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Friday, May 7, 2010

HDR In Photoshop CS5


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Three exposures combined into one HDR image using Merge to HDR Pro in Photoshop CS5.

Unless you've been hanging out in Antarctica (without an internet connection), you probably know that Adobe has been developing Photoshop CS5 for quite some time. They released this upgrade on April 30th, and one of the most anticipated new features is the program's revamped HDR processing, now called Merge to HDR Pro.

HDR stands for High Dynamic Range, and involves combining three or more exposures of the same scene in order to extend the dynamic range of a photo. While a single exposure can capture detail in a dynamic range of four to six stops, you can extend this range by shooting the same scene at different exposures and then combining the images into one using HDR processing. Prior to CS5, the Merge to HDR feature was cumbersome and lagged behind the more popular Photomatix Pro in its ability to blend exposures together.

In CS5, Merge to HDR Pro is a much simpler process and in my mind can do just as good a job as Photomatix. That said, if you are used to the controls in Photomatix, you will find CS5 a challenge at first, as the controls are different. However, with practice you will find it to be just as easy to use.

In general, good HDR photos start at capture, so to have better success in postprocessing, follow these steps when out shooting:

1. Compose your scene and lock the camera on a tripod.
2. Focus your camera once and then turn off autofocus.
3. Shoot in RAW format for best results. If shooting jpegs, turn off auto white balance.
4. Choose an exposure that will properly capture midtones in the scene.
5. Shoot three exposures, the midtone exposure, then one two stops brighter and one two stops darker. Change your shutter speed, not your aperture.
6. Check your histograms. If your dark exposure is still clipping highlights, take another photo one stop darker. If your brightest exposure is still clipping shadows, take another exposure one stop brighter.

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