Many people have commented on the style that I have achieved with my HDR processing of images and have asked me how I achieve my results, especially where I have big skies with large fluffy clouds. I have therefore decided to write this blog in order that I can pass this information along easily whenever I am asked.
Let me say from the outset that whilst my post production techniques are improving, they are far from brilliant and I very often use the presets in the various programs and plug ins that I use. Also, this technique does not work for every image and I always treat each image on its' own merits. It is very much a try it and see what happens process.
I use Adobe Photoshop CS5 and Photomatix Pro. I also have various plug ins for Photoshop from Topaz Labs including Adjust 5 and DeNoise.
Tripod (Preferable but not necessary if you have a steady hand and plenty of light to achieve a fast enough shutter speed to hand hold the camera still for 3 shots).
Graduated Neutral Density (ND) Filter
Remote Shutter Release
My preferred lenses are my Sigma 10-20 and my Nikon 35mm and I tend to use a 0.9 (3 stop) Soft Edge Graduated ND Filter to try to balance the exposure between the land and the sky although I do find the effect from the filter when using the 10-20 leaves a lot to be desired.
The image is created from three bracketed shots. My preference is for correct exposure, then 1.7 stops under exposure and 1.7 stops over exposure. These images are then processed in Photomatix Pro software to give me a High Dynamic Range (HDR) image which is then saved as a TIFF file.
Processing is done in Photomatix Pro 4.1 and these are my preferred settings:-
On the first screen I check the following boxes:-
Align Source Images
Crop Aligned Images
By Matching Features
Include Perspective Correction
Max Shift 15%
Remove Ghosts Automatically
Reduce Noise On All Source Images
Reduce Chromatic Aberations
White Balance As Shot
Color Primaries SRGB
When the preview is generated these are my settings:-
Process Tone Mapping
Method Details Enhancer
Colour Saturation 60
Detail Contrast 0
Lighting Adjustments - Lighting Effects Natural or Natural +
Smooth Highlights 0
White Point 5
Black Point 2.41
Micro Smoothing 2
Remainder of settings 0
I do sometimes play about with the Black Point and Gamma settings to suit the image.
I then save the file as a TIFF image.
From here, I will open the TIFF file in Camera RAW and correct any blown highlights and, once this is done, the image is opened into Photoshop where I make any levels adjustments that I deem necessary. Once in Photoshop, I duplicate the background layer and open it in a very useful plug in, Topaz Adjust 5.
In Topaz Adjust 5, I select the HDR Collection and then Dynamic Pop II. I rarely play with any of the sliders in Topaz and then press OK to apply the effect back into Photoshop. For a colour version of the image, this is usually sufficient and that is just about all that I will do.
If I want a black and white version of the image, I will again, duplicate the background layer and then use a Channel Mixer Adjustment Layer to convert the image to black and white, using the black and white option and choose whichever filter I feel works for the image from there. Finally, when I have flattened the layers, I then adjust the contrast with a Brightness/Contrast Adjustment Layer until the result pleases me and then flatten the image again.
Hope that this helps.