Simulate higher Dynamic Range with Lightroom? (before buying new camera)

Discussion in 'Digital Darkroom' started by burke, May 6, 2015.

  1. I shoot mostly home interiors and always try to show the view out the window/door/sliders etc., which of course causes an exposure problem. So I use speed lights to brighten the interior.
    Over the years I keep trying new and improved HDR programs and plug-ins and have never been sastified with the results. I tried again this morning with the latest Nik Efex Pro but still... it's not what I like.
    Is it feasible to use Lightroom's exposure slider to simulate the additional two and a half stops of range of a new camera?
    I did it this way: picked a middle of the road exposure from a bracketed set (raw image), set the exposure slider to +1.25 and looked at the shadows, then set the exposure to -1.25 and looked at the highlights. (Or maybe just compare two shots that are 2.5 stops apart?)
    If I'm interpreting the results correctly the difference is huge! Do you think I can expect that from a camera with 2.5 stops more range?
    For what its worth I have a Nikon D300. I'm considering the D750 or possibly the D7200. Don't know if I want to make the jump to full frame...
  2. Higher dynamic range, displayed in the same viewing space, will appear flatter (less contrasty). Midrange contrast can be increased without changing the end points by making the transfer curve S-shaped. The difference between real and simulated dynamic range is the amount of detail present at each end of the scale.
    Most of the improvements will be seen in the shadow areas. However working with RAW images will give you about four stops of high end from the mid-point, compared to about two stops from a TIFF or JPEG file. This means you can often recover detail in highlights otherwise seen to be overexposed. The same treatment on a TIFF or JPEG file just results in muddy highlights.
    In any event, you may not see much of a difference in the end results unless you subject the image to adjustments.
  3. As Edward said, adding additional dynamic range without taking care of the midrange can render quite flat images. With that in mind, though, I think one of the main things to try first is shadow and highlight recovery. I am not a Lightroom user, but experienced users tell me Lightroom is at least as capable as CaptureOne (which I use) - and that means you can gain back considerable detail from highlight and shadow areas (with CaptureOne, about one stop on each end on decent exposed images is doable). If you jump to a newer camera, there will be more room to wiggle, as most new cameras can record a wider dynamic range.
    Another approach is Exposure Blending / Fusing. For Lightroom, you could give Enfuse a try; it makes the process a lot easier and it seems to have plenty happy users.
  4. Thanks for the replies guys, I appreciate it! But hmm... maybe I over-simplified this in my mind. (I can justify anything if I put my mind to it!)
    Sounds like the two of you are saying the same thing: The raw image from the camera won't appear that much different, but it will have more highlights and shadows that are able to be recovered?
    If so it might be near impossible to clearly simulate the higher DR in a side-by-side comparison, without actually having both images (one from each camera) to adjust.
    Some photos I shoot require a lot of recovery now but I can save some with highlights all the way down, shadows all the way up, adjust white and black points, then fiddle with it. But they can take on that certain HDR look... I just wonder what those problem photos would look like with a 2.5 stop higher DR to start with.
    And please don't get me wrong about HDR, right-time-right-place HDR can be great!
  5. lwg


    Try exposing to the right (set the in camera exposure to an exposure that just avoids clipping the highlights). Then back off on the exposure slider until the midrange is properly exposed (about how much you "over exposed" the image in camera). Then adjust the other sliders until you are happy. I'll use the tone curve to add contrast back into areas of the image if the sliders don't offer a precise enough result.
  6. [​IMG]
    This is a photo taken with a Hasselblad CFV-16 back, with minimal adjustments to the original 16 bit (est. 14-16 stop DR). If you like, I can send you a Dropbox link to the full-sized TIFF, or even the raw filw. Let me know.
    As we have said, the colors are flat and off hue a bit (the CFV leans toward green). However you can see the texture of the concrete under the bridge and into the deep woods
  7. Have you tried the new Lightroom

