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Friday, August 1, 2008

HDR For The Landscape

Take advantage of High Dynamic Range software to photograph the landscape in a more visual way

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Combining The Photos
Once you’ve downloaded your pictures onto your hard drive, you can combine them into an HDR image.

Here are the Photomatix steps:
1 In Photomatix, go to the menu labeled HDR and select Generate. Photomatix has a lot of menus, but you don’t have to use anything other than HDR.

Using the dialog box that opens, load differently exposed images onto Photomatix. Click on Browse to find specific images to import from your computer’s files. This is sometimes challenging with the small thumbnails that display in your operating system’s file-opening boxes. I typically use Adobe Bridge or Lightroom to help me find the photos that have a range of exposures.

3 Click OK, and Photomatix will show an Options dialog box. Usually, you’ll just go with the default as shown here. If there was movement in your photograph, check “Attempt to reduce ghosting artifacts,” which sometimes helps.

Click OK, and let Photomatix go to work. This can take some time, depending on the speed and power of your computer.

5 An unattractive image will appear. This is the HDR image with all the information you need, though it’s not displayed in a way we’re used to seeing.

6 Click on HDR > Tone Mapping. This is where the real magic occurs in Photomatix and for your HDR image.

7 You’ll find a dialog box with a lot of controls that allow you to further adjust your image, though your picture may look great right from the start.

There are a number of other controls in the dialog box:
• Nature photographers usually find that the Light Smoothing control looks best at the Very High setting to the right.
• You can try changing the Strength of the HDR Tone Mapping and the Color Saturation. Photomatix sometimes makes the colors a little too saturated.
• Luminosity affects the brightness of the image.
• The next section includes White Point, Black Point and Gamma. White Point affects highlights—use caution with it. Black Point adjusts the blacks in the photo—be sure they’re strong enough. Gamma affects the midtone brightness and contrast of the image.
• At the bottom of the box, you’ll see a series of numbers: 512, 768 and 1064. These are sizes of the preview image in this dialog box.
• You can leave the rest of the settings as they are if you like the photograph. Frankly, I don’t find the need to change much else for most images. The Color tab gives additional control over the color of the image, including its warmth and saturation of highlights and shadows. Micro offers subtle changes in detailing, and S/H affects shadow and highlight smoothing, but usually the overall Light Smoothing at Very High is fine.
• The image now can be processed based on these settings by clicking Apply. You can choose output of either 8-bit or 16-bit. If you think your photograph is ready to go, 8-bit is fine. If you think it needs a lot more processing in Photoshop, then choose 16-bit.

8 Finally, save your processed image as a TIFF file that can be used as is or go into Photoshop. Generally, I open the photograph in Photoshop because I may find small adjustments that need to be made here and there in the photograph.

That’s all there is to it, except for you to go out and start taking pictures! If you want to explore new ways of seeing the natural world, and ways that are truly closer to what we can see with our eyes, give HDR a try.

Editor-At-Large Rob Sheppard’s new photo blog is located at www.photodigitary.com, and his latest book is the totally revised New Epson Guide to Digital Printing.


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