HDR images with Photomatix Pro
More and more people are trying their hand at HDR photography. Today we are going to do a complete walk through of how this amazing technique works. If you arenâ€™t familiar with HDR, it stands for High Dynamic Range meaning you can get an image with a wider tonal range which can add detail to shadowed areas while maintaining detail in very bright areas. How it accomplishes this is by using a series of images with different exposures and then merging the images into a final image combining data from all of the images. The result can be amazing.
While sitting in a hotel room in Boston after a long week of hard work I glance out the window and decide that the scene would make for a perfect example of what HDR can deliver. Since these shots require multiple exposures, you want them to basically be identical, armed with only a monopod and a night scene, I decided to stack up a pile of pillows instead to take a few different shots.
For each of the two examples, I took an 3 shot exposure bracket, meaning the camera took one underexposed image, one normally exposed image, and one over exposed image, this is usually enough for a really nice image. The following are the two sets of images so you can see how each of the images looks.
We have found that using PhotoMatix Pro will provide some of the best results available. While Photoshop CS2 and CS3 both have HDR merging abilities, PhotoMatix Pro still does a better job. Once we have the images we want, we need to process them. Once you are in PhotoMatix Pro, go to the HDR menu and select Generate.
Next, you need to select the images you want to use to comprise your HDR image, you can browse to the folder you want and select your images.
The next step is select if we want the images to be aligned before creating the HDR and if we want to apply some tone curves (not needed with RAW images) and then select OK.
After a little while of processing the images, PhotoMatix Pro will display an image that you will think canâ€™t possibly be correct. Have no fear, we still have another step to perform before it will look right.
To apply the tone mapping, go back to the HDR menu and select Tone Mapping, this will bring up another screen with a series of options to fine tune the image. In most cases, I am going to select the â€œDetails Enhancerâ€ method and then make the fine tuning options with the sliders.
You should now have an image that is extremely rich in detail. You can quickly see in the following images that details from the sky are quite vivid and the detail in the surrounding area which was basically just blacked out areas in the other photographs except for the overexposed image.
As you can see, HDR processing can add an amazing new element to your photography. The following links will point you to an HDR Flickr group and a wedding photographer that uses HDR in his portraits.
Now get out and start shooting!