    CC or 6 HDR feature? It produces a realistic raw HDR that has a lot of range.
  8. An additional 2.5 stops of dynamic certainly will help, bplus the shadow values are very clean with the D750 and D7200.
    And I concur with the advice of using Lightroom CC HDR's feature. Have you also tried the Enfuse plug-in for Lightroom?
  9. I shoot a lot of interiors also, but mostly for rentals where what's outside isn't really important so I usually blow out the windows and expose so the interior is bright. When I do shoot a nice place where I need to show the outside, I've found that the best way for me is to combine exposures with masks is PS. I've tried many HDR programs and never really like the results. Since windows usually have straight lines, it's not that hard or time consuming to make a selection of them with the polygonal lasso tool. I don't think any camera has enough dynamic range to get what you're after. You will always have to combine exposures.
  10. The only way to get the same dynamic range as the one of a new camera model is to shoot and process a proper HDR because if you just simulate it you will always have some trade-offs, either an artificial look or other drawbacks.
    Calculate the exposures you need to get the interior and exterior right and shoot the necessary number of shots to cover the difference using the same aperture. As you can do up to 9 exposures and you're working with static subjects you will have no problem.
    As Fred referred LR6 has a built in HDR facility. I don't know how good it is and if it can do everything but by the time Photoshop CS3 could produce really good results from D200 sets of 9 shots of scenes like the ones you describe.
    When it comes only to dynamic range the advantage of a new model is that it can do it directly whereas with your camera you need a way to cover it through a more complex way.
  11. Light room HDR example
  12. Maybe I shouldn't have mentioned HDR because that's actually what I'm trying to stay away from in this particular instance:
    In a Single Image - I'm just trying to see what an additional 2.5 stops of dynamic range would look like compared to what I get now from my D300. Such as - look at ONE shot from my 12 stop dynamic range camera that has both highlights and shadows clipped. Use Lightroom to reduce the exposure 1.25 stops and view the highlights that are no longer clipped and compare that to highlights that were clipped previously.
    Do the same with shadows, increase the exposure 1.25 stops and gauge the now un-clipped shadows to what was clipped before.
    Then the question: Can I assume the un-clipped extremes of the two adjustments would be similar to a Single Image from a 14.5 stop Dynamic Range CAMERA? Not an HDR image, and before exposure adjustments in Lightroom.
    Will an image from a 14.5 stop DR camera just have more detail to recover in the clipped areas?
    OR... a combination of the two?
  13. Edward - Your estimated 14-16 stops, is that the range of your camera or the range contained within the image? Either way it looks pretty amazing. Thanks for the offer, but with all due respect THAT’S NOT FAIR! ;-) I can’t afford to get out of the prosumer category so I don’t think it’s a good idea for me to pixel-peep a Hasselblad image. Egads, you want me to mortgage my house?!?
    Fred - Yes to both, but do you really mean Edit In -> Merge to HDR Pro in Photoshop? I’ve tried PS CS6 and LR/PS CC, just installed the CC trial a few days ago (I have CS6 & LR 5 perpetual license). The results are close enough to be called identical.
    Brian - Sounds like we're after the same thing. I’ve done the layers thing in PS and you’re right about the straight lines of a window frame. Not too bad when it’s a one-lite door or window, but 15-lite French doors are tedious, same with vertical blinds. Respectfully I disagree though, what I’m after is doable in one shot. I just have to use lights! I’m just hoping to be able to use less power in them, see more natural ambient light or 'house' lighting, or simply end up with better looking photos.
    Ellis - I haven’t tried Enfuse yet, it may be an option but right now I’m just trying to judge improvements in a single raw image.
    Antonio & Fred - Does LR 6 really have built-in HDR? I’ve install the LR CC trial but it seems to still use Photoshop for the actuall HDR merge, then returns it to LR. I’m assuming LR CC and LR 6 are the same right now?
    Fred - I don’t think I’d like to go with you on vacation!
  14. Burke,
    I misread your original post, and only "saw" the part about the effect of using a camera with an higher DR. The Hasselblad was the best example I had on hand.
    Shooting interiors while maintaining details through an open window or door is another matter altogether, and well beyond the capability of any single image or even a bracketed HDR. Whether you could use flash to match the light levels is a possibility, but only with a lot of power.
    A similar problem occurs shooting a brightly lighted stage, while showing some detail in the audience. Bracketed HDR works pretty well because you only need hints of the audience, not much detail. A program like Photomatix does a good job eliminating motion on the stage by prioritizing images for ghosting control.
    It is fairly simple to combine two exposures, one for the interior and one for the outside, using cut-and-paste in Photoshop. Actually, I layer the exposures with the interior on top, and "cut" out a window to reveal the under layer. The downside is the bright outside will cause flare when exposed for the interior, which is difficult or impossible to remove.
    The time-honored techniques are to cover the openings, shoot at dusk to level the exposure, or at night, then cut and paste as above.
  15. I am talking about the new HDR feature in Lightroom CC and Lightroom 6. If you use Raw format it creates I believe it is 16 bit .DNG format. You go to Photo->Photomerge->HDR.
  16. Edward,
    You had it right the first time I think, I just don't want to fool myself into thining I can get those results with a sub $2k body. You're right too about needing lots of power. I have three SB800 speedlights and sometimes that's not enough. Shadows are a problem too. Bouncing or umbrellas help but that cuts the light. I used to carry a studio light roughly twice the output as all three speedlights but with it I had to shoot with EVERYTHING in FULL manual. That became too awkard and time consuming in a hurry.
    Now I see it! Right under Edit In is Photo Merge. Talk about tunnel vision. Anyway, I gave it a try and the results are good, very similar to what I was getting in the 32bit tiff from Photoshop with half the effort! Not bad, promising even, still not quite what I want.
    But like I said I'm trying to stay away from HDR if possible and improve my single shot technique with an improved camera. If that's not enough HDR is plan B.
  17. Burke,
    Once you have your LR doubt cleared, I just add one aspect: the dynamic range of your sensor is a given specification that can be a restriction for some uses and you will never get more from just a single shot.

