HDR and skies

Discussion in 'Digital Darkroom' started by natureslight, Jan 28, 2012.

  1. First: I'm not 100% sure I selected the right forum for this question, if need be, please move it to the correct forum.
    I "discovered" HDR a few months ago and have been fooling around with the technique trying to learn what works and what doesn't. I often like the way HDR makes colors pop and how you can use it when exposure values in an image are widely apart. What I don't like so much is how often the image appears to have far more noise and also how often the skies in an HDR image end up dull and almost "dirty". I would really like to understand this technique better, know when it's likely to work and when it is probably a mistake. I've read a number of online articles, but still feel a bit confused and unsure. On the advice of a "pro user", I'm using Photomatix Pro to process my HDR images. Can someone steer me toward an online or hard copy source for more detailed information on the best use of HDR and how to master the various techniques. I'm attaching 2 imges I processed as HDR for possible clues as to why I'm stumbling with this technique. Thanks for any input and direction.
  2. Photomatrix pro is great for combining the single images into an HDR. It is much faster and more convenient than Photoshop. However alot of photographers and people working with HDR files would rather leave the fine adjustments to Light Room and Photoshop because they do it better. So their Workflow is 1) combine the images in Photomatrix pro as best they can, 2) then upload to LR or PS for fine tuning.
  3. I use Photomatix Light, and while it has some limitations, it meets most of my needs. JR
  4. Aplogies, somehow my images did not upload correctly.I'm still learning Photonet and probably making loads of mistakes, so bare with me, I'll get it right....eventually.
  5. Irene ... the important thing in uploading to PN is to organise the files for the job in whatever editing programme you have ... this may or may not take some experimentation to reduce the compression after reducing the image size, or maybe picking the correct settings to do it in one action. Once you click your message to confirm and get the next menu let it sit there and minimise it while you organise the photo with your editing programme. Save it with a differnet name and return to PN and upload it. Hope that makes sense :) It is easy once you get the hang of it.
  6. JC -thanks for the "how-to". I figured out my first mistake was attempting to load an image into the post instead of waiting for the confirmation page where there is the opportunity to upload the image. I have a portfolio on another website (Better Photo) and their upload protocal is different from here, so while I was sizing the images correctly, I was not uploading them correctly. Between your excellent directions and learning when to upload the image, I think I finally have it right.
    Harry and Jeremy - thank you for your input on HDR. I'm going to keep working on combining exposures using Photomatix and then use PS to do the final editing. The main issue I'm encountering is getting the colors right throughout the frame. Right now some of the colors look good, but other colors - most notably sky - don't work right. I'm sure it's a learned skill like everything else in photography.
  7. Perhaps what you need to do is to "assemble" your images using multiple methods. If you don't like HDR skies, perhaps there is another method that would give you a sky that would suit with your HDR image? If so, do it that way, and combine the two with careful layering. Be sure to feather your selections by maybe 2-3 pixels for a natural border.
    If what you're trying to do with HDR is simply to control excessive contrast (e.g. very bright sky and very dark foreground), consider using other tricks of the trade. You can start to control such things during the shoot with a polarizer or a graduated neutral density filter. In post, you can take different exposures (i.e. tripod shot, different shutter speeds) or different contrasts of the same exposure and blend their elements in different layers. I use the latter approach quite a lot and can achieve very natural results. It does take a lot more hand work than HDR, though.
  8. I'd start by merging your hdr in the program you like best. Open it in photoshop and throw the shot with the properly
    exposed sky over top and layer mask it in. Depending on the skyline feather it if needed (a clear skyline like a
    seascape could probably be blended with a hard brush). Personally I'd add a little grain to the sky to blend it with
    the hdr a little better. Imho that would be the best way to keep cleaner skies.
  9. Thank-you for the suggestions. I'm giving Nik software a try and also taking all your feedback into consideration. One thing I've realized is that I've been mis-using the HDR software. By this I mean I've been taking multiple exposures and then combining them in Photomatix without first determing if the contrast is strong or not and also without taking time to determine if combining the images will end with the desired effect. If the sky is gray then HDR only makes it darker, which is not the effect I generally want. Sarah, I think your point is well taken: if I want to control excessive contrast I should continue using my ND filter instead of hoping that HDR software will "correct" the issue.
    I do like the creative possibilities HDR processing offers, but I can see that I need to think this through more carefully before making the exposures hoping that post-capture processing will result in an image that pops in the way I want.
    Late this summer I took an online course with Jim Zuckerman and this got me thinking somewhat outside the box in terms of both capture and post-capture work. This led to my interest in HDR photography. Now I need to step back inside the box and re-think how I use this technique. It's great fun to fool around with new things, but you can't ignore the fundamentals in the process.
    Thank you, everyone, for the great insight and help.

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