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Reader Tutorial: Easy HDR Technique by Cristian Iancu

Big shout out to Trey Ratcliff for clearing things up for me with HDR’s--he has a great tutorial and I will always be a fan of his amazing work--to Nicalai, for taking this wonderful picture and, last but not least, to Abduzeedo for making this public. We start from this original picture, that my good friend Nicalai took on a night in Milano. First, we want to add some cool night tint to this. So, we lower the Temperature a bit, let’s say -32 and play with the other sliders as you see fit. Original Image Don’t worry about the settings, you can’t do much wrong. We’ll return to Lightroom later and correct everything that doesn’t look right. Always remember the great J key, that can show you when you are losing details in high- lights and shadows. Step 1 First of all, we start into Lightroom. I am a big fan of it. The Lightroom 3 beta is free on Adobe, so you might want to download that. It’s a great, great tool that makes your job easier. Step 2 Now export it into Photoshop. Here, don’t forget to make it 8 bits / Channel, so you can save it as a jpeg. Save this image, with your Lightroom adjustments. Step 3 Overexpose and underexpose the image by 2 points and save each version with a different name, so now you have 3 images with different exposures [+2,0,-2] Step 4 Now open Photomatix, hit Generate HDR, browse and select your 3 photos. Specify exposure manually, if Photomatix does not auto-detect it. I use these settings, but you probably shouldn’t worry about this. Step 5 Click OK and now you will see a crappy image. This is because your monitor cannot display HDR. Don’t worry about it, it’s alright. Hit the Tone Mapping button on the bottom. Now, for the settings, you should keep Strength at 100%, the Color Saturation at 40-60 [I keep it at 50 for this specific image], just try not to over-saturate the image. You can add saturation at any time later. For the Light Smoothing, it should be 4 or 5, any less will give you a very surrealistic image that is not very cool. Play with Luminosity as you see fit. Be careful about the histogram you see there, so you have it inside the frame, if it bleeds out, you’re losing light. Shout out to Trey Ratcliff for teaching me that. For the other settings, Tone, Color, Micro and S/H, play with them as your eye sees fit. There should be no right and wrong as you try not to overdo things. I usually play only with the white and black point and leave the rest on default. Hit Process and save the HDR. Step 6 Now comes the part when you have to work a little, that part where the difference is made between all those fake HDRs generated by plugins and the real thing. Bring all 4 images into Photoshop and align them on top of each other, with the HDR on top. I usually have my -2 layer under my HDR, my +2 and then my 0 in the end. I don’t think this makes a huge difference though. Step 7 Add a mask on the top layer, using that button below the Layers panel. With a 10-50 black soft brush, start painting on the layer mask, so that the -2 shines through. For this picture, paint the ground and the buildings, so you add a little more depth to the shadows. Also, if those street lights are too strong for your taste, paint on them, too. When done, just merge the 2 layers, CTRL+E, and add a mask to the new layer, that has the +2 layer beneath it. In the same way you did above, bring some highlights in now, Don’t worry about mistaking, since you are painting on a mask and you can always add back by using a white brush. If you don’t like merging the layers, create a duplicate and hide it, before merging it, just so you work non-destructively at any time. I hope this makes sense. Continue until you flatten the whole image. Now you should use a software like Noiseware Professional or the old fashioned G. Blur, cause HDR’s tend to create tons of noise. In the end, bring your picture into Lightroom again for final adjustments (maybe some exposure or tint). Conclusion If you’re still not satisfied completely, bring it again into Photoshop and do some dodging and burning with a soft low opacity brush. Or create a new layer above, set it to overlay, 30% opacity, and paint with a soft white brush for highlights and black for shadows. Let your creativity run wild now! Other Examples About the Author My name is Cristian Lancu, I am 26 and I am a designer and photographer from Bucharest, Romania. I will teach you how to create a wonderful HDR from a single photo. You can check for my portfolio and also, which is my personal blog.