    If you don't blow completely the highlights you can play around with certain adjustments to obtain the illusion of an extended DR, but that's just that and the results will certainly tend to the kind of image that seems far from the want you look for - the kind of false HDR some people call as "artistic" with exaggerated use of tones and artificial colors.

    With a shot exposed to the right and counting with your NEF file headroom you can maximize DR recovering the shadows. The major problem is that this is the area where you will have your main subject and the shadows recovery risks to bring you noise. Considering it and that you may want to stay out of proper HDR perhaps the solutions is to get to separate shots (one for the inside e the other to the external highlights) and combine both in PS, as believe someone referred before.
  18. Sorry for the confusion in the final part of last sentence, that should read:
    "Considering it and that you may want to stay out of proper HDR perhaps the solution is to get two separate shots (one for the inside and the other for the external highlights) and combine both in PS, as I believe someone already referred before".
  19. Mr. Even, have you considered a different camera model? Nikon is a terrific camera and my first really good 35mm was and still is a Nikon Photomic FTN however if dynamic range would assist your efforts, this URL shows the DR of the Oly OM D EM10 to be 12.3 which is very competitive and way less than a MF digital camera.
    There are probably others so this is just an example.
    Good Luck
  20. From the original image below compared to a camera with 2.5 stops more dynamic range, can I expect to get the best of both worlds of the other two images but in one shot without any post adjustments?

  21. Some one-shot images I've done with the Nikon D300, Nikkor 12-24 f4 DX, SB800 speedlight(s). The house lighting doesn't get a chance to add much ambience.
  22. Burke, since I upgraded from a D300 to D800, I have rarely used HDR as the sensor's improved DR coupled with LR4+ sliders enable me to get the results I like from a single exposure.
  23. That's good to hear John! I just hope I'm not expecting too much from whatever camera I decide on...
  24. Randy - I missed your post but yes, I am considering a different camera - the D750. I was just hoping to be able to see the expected difference of another 2.5 stops compared to what the D300 does. I haven't been able to find example photos.
    And I hope I didn't clutter peoples inbox like mine with the pictures I posted, didn't mean to do that. I think I have that turned off now...

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