June 29, 2008

HDR Tutorial, Step 1, Photomatix settings

I have promised to create a short tutorial on how I process my images. I usually process landscape photos, but I couldn't find any nice ones on my disk (and I'm currently too lazy to go out). I decided to process a shot that I took in Peru, close to Machu Picchu. The outcome isn't the best, but I process almost all my shots in the same way.

Step 1, tone mapping the 3 exposures. (You can also use one exposure if it's sunny outside)

This is the settings that I usuall use. Note that the outcome usually have too bright colors, especially green and red colors tend to be too bright. We will fix that later in Photoshop.




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HDR Tutorial, Step 2, identifying problems



This is what the image looks like after processing in Photomatix. We can see that it's ok, but there are some problems, e.g we can see pink / magenta lines along the side of the mountain, and there are also some green lines there. Those are Photomatix artifacts. The clouds between the mountains are also over exposed.

There are also some other things that I find disturbing, like the red leafes under the bush on the left side, and the small stones in the lower right corner.

The leafes and the stones are removed using cloning.












The magenta/pink and green lines that are artifacts from Photomatix.













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HDR Tutorial, Step 3, adding some soft light

The first thing that I do after I have completed the cloning is to add a layer of soft light. The soft light usually gives the photo a better punsh. It's also quite common change the curve for the soft light so that it looks like an s-curve.

Adding soft light to the photo does however make it darker.










Soft light is a curve layer that is set to "mode" soft light.


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HDR Tutorial, Step 4, making it brighter

Adding soft light to the photo made the photo too dark, so lets add a levels layer before the soft light layer.



We make the photo brighter by dragging the middle triangle to the left. Keep dragging till you are satisfied.

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HDR Tutorial, Step 5, removing magenta/green lines

Tone mapping in Photomatix created a common artifact, magenta and green lines along e.g tree branches and mountains. Those lines are removed by adding layers of Hue/Saturation, each layer will be used to recude the saturation of a certain selected color.



The dialog above is displayed when you double click on the Hue/Saturation icon in the Hue/Saturation level. Note that we only wanted to reduce magenta colors, so we select them in the combo box at the top, and the we click in the image where a magenta line is. The color range will then automatically be set to only affect the selected color.

We do the same for the green lines, but the photo has lots of green colors that we don' want to affect so we need to use the mask.




The mask for the layer that affects the green colors has been used to only affect parts of the image (where the white lines are drawn)

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HDR Tutorial, Step 6, final touch

The last thing that I usually do before I resize the image is to add a curves layer to draw a vignette, and I might also add a curve layer in mode Screen to make certain parts of the photo brighter.



The final stack of layers can be seen above. It's now time to save, flatten the image, resize and apply smart sharpening.

The final result can be seen below.




That's pretty much how I process most of my photos. It usually takes about 20-30 minutes to process one image.

Good luck
Kaj


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