Really Cool Photo Art Tutorial

Hello everyone from Abduzeedo!If you are anything like me, you have this site in your regular reading list for inspiration.I've been so inspired by so many things here, that I thought it would be good to share a few things back with the world.I talked to the very nice Fabio here at Abduzeedo, and he thought a light version of my photo art tutorial would be fun for a guest post. Trey Ratcliff - So, this is really a short version of the big tutorial here on my blog, which you may or may not enjoy if you had any inkling of linking. You should note that this is not really JUST an HDR tutorial.The process begins with that, but ends with significant steps thereafter.If you have seen HDR photographs, then you probably have noticed how many of them are kinda rough on the eyes.I've evolved (and continue to) a new technique to bring these full circle back into something that "feels" more right to me. What is HDR? HDR is short for High Dynamic Range. It is a software technique of taking either one image or a series of images, combining them, and adjusting the contrast ratios to do things that are virtually impossible with a single aperture and shutter speed.Most of the images in "Your Top 100 Favorites" are HDR, so you can take a look there if you want to see more examples than in this tutorial. I will post a few interesting HDR photographs that I have taken that people seem to like.This one immediately beneath has the honor of being the first HDR photo every to hang in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC. I think this goes to show how mainstream and accepted HDR can be, if the technique is properly applied. I'm a huge defender and believer of utilizing HDR as a technique for processing photos because I think it helps to evoke my actual memory of the scene.It's just another tool that digital photographers can utilize depending on the situation.As opposed to the camera shutter and aperture, the human eye actually scans the scene at a very high rate of speed, constantly adjusting the pupil diameter to adjust the light and color levels.The brain builds a quilt-like image that is comprised of millions of little bits, combined with neuron-connected memories of colors of objects.For example, when you look at a sunset, you can see all the colors of the clouds and sky, but you can also see all the colors of the trees and rocks in the foreground. This is why, many times, people get home after a vacation and sigh at their pictures and tell their friends, "Well, it was much better when you were there."With this technique and a bit of practice, no one will ever have to say such a sad thing again. Step 1: Get your tools on What apps do you need?I have the three core essentials here: Photoshop, Photomatix, and Lightroom. All of these are available for the PC and the Mac.Note, of course, that Lightroom can be swapped out with Aperture or Bridge if you wish... One new program to you might be Photomatix, which is quite inexpensive with my coupon code of "StuckInCustoms".You can purchase it for download here.I've been using it for years, and I sent so many people to their site that they gave me a discount code to increase sales!There are many programs I have tried for this technique, and Photomatix is still the best. Step 2: Get some equipment on the sly so your spouse does not ask too many questions I have a full "My Equipment" page here, which is much more organized than the following Hawthornesque ramble. What kind of equipment do you need?All you really need is a camera that has autobracketing.Autobracketing is the ability for your camera to take at least 3 pictures right after one another, each at different shutter speeds.If you are hunting around the menus on your camera now, just look for the words Autobracketing and perhaps some numbers like -2, 0, +2.If you have a DSLR camera, then you probably have this ability.I notice that some of the high-end consumer compact cameras have these as well. Recommended Low End Camera: Nikon D40 with 18-55mm Lens Note:I don't recommend this entry level camera because it does not do autobracketing.It DOES take shots in RAW format, and you can use that for making HDRs (later in the tutorial), but I believe it is better to have a camera that does have autobracketing built in. Recommended Mid Range Camera: D80 with 18-55mm VR Lens This is a great camera.It will treat you well and it will last you a lifetime of great shots. Recommended High End Camera: Nikon D3 This camera is the ultimate.I can say no more. As for me, I have a Nikon D2X, but I am expecting to get the Nikon D3X any day now.Then, my life will be complete, truly.Well, except for a few minor things that would help take the edge off... Step 3 - Look at the world in HDR It is key to choose good HDR candidates.What I look for are extreme levels in light in a given scene.Below is a selection of five photos that I shot in New York at Times Square.This is one of the pictures that Getty is currently representing, so I think it is a good example of how to take something mundane and turn it into something beautiful that can be mass market and selected by major agencies. And here is another photographic-philosophical moment.Everyone shoots Times Square in New York.Everyone.Professionals, tourists, teenagers with grainy cell phone cameras, etc. Think about it and name your worldwide location:Paris, New York, Shanghai - these places are filled with thousands of photographers, many of them very very good, with incredible equipment and great training.YET, it is still quite difficult to get an "original" shot.You end up with just about the same shot that everyone or anyone else can get.So this New York picture is a good example.If you look at this one below, you will see it is a "decent" and "serviceable" shot.However, look at the final version right below that, and you can see how much more interesting and engaging it is. The BEFORE shot, selected in Lightroom. The AFTER shot, after running it through Photomatix and Photoshop: Step 4 - Take your autobracketed pictures and prepare for the HDR Set up your camera in Aperture Priority mode.Turn on Autobracketing.If you have 3 pics in the autobracket, set it up at -2, 0, +2.On my Nikon D2x, I usually take 5 pics at -2, -1, 0, 1, +2.I usually do 5 pictures in extreme light or extreme dark.The rest of the time, three pictures seems to be okay. Below, you can see that I have selected 