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Thread: Help needed Post-Processing an HDR Image

  1. #1
    Spaticles's Avatar
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    Help needed Post-Processing an HDR Image

    [Mod Note: I've split these posts from a previous thread in the HDR forum because it's now primarily post processing tuition for Spaticles]

    Hi, I just got done my first HDR images, and basically I'm looking for some input. I'm not sure if I really like the way they look, or if my eyes just aren't trained yet to HDR imaging, so any kind of suggestions or tips would be great. Like Zephyr said about "photorealistic" or "painting," I'm not even sure what that means in terms of visualization/HDR. I used Photomatix and Photoshop. I used 3 exposures -2, 0, 2 for all the images, and I still have them, if anyone wants to see them or try something with them.

    http://i40.tinypic.com/funybo.jpg
    http://i43.tinypic.com/f257v6.jpg
    http://i43.tinypic.com/a5du15.jpg
    http://i40.tinypic.com/33cown8.jpg
    Last edited by Colin Southern; 29th January 2009 at 07:20 AM. Reason: Thread split from tail-end of another post in HDR Forum

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    Re: Trying out HDR

    Intrude away , I think you should try get some HDR shots of a place that has more colours and Exposure variants to see if you've got the hang of things because to be honest I don't see many HDR features in them apart from "Photomatix" nevertheless I like the shot with the Road lines in, kinda reminds me of graffiti.

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    Re: Trying out HDR

    I personally like the photorealistic style and that's what I'm experimenting with and haven't tried to get unrealistic styles. For me I see HDR as a way of easily producing and image that captures increased range that would be unacceptable/impossible in a single exposure. I don't think HDR will make better photos and sometimes it's really not needed from a technical point of view. Why take multiple images to capture n number of stops when the scene doesn't contain a wide range to start with.

    I could be wrong as I'm new to HDR photography too but I think here photorealistic means producing an image that looks right, ie accurate depiction of reality, that would look wrong with single exposure such as the shadows black and no detail, or the light areas completely blown out with total loss of detail. See the tutorial section for example. HDR isn't always needed and merging images that would look fine in a single exposure is pointless since you get all the draw backs of merging with no real benefit. It's only used for photorealistic styles when the range exceeds what you can capture in 1 image but many people also utilise it in situations where the range might be low enough to capture in 1 exposure but merging the images gives an unrealistic painted stylised look to the image so it's more of a style/artistic choice as opposed to a technical choice.

    I could be wrong and am just guessing but in the latter case it's more the tone mapping stage I'd guess that's producing the effect since the actual merged HDR wont actually contain much more of a wide range than could be caught in 1 exposure if done right.

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    Re: Trying out HDR

    Quote Originally Posted by iPhillip View Post
    Intrude away , I think you should try get some HDR shots of a place that has more colours and Exposure variants to see if you've got the hang of things because to be honest I don't see many HDR features in them apart from "Photomatix" nevertheless I like the shot with the Road lines in, kinda reminds me of graffiti.
    Yeah, it was an overcast day, it was drizzling, and I had class until about 4:00, so it was hard to get a good shot with a good amount of light and colors. I don't live in a very inviting city for photography, honestly, lol. ...Or inviting for my tastes, at least. Maybe it's because I've lived here all my life and seen so many pictures of the city, so everything seems drab and overused...who knows.

    Quote Originally Posted by nocturne View Post
    I personally like the photorealistic style and that's what I'm experimenting with and haven't tried to get unrealistic styles. For me I see HDR as a way of easily producing and image that captures increased range that would be unacceptable/impossible in a single exposure. I don't think HDR will make better photos and sometimes it's really not needed from a technical point of view. Why take multiple images to capture n number of stops when the scene doesn't contain a wide range to start with.
    Yeah see, I've seen many HDR photos, and they all look great and have vibrant colors. I'm extremely new to taking/making them, too, so I'm not even sure what the whole point of HDR is(as far as what you should be aiming for when editing them, and how they should look), but I understand what you're saying, and I agree. I think that may be why I wasn't sure if I liked the way mine look. I need to head out this weekend to try and grab a wider variety of colors in some shots.
    Last edited by Spaticles; 29th January 2009 at 02:33 AM.

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    Re: Trying out HDR

    Quote Originally Posted by Spaticles View Post
    Hi, sorry if I'm intruding on your thread Phillip, but I just got done my first HDR images as well, and basically I'm looking for some input.
    I think that they look quite acceptable - but ... (there's always a but!)

