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Thread: Need help with HDR Image - want "HDR look"

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    Need help with HDR Image - want "HDR look"

    I tried to create HDR images for the first time this afternoon. The first is produced using GIMP and 3 images +/- one stop each way. It does not look too HDR to me. Do I need to be more aggressive with the curves?

    The second image was produced in the same way except it started life as a single image and I copied it 3 times, left one copy as it was for the composite and the other 2 I adjusted the exposures using manip software. Again it does not smack of HDR in my opinion. The image was pretty contrasty to start. I only started using a DSLR last week so please be gentle with me

    Need help with HDR Image - want "HDR look"

    Need help with HDR Image - want "HDR look"
    Last edited by Colin Southern; 6th March 2009 at 09:19 PM.

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    Re: Need help with HDR Image

    Quote Originally Posted by Wirefox View Post
    I tried to create HDR images for the first time this afternoon. The first is produced using GIMP and 3 images +/- one stop each way. It does not look too HDR to me. Do I need to be more aggressive with the curves?
    I think a lot of people are missing the point of HDR - in my opinion the idea of HDR techniques is to produce a NORMAL LOOKING IMAGE that still reveals details from areas that are too bright or too dark to be captured in a single normal exposure.

    ... Unfortunately, when you combine a scene that has a DR or 11 or so stops and try to display it on a screen or print it on a medium that only has around 4 stops of DR then something "has to give" - and the usual result (especially with poor processing) is that you end up with a flat-looking washed out final result - which people have since (unfortunately) learned to associate with HDR.

    And now we've even some full circle with people taking normal looking shots and even turning them in to ghastly-looking shots that they claim has the "HDR look".

    In summary - if you've taken a series of shots and combined them in a way that the details that would have been omitted in a single exposure - but now aren't - then you've done a good job

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    Re: Need help with HDR Image

    second one looks quite natural and nice to me. Nothing is blown and it seems to have god range but the land isn't at the same brightness level as the sky making it look unnatural, but not too dark really. I'd imagine to capture the sky the way you did in one the land would be black.

    "I think it doesn't look like HDR" is ture, and it is a real compliment

    The HDR look is either the unnatural tonemapping settings thing which you're clearly not after looking at these. Or it's washed out or too compressed a range (like bringing the darks and highlights too far toward the midrange). I'm far from an expert and inexperienced in this but I imagine it's some pretty heavy curves that give the image it's punch back. Wishy washy colour and severly lacking in contrast often gives realistic images away as HDR merged & tonemapped, however when HDR is necessary skillful pp can overcome these otherwise unavoidable issues (being technical limitation with HDR merger as oposed to user error cannot avoid). I think many make fine realistic HDR generated/processed images but they give it away and end up lacking by stopping before processing is complete. IMO it takes more agressive adjustment than regular capture.

    I like first one too but think the stem has lost a little and could do with slight (I mean slight) increased vibrance and a bit deeper/lower in luminance. Just my opinion though and it looks significantly better than what I can do. Again it looks punchy and vibrant and not like an underprocessed HDR merge, nice contrast (although not as wide a range as the first it still has good heavy contrast but a tiny weeny bit more dark shadows would suit my taste, but it is more of a taste thing). Hope this helps, naturally ignore it if it's inappropriate considering for what you were after.
    Last edited by Colin Southern; 12th March 2009 at 07:03 PM.

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    Re: Need help with HDR Image

    Colin/Davey

    Thanks for some really useful comments. After posting I had a peek at a good selection of HDR across the web. My conclusions so far are that I want to avoid the 1970's heavy metal album cover look that many seem to strive for. Your points about retaining a realistic image that is benefitting from HDR are spot on. Some of the offerings out there look as if they would be better airbrushed on a motorcycle fuel tank and that is not what I am aiming for.

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    Re: Need help with HDR Image

    I am just wondering that for some cases that people use HDR in Photoshop to produce some
    normal looking images, why don't simply try ND grad filters? I think for Wirefox's 2nd picture, it should be captured nicely by using ND grad filer.

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    Re: Need help with HDR Image

    Quote Originally Posted by Yan Zhang View Post
    I am just wondering that for some cases that people use HDR in Photoshop to produce some
    normal looking images, why don't simply try ND grad filters? I think for Wirefox's 2nd picture, it should be captured nicely by using ND grad filer.
    I think it probably comes down to the old argument Yan; Some say it's better to use filters and get it right "in camera", whilst others prefer the digital approach.

    Personally, I see both as just tools and use both (often at the same time), but personally, I have to say that I lean more towards doing what I can "in camera" ... the photoshop approach can produce good results, but I find that many people don't understand the rules of local contrast and end up with an image that they think should look good in theory, but in practice just isn't quite all that it could be.

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    Re: Need help with HDR Image

    Colin,

    Thanks for your explanation. I agree with your opinion on this. I also prefer the approach of "getting right in camera". Just recently I bought Photoshop CS4, and tried once HDR function there for my 3 shots (same composition with different exposure times), the result is quite strange. For me it seems too hard to work.

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    Re: Need help with HDR Image

    Quote Originally Posted by Yan Zhang View Post
    Colin,

    Thanks for your explanation. I agree with your opinion on this. I also prefer the approach of "getting right in camera". Just recently I bought Photoshop CS4, and tried once HDR function there for my 3 shots (same composition with different exposure times), the result is quite strange. For me it seems too hard to work.
    I think the "best" HDR look is one where it just looks like any other normal range shot - unfortunately when you're trying to squeeze perhaps up to 11 stops of range into around 4, something has to give. Understanding local contrast is the key, but unfortunately most seem to think that the "washed out" look is just how HDR images look whereas in reality the best ones are probably those where you don't know that they're HDR.

    It's probably a bit of a paradox actually - a bit like a friend who said "I can always tell when someone's wearing a wig" to which I replied "well if they were wearing one - and you didn't know - then how would you know?" - same thing - I suspect that you can only tell (wig or HDR Image) when it's a bad job! - Thanks my theory anyway

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    Re: Need help with HDR Image

    I must admit I think the HDR images that look completely natural are the most impressive personally. The reason is that's the very purpose of the techniques existence, although getting a completely natural looking image out of the process is the hardest thing. Same way a completely natural looking wig is harder to make than a rubbish one, and it's more common to see poorly done ones but the whole point of a wig is to look just like real hair just as the whole point (correct me if I'm wrong) of HDR is to produce photos that look just like normal photos (that would otherwise be impossible to capture and display in 1 shot).

    I must admit some of the artistic fake tonemaps are appealing and really work. However many of the fake ones are not done well. I half suspect the most amazing fake style ones are made deliberately by people who have mastered the HDR for natural looking image because they seem to know what rules to break without falling into the usual HDR traps usually to do with contrast. I'd agree wholeheartedly that what people notice is not HDR processing traits but telltale signs of an underprocessed or imperfect process. I saw a shot of a cathedral somewhere that I wouldn't have guessed was not a single capture (very well exposed) had the photographer not shared the fact it was HDR merge & tonemapped.

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