5 pictures from Times Square.You can also easily see that they are all taken at different shutter speeds.By the way, you can click on any picture to go its Flickr page, where you can then click on ALL SIZES then ORIGINAL at the top if you want to zoom in all the way. Step 5 - Photomatix Now it is time to fire up Photomatix and get crunk in the HDR house.Okay that was stupid. Photomatix will take your 3+ shots and convert them into an HDR image.You can then tonemap the image and save it as a JPEG.I'll take you through this process. The easiest way to use Photomatix (more in the longer tutorial) is to just go to the menu and click GENERATE. Choose the images you like then click OK.You will then see a second dialog.I have selected the most common choices that I make.That "Ghosting" area never seems to work so well for me, so I don't check it.I have a better method for ghosting that I will show you later. Click OK again and now your computer will churn like a farm of computers generating a single frame from a Pixar movie. You will soon see a strange looking image on the screen.You are not done yet - not even close. That is an HDR image and you can't really do anything with it until it is tonemapped.So, go up to HDR in the menu and select Tone Mapping.Now you will get a nice little dialog with all these fun gizmos and Willy Wonka-like controls. Every picture is different.There is no "right way" to set these sliders.There is certainly a "wrong" way to do it, though.I am sure you have seen lots of crappy HDR images.Below, I paste an example of how you can really make your image look too funkadelic.Funkadelic is cool if that is what you want or you have a lot of druggie friends that like laser light shows and your mind-bending HDRs, but most people don't like them.Actually, please don't look at my old work.It's a little over-the-top too... I cringe when I think about it.Just look at the newer stuff.Thank you kindly. Above, you can see the options I selected.It's way overdone.Below, you can see better selections.Here are a few things I do... although none of these are cast in stone.I like to crank up the White Point and Black Point bars to give it some punch and contrast.I also like to slide the Luminosity bar over to the right as far as I can before it looks too flat.The further right the Lum bar is, the less halo effect you get as well.If you don't know what the "Halo" effect is, you will soon enough - especially with daytime shots.Another way to combat that is with the next few steps I go through below. Once you have set everything up with the sliders, click PROCESS.Save the resulting image as a .jpg and then prepare to bring it into Photoshop. Step 6 - Photoshop fun As you might have seen, Photomatix is great, but it probably messed up parts of the image that you now need to repair. This, briefly, is what we are gonna do. a)import 3 images to make 3 layers - the .jpg HDR you just made, the original RAW, and the darkest RAW. b) repair the blown-out areas with the correct areas from the dark layer and c) repair the ghosty cars and people with the real cars and real people from the first RAW file. Below, you can see I am importing one of the original 5 pictures. Okay, in this next screenshot, if you look over on the layers, you will see there are 3 of them.TOP LAYER - the cool HDR we just made in Photomatix.MIDDLE LAYER - the DARKEST of the 5 original images.BOTTOM LAYER - the MIDDLE exposure of the original 5. The current layer showing is the 2nd layer.You can see why I chose this one - all of the lighted ads are very sharp and readable, whereas in all the other shots, including the HDR version, they are all jumbled and unreadable. As you can also see, I have the AUTO ALIGN layers dialog up.I am using that to make sure all 3 layers line up correctly.This is a CS3 option.If you have CS2, you will have to do it yourself. Also, I am going to throw something at you here called MASKING.This is a really valuable thing to know when cleaning up HDRs.Essentially, what you are doing is taking the TOP LAYER - the HDR layer, and then "punching through" to see the layers beneath.If you look closely at the layers on the right in the screenshot below, you can see that I have created a LAYER MASK for the TOP LAYER.If you see those little black and grey marks there, that is where I have painted black to see the MIDDLE LAYER beneath.I used a paint brush, adjusted the opacity to about 30%, and kept painting until enough of the middle layer shined through. Now, I combine those two layers into a single layer.We now have two layers.TOP LAYER - the HDR with the fixed ads and blown out areas.BOTTOM LAYER - the original RAW photo with the nice streaking yellow taxis and busses.We need to fix the HDR image on top because, if you look closely, there is lots of ripping and ghosting that looks unnatural.We create another LAYER MASK, then use the 30% brush to paint through to the bottom layer.As you can see from the extreme black in many areas, I painted over many many times until I was effectively at 100% brush, but you don't want to start with that because sometimes the transition between the HDR and the original RAW can be too extreme. Now, there is just some general cleanup left.I used the blur tool on the sky since there was some noise there, cropped the entire image better, and then pulled up the "LEVELS" dialog to adjust the overall brightness and contrast.I think HDRs look best when there are dark blacks somewhere in the image.Sometimes HDRs don't have a single black dot anywhere in them, and they can look a little fake.I like to take the viewer's eye on a little visual tour-de-force! Below, we can see the final image once again!All the hard work has paid off!Behold! There are a few other techniques on the longer version of this tutorial for different conditions.One common question is how to do this with just one RAW photo.That is easy and can be done with Photomatix as well. Over the next month, I will be updating the tutorial for 2009, and I will continue to update it and evolve it with newer, better techniques as I figure them out every few months or so.I hope this has been useful to you!I will close with a few of the most recent shots I have processed in the last month or so...and remember, you can do this stuff too!It just takes a lot of practice and failure.Remember what Winston Churchill said:"Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm."