    ... You can exploit the vagrancies of what's called "Local Contrast" to improve the images a bit;

    In the "Real World" (using image 2 with the cars as an example), the brightest thing is the sky - so everything else is is darker in comparison (including the cars) - that's the "natural order of things" - but - if you were to lift the levels of the cars (and buildings) (even a simple photoshop dodge of midtones and highlights) will lift the local contrast of the cars (ie the range of low to high levels in the scene) and make it look brighter and less of the "HDR look". Even though in absolute terms (global contrast) you now have cars brighter than the sky, it'll still look OK because the brain expects the cars to be brighter than the immediate surrounding areas, and probably "just assumes" that it "was a bit of a dull day" in terms of the sky (which when you think about it doesn't make sense, but the reality is that the brain tends to "compartmentalise" contrast into areas surrounding objects of interest).

    Happy to post a demo if you need one a bit later in the day when I get home if you'd like (just let me know).

    Trick to success is learning what areas the brain breaks things down into - thus what you can "get away with".

    Hope this helps!

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    Re: Trying out HDR

    Yeah, a demo would definitely help. I'm a visual learner, so seeing it happen makes it a lot easier for me to understand it. I'm horrible with burn and dodge in photoshop though, lol, but I'm an amatuer photography photoshopper, so I have an excuse! I tried making the cars a little brighter originally, but I thought they may have looked overdone or overedited in the final render, so I decided against it.
    On a side note, I know a lot of people will talk about how it should only matter to you, and how you feel about the picture, but I want other people to be able to enjoy the pictures as well.

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    Re: Trying out HDR

    Quote Originally Posted by Spaticles View Post
    Yeah, a demo would definitely help.
    Here's a quick edit. Once I opened the image in ACR, I also found quite a few other things that needed tweaking - and in the end it wasn't so muh a case of "lightening the cars" (although I did a bit) as it was darkening the sky. It also had a blue cast over it - white balance was quite a bit off (I've fixed that too).

    In this type of shot it helps to give the brain what it expects to make it more believeable; eg you'd expect a road to be darker and dirty - so running the burn tool over it on shadows and mid-tones "makes it so". I did dodge the car a wee bit, and also did a hatchet "burn job" on the sky.

    Hope this helps :-)

    Before ...

    Help needed Post-Processing an HDR Image

    After ...

    Help needed Post-Processing an HDR Image

    Overall it still needs a bit of tweaking - small saturation boost & sharpening would be a good start, and the levels are still a bit low - but hopefully points you in the right direction. Does this help?

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    Re: Trying out HDR

    Wow, I didn't realize the white balance would make that much of a difference, but it really opens the picture up more. When you say "levels" what exactly do you mean?

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    Re: Trying out HDR

    Quote Originally Posted by Spaticles View Post
    Wow, I didn't realize the white balance would make that much of a difference, but it really opens the picture up more. When you say "levels" what exactly do you mean?
    Ah - sorry - I sometimes assume things.

    "Levels" is a generic term referring to the brightness of the tones; the higher the levels, the brighter the image. If for example you had an under-exposed image you would "raise the levels" to make it brighter (kinda, sorta).

    Sorry, I'm not explaining it very well - perhaps someone else can do a better job?

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    Re: Trying out HDR

    Ok, I did a quick update, so is it better now? I think it may be a little oversaturated, and I'm still not happy with the sky, but I guess I just have to practice with it a bit. I gotta go to sleep!

    Not sure which really looks better, but...
    Quick update:
    http://i43.tinypic.com/2ppy9fc.jpg

    Adjusted "levels" a little bit: (or what I believe are the levels)
    http://i42.tinypic.com/140dptz.jpg
    Last edited by Spaticles; 29th January 2009 at 06:48 AM.

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    Re: Trying out HDR

    To be honest, until you null the severe colour cast it's pretty hard to evaluate them. Do you have Photoshop CS3 or above? (If so you can open JPEGs in the RAW converter, which makes removing the cast a piece of cake.

    Also - if you can post the images inline, it makes it far more convenient for people to view them - and you'll probably get more responses - happy to help you with this if you need it :-)

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    Re: Trying out HDR

    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Southern View Post
    To be honest, until you null the severe colour cast it's pretty hard to evaluate them. Do you have Photoshop CS3 or above? (If so you can open JPEGs in the RAW converter, which makes removing the cast a piece of cake.

    Also - if you can post the images inline, it makes it far more convenient for people to view them - and you'll probably get more responses - happy to help you with this if you need it :-)
    How do I open a Image in the Raw Converter?

