MY WORKFLOW FOR HDR
and even if the postproduction is for some aspects mainly the same in the use of certain Plugins, different are the stages of work in Photoshop, both for the use of masks, levels of fusion and so on. So I hope you know the basis of Photoshop because it is an essential tool, in my opinion, to obtain a
good result on the final image.
First of all it is necessary to spend some words about HDR and the Lab color method (an incredible technique to give new colours and light to your photos).
HDR is a technique for having final images, starting from several shots and joining them, with a tonal range impossible to obtain with a single shot. In my workflow I start by applying the basic
technique of HDR and then in Photoshop I apply several "tricks" so that the final result is more “evocative” (let me use this term) and thus each image has got an “independent” working process
except for the basic steps that I’m going to describe in this tutorial.
Color Lab or CIELAB color space is something wonderful because it includes a range of unimaginable colours, a range which is much wider than normal RGB. Working in this way you
simultaneously have got positive effects on the brightness of the photo.
Lab space is based on three channels: "L" "a" and "b"
"L" is the channel that has got all the lightness information, while "a" and "b" contain colour information.
Color Lab only works on 16 bit images and does not want Levels adjustment opened in Photoshop
After that kind of short but necessary information, it is possible to start.
I usually take 5 or more shots whose variations are from 0 EV to -1,7 or +1,7, but in case of extreme lights (for example churches interiors or places with little light) I can use even 11
exposures. Then you launch Photomatix and you join the shots by giving this settings..
you finished the various adjustments, you click on Tone mapping. At the end of the elaboration you save your file in a .tif format 16
Then you launch Photoshop to give depth to your image and work on necessary adjustments or corrections in order to have a HDR name worthy. The first thing you do is to reinforce colour on
your image processed with Photomatix, so open your file and enjoy yourself.
Example image on which I’ll work
Go to Image/Mode/Lab Color you add the adjustment curve and then you give these setting.
You then join the levels and select the channels by clicking on Lightness channel (blue selection):
Open Filters/Sharpen/Unsharp Mask and give these settings:
Thanks to this step you give more density to the lightness channel and your image results more lively now.
Of course the curve I suggested is open to different modifications at your pleasure, if you think colours are too intense you can either modify the curve or decrease the opacity level or work
selectively on the level mask with a soft brush with 60% hardness and a 20/30% opacity. This first
intervention justify my choice of using a low “Color saturation” in Photomatix, from 40 to 50%
maximum, because in Ps with Lab Color I use a more complex range of colours and at the same time I give depth to the lightness of the image itself.
This is the result of my work after the procedure I’ve just described.
Better than before, isn’t it? More lively and brighter!
Now it’s time to give balance and full-body to your photo by using Nik Color Efex Pro a helpful and excellent plugin, in my opinion, to give more structure to HDR. You launch it and then choose
the preset Glamour Glow with these settings:
Join the levels, launch Nik again and choose the preset Tonal Contrast with these settings:
As you can see the image got much “depth”, of course as I told you before you can change parameters at your pleasure, but I find that this choice is a good compromise and the image is not
too “noisy”. Thus applying a mask you can work where and how you like or need.
As you can notice the excellent work of Nik Color Efex has got both advantages and faults which
according to me consist on the “noise” of the image, especially visible in the sky (in my example,
but also in general). Luckily you have got the help of another excellent plugin Noiseware by Imagenomic that is fantastic in my opinion. I prefer it to Topaz Denoise (to my personal
experience) because it is faster in its way of processing and the quality of its results is the same as Denoise. So do a copy of the level by pressing CTRL+J, launch Noiseware and choose Default
It is better, isn’t it? If the image is particularly noisy, you can choose other presets which work in a more forceful way, such as Stronger color noise or Full(stronger color noise). Even these plugins have got faults because they do not work selectively on the image and precisely where you need it;
they simply apply their effects on the all image softening those details that you may want to be more “emphasized”. Well, just apply a mask on the level and again with a soft brush you manually
remove the effect where it doesn’t interest you to be applied (ha San photoshop)?
You’ll obtain a full tone image, full-bodied but not noisy, like this:
And now the final step, you make your image more clear and detailed once again with Lab Color. You work on the “L” channel (Lightness) because this level works better with whites, on dark
marks and other colours.
Open your image and work on Lab Color modality; select the Channels and click on Lightness (blue selection), click then on Filters/Sharpen/Unsharp mask and set it like this:
Once you did this, go to RGB and save your image. Here the result is more refined.
More defined and detailed. With this step my tutorial is finished, I hope you enjoyed it and if you have question ask them on Flickr.
More often taking photos at sunrises and sunsets I like to give more depth to certain colours like yellow, orange or red to enhance the tonal beauty and I do it with a Smart glow which I’ll explained
in another tutorial, for now enjoy this. I hope it has been useful for you.
Bye and see you soon