Amazing Graffiti HDR Tutorial

Recently I decided to force myself to make a personal blog and website to share with others my passion for graphic design. In no way am I amazing when it comes to photography but I have stumbled upon HDR, which has captivated me. Like Fabio, I too have somewhat of an obsession for HDR. The only significant difference you will find in this tutorial, among others, is the use of only having one image. The professional way of doing this would be to have a top of the line SLR with tripod and take continuous shots on different exposure levels. For those of you that do not have the equipment to produce something like that, there is still hope! Requirements for tutorial: Photoshop and Photomatix are the only two programs that you will need. To be more specific I am using Photoshop CS3 and Photomatix Pro v.2.5. Also one RAW image that you would like to see converted. (RAW format is not required but definitely recommended.) Step 1 Open the raw image up in Photoshop. Without making any changes save the file as a .jpg in a folder. Click File > Save As > "0.jpg" Make sure save the image name as"0.jpg". This will make the process easier, as we continue to save multiple images. Step 2 Go to Image > Adjustments > Exposure and bring the Exposure level up to "1". In this case the slider would be dragged to the right until the number "1" appears or manually type "1", in the box. Step 3 Click File > Save As > "1.jpg". Make sure to save the file name as "1.jpg" and place it in the same folder where you put the "0.jpg" file. Step 4 Follow the step above to continue saving the files in the appropriate format. Each time the image has been saved undo the changes made to the image and continue going back into Image > Adjustments > Exposure. In this case you want to have 5 files in total, all saved with different exposure levels. Exposure Levels: -2, -1, 0, 1, 2 Make sure to save all of these according to the level. ie. -2.jpg, -1.jpg, 0.jpg, 1.jpg, 2.jpg Step 5 Open up Photomatix and click HDR > Generate > Browse. Highlight and select all five of your images. Then click ok. Step 6 Sometimes Exposure Values will come come in differently then what was previously set through Photoshop. If that is the case match the number up with the name of the jpg. In this case I had an exposure value on the right hand side set to 3, which I changed back to 2. So as long as both the left and right side have the same numbers you should be good to go ahead and click "OK". Step 7 Usually the preassigned setting configure fine for the image we are working with. Keep the "align source images" checked along with the "take tone curve of color profile". Then click "OK". Step 8 Allow this to generate for a minute until your hdr image has been compiled together. Once it click HDR > Tone Mapping. Step 9 This will bring up the actual manual editing stage. First click the 1024 view at the bottom. Once the image is increased continue editing the settings on the left. Play with them until you get exactly what your looking for. Every image is different and will require unique settings. Once you are happy with the finished product click "Apply". Step 10 Click File > Save As. A few options are given for the file format but in this case just save as a .jpg. So hopefully this tutorial has been of help to you. As HDR is becoming more and more forward in the design world I encourage all of you to get involved in it. If you have any questions, comments or personal work, I would love to see and hear from you. Feel free to check out my blog and don't forget to feed me as I am trying to grow this thing. Also check out a few other recent works I have done. About the Author Hello my name is Jonathan Connolly. I am the Creative Director for Theory Communication and Design. We are a Marketing and PR company reaching the automotive, youth and lifestyle market. If I am not creating something for work, I am designing something for myself and others.