HDR Tutorial - plus 15% off coupon for Photomatix!

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HDR Tutorial - plus 15% off coupon for Photomatix!

Postby ChinaMark » Wed Nov 14, 2007 4:41 am

NEW! Cameralabs readers can enjoy 15% discount when ordering Photomatix HDR software using the coupon code CameraLabs at checkout!

A tutorial for an earlier version of Photomatix follows:


I tried my first HDR image a few months ago and there weren't many simple, straight-forward guides out there so here is a simple step-by-step guide for beginners:

Basic requirements:
1) Three exposure bracketed photos with the shutter speed being the only element changing. The aperture, ISO setting and white balance should all be the same.

2) A tripod is preferable unless you have a very steady hand!

3) Software to process the images. For this guide I'm using HDRsoft's Photomatix Pro version 2.5.3 and Photoshop CS3 for final tweaks.

The images
Image
Shutter speed 1/1600 - Aperture F10 - ISO 160

Image
Shutter speed 1/4000 - Aperture F10 - ISO 160

Image
Shutter speed 1/400 - Aperture F10 - ISO 160

The process
Open up Photomatix and click 'HDR' then 'Generate'
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Click 'browse' and select the 3 images from your directory then click OK
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In this box 'Align source images' is checked by default and is best used for handheld shots. I usually check 'Attempt to reduce ghosting artifacts' too. At the bottom you can select either 'SRGB' or 'Abobe 1998' for the colour space you want to use. I rarely print images so I use SRGB for the web. When you're done, click OK
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A 32bit HDR image will be generated along with a small 'HDR viewer' box so that you can check to see if the images have aligned correctly. Once I've had a quick look at the small viewer box, I close it.
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This is the magical part! Click on 'HDR' then 'Tone mapping'
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You will be presented with the tone mapped image and all the slider options to the left. There are 2 options for the tone mapping method used, 'Details Enhancer' and 'Tone Compressor' and in this example I have used 'Details Enhancer' which is the default and I think the best method.

To get a more detailed description of what each slider does, you can just hover your mouse over the slider. For this image I used the following settings:
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Image

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By using the sliders the image can be changed in many ways and the key is to keep experimenting with different settings as one setting won't apply to every image and it's also down to personal taste. This image has been very warmed up, but it could also look good cooled down by reducing the 'color' sliders. Once you're happy with the result you can save the image as either a 16bit or 8bit image.
Image

You may be happy with the final result produced from Photomatix, but for me, I prefer a little more punch so I opened up the image in Photoshop and made a small levels adjustment and increased the contrast and overall saturation:
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and the final result......

Image

Hope this tutorial helps people who have never tried HDR before. The biggest effects come from images of scenes with very high contrast in the beginning like standing in a dark cave and shooting out towards a bright scene outside the cave etc. However, it can also be great for bringing out the dynamic range in things like clouds in ordinary scenes like this one.
ChinaMark
 

Postby Gordon Laing » Wed Nov 14, 2007 6:40 am

Mark, that's fantastic - thanks!
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Postby seattlesteve » Wed Nov 14, 2007 6:53 am

Perfect! That's just what I was looking for, an easy to follow guide for creating HDR images. That final image you have is so much different from the original images. There's no way you could have come up with that kind of DR with any existing dslr.
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Postby zorro » Wed Nov 14, 2007 6:56 am

Excellent work Mark. Probably the best HDR tutorial out there. Good choice of source image too, turned out really good.

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Postby DavidL » Wed Nov 14, 2007 8:18 am

Thanks Mark
Now I can get my hands HDR-ed dirty..

Once I get a good subject, of course.
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Postby grahamnp » Wed Nov 14, 2007 9:45 am

Excellent tutorial. I've been messing around with Photomatix but I've learnt a few new things now so thanks!.
Last edited by grahamnp on Wed Nov 14, 2007 10:40 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby ChinaMark » Wed Nov 14, 2007 10:07 am

Thanks guys, hope it helps and I really look forward to seeing what you come up with. When I look back at my first attempts it's embarrassing and at the time I thought they were great! The important thing is to just keep on trying different methods and find what works for you. At the end of the day, there is no right or wrong method and you'll never please everyone with everything you produce....I guess it's like art, it's all subjective....just have fun and please yourself :)
ChinaMark
 

Postby Ant1 » Wed Nov 14, 2007 12:16 pm

Thanks ChinaMark! This is exactly the kind of info that I/we need! I really would like to get into HDR, so this is great. Let's hope this thread grows!

I got a couple of questions:

1. Why is it the shutter speed that must vary? Why not the aperture instead? Is the use of shutter speed only and nothing else a cardinal rule of HDR?
I understand that if you took a close shot of a subject, changing the aperture to get three different gradations might also change the background focus behind the subject, resulting in all three shots that would not only be different in exposure, but also in content. However, would changing the shutter speed not a have similar effect with regard to things that might be moved by wind, like tree leaves?

2. Software: Photomatix Pro the way to go? Or are there other - or better - alternatives too? Can you do the same thing with Ps only?

3. Does HDR work in B&W too?

Thanks!

A.
Last edited by Ant1 on Wed Nov 14, 2007 12:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Ant1 » Wed Nov 14, 2007 12:23 pm

...One more question.. :D

Can varying all three shots purposely, ever produce interesting (read: creative, weird) HDR? Do people do that, or does it just come out awful?

A.
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Postby ChinaMark » Wed Nov 14, 2007 12:38 pm

Hi A.

Glad you like the tutorial and hope it puts you in the right direction.

1) Yes, keeping the aperture constant ensures that the depth of field doesn't change and every detail in each exposure keeps the same focus.

Hdr is best suited to still scenes with nothing moving at all because like you say the wind will move trees and leaves and water keeps moving etc. I still do that though :) It's really up to you, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. It might come out rotten, but then again it could turn out amazing!

2) I've only ever used Photomatix and PS's 'Merge to HDR' function and I've just started using Artizen HDR but I'm not so sure about that one yet. I think Photomatix is the best but others may have had better experience with others I haven't tried.

3) Yeah, I think it works great in B&W too. Zorro's had a bash at that and here's one I've recently done:

Image Image

I really think with HDR the rule is there are no rules.....just have a go and see how it comes out :)

(Edited to add 'before' shot)
Last edited by ChinaMark on Wed Nov 14, 2007 4:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby grahamnp » Wed Nov 14, 2007 12:46 pm

Nice one Mark. I like the clouds in particular.
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Postby Ant1 » Wed Nov 14, 2007 1:31 pm

Fabulous B&W shot, ChinaMark! Looks like a scene from the Lord of the Ring...Love that dramatic, gothic look that come out of the clouds. Nice one, mate.

A.
Ant1
 

Postby rob » Wed Nov 14, 2007 7:58 pm

Will photomatix basic 1.0 do the same thing for you?? excellent tutorial by the way.
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Postby Gordon Laing » Wed Nov 14, 2007 9:25 pm

Hi Ant1, as a follow-up to your question about combining multiple images with different apertures, this can be used for an alternative technique to increase the DOF on macro shots without compromising quality from diffraction at tiny apertures - see here:

http://www.cameralabs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=10549

Gordon
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Postby zorro » Wed Nov 14, 2007 9:25 pm

If that's the demo vesion then no it won't. It'll leave a great big bloody watermark.

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