trey Ratcliff makes? When you merge your exposures, save the file as a 16bit TIFF file. Then go into Photoshop or any other program you are using for editing and finish it there. With HDR photography a huge problem is halo (those shiny aura looking area around some part of image) and bad color. On the image bellow you can see how it looks and get familiar with it.
When you click on the image next to this text you can see all the issues. Yellows are too much yellow and around the tree is a big halo. Halos happen in parts of image where there are big contrast differences like in this part. Tree branches are dark color, about dark brown and the sky is nice light blue tint.
And that color issues? Well lets think about it first. Lets say you are taking some images of landscapes and your exposure setting is absolutely correct. What will happen? You will have good exposure on the landscape but colors might not be so good and to be honest I’m almost sure you’ll try to fix it. When you’ll underexpose the scene, colors there will get more vibrant and saturated. That is good point and one of the reasons why Moose Peterson, famous landscape and wildlife photographer, shoots almost all the time at -0.5 EV from correct exposure. For the colors.
Now when you have some scene with a lot of dark spots, your colors will be more saturated there and even more when you will use some HDR program to process it. That is what happend with the bottom part of the tree and houses in the background.
Now how to get rid of this stuff? Simple, hop into Photoshop, because that is the best way, at least for me, how to do it. For getting rid of that bad color I try to get my white point, black point and grey point set correctly. Another way how you can do it is using Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and affecting only colors you want to affect. After it use layer mask to blend it with your picture. It may require more than one Hue/Saturation layer and don’t be afraid to experiment. The last but not least option is to use one of the original images and layer masks to blend it with the HDR processed image. To be honest, I don’t use this last method.
About halos …. well that is more simple than you think. You can use clone tool with blend mode set to normal. Then clone the pieces further away from the tree over the ones that are closer and lighter. Another way is to set your clone tool blend mode to darken. This will affect only pixels that are brighter than the clone source and clone just those. The problem here is that it is still cloning. You take one part of image and insert it severaltimes into different locations. The default texture might go away. I personally like to use burn and dodge tools for this. It is simple and fast. Problem here is a bit with control because the changes are made on the actual layer and with using clone tool you can make changes on blank layer above. That way bad cloning won’t affect the original layer you are cloning from.
There are of course other ways how you can do this but this is the way I do it 😉 Here is the final image.