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    Re: Trying out HDR

    Quote Originally Posted by iPhillip View Post
    How do I open a Image in the Raw Converter?
    If you have CS3 or above you can do it a couple of ways, but the easiest is to tell Photoshop to use it for JPEGS in the Edit -> Preference -> File Handling screen.

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    Re: Help needed Post-Processing a HDR Image

    Just a side note on tweaking from levels to burn/dodge and adjustment layers and so on. Some of these things took me a long time to get the hang of and I'm definately still learning myself. There are quite a lot of options and even more you can do with each one than first meets the eye. It can seem overwhelming but if you just don't worry about it and try them out, it's just familiarity I find. The only big difference between colins tweaks to the image and your (spaticle) original one are he is very familiar with the tools so knows how to get the best from them. Practice makes perfect as they say.

    Sorry if this post is obvious I just know some people feel overwhelmed and give up because they feel it's beyond them and it's not really, just something you need to get familiar with and eventually it will be second nature (although I'm far from that yet I am much more comfortable and familiar with editing these days). Experimant a bit and don't worry too much and you'll have it in no time

    As colin mentioned ACRs white balance adjustments is almost too easy. Open the image in that and maybe try using the preset balances to get familiar with the values and what to use when eg. tungsten wb to remove orange incandescent casts. Then when used to what rough values effect on balance is you can use custom values easily since your starting point is a pretty close guesstimate to the optimum white balance. Again sorry if this is obvious.

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    Re: Help needed Post-Processing a HDR Image

    I did open the image up in ACR as a jpg, but the white balance slider was -100 to 100 rather than color temperatures, so I wasn't sure where to move it. I ended up just using the photo filter to try and get some of the blue out of it, but I'm gonna try it again from scratch and fix it in the beginning later when I get out of lab.
    I have CS3, btw

    And by posting the images inline, do you mean attaching them to the post? The only issue I had with that is that I would have had to resize the image down a bit to meet the KB requirements, and wasn't sure if I should do that due to quality loss, but I'll repost the new one later on today in that fashion.

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    Re: Help needed Post-Processing a HDR Image

    ah to attach inline you upload it to any site you like and pick insert image button and add the url or paste the url with [IMG] url [/IMG] tags either side if that's what you're used to. You don't need to resize or have a size limit unlike the attachment method.

    Colin made post about it here http://www.cambridgeincolour.com/forums/thread785.htm that is simple explanation of how if you get stuck. If you're still stuck with how just post in back but you should be fine.

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    Re: Help needed Post-Processing a HDR Image

    Just a quick comment on Nocture's post (thanks for that by the way) ...

    Quite right - familiarity with ACR controls is key - and that comes from experience - but - you don't need to be a rocket scientist to understand it either. The guiding principle is stunningly simple: Move something and see if it makes the image look better or worse - that's all there is to it. After a while you'll get to the point where you'll move something and make the image look worse knowing that there will be a compensating gain when you move another control a second or two later, but that's just a time-saving / experience thing, which until you get that experience you compensate for by re-tweaking things over and over and over again. For tricky images I can sometimes spend 1/2 an hour to an hour just tweaking things in the RAW converter trying to coax the best out of it.

    I think people underestimate the power of the RAW converter; case in point 95% of the problems with both your image and iPhillip's were ones than can be (and SHOULD BE) handled in the converter - in your case (and in Phillips) those kind of shots probably don't need to be HDR - get the highlights right and the RAW converter's fill light will probably be all you need to bring up the shadows. What versions of photoshop are you using by the way? If it helps, I can recommend a couple of books that help immensly, but I need to know what version of the converter you using first.

    On a side note, if you want to take a simple shot that really does require HDR (one that most real estate agents don't understand) then all you need to do is pick a room in your house that has quite subdued lighting inside, and a window - the trick is to use HDR to make the room look good AND the view through the window look good too (but that's a seperate exercise to the one we're dealing with here - hense one of the reasons I moved the thread). Hope this helps!

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    Re: Help needed Post-Processing a HDR Image

    OK! I tried getting some more pictures today, and I grabbed an abandoned building, so I can kind of get the window effect you were talking about, but, I've done some quick HDR'ing and very little editing, and this is what I've got. I tried burning the sky a little, but the trees were left with like a glow around the edges, and I wasn't sure how to get rid of it, so I undid it.

    I have CS3, btW!

    Where would you say I should go from here? Or have I gone in the wrong direction already? lol

    Help needed Post-Processing an HDR Image
    Last edited by Spaticles; 30th January 2009 at 03:39 AM.

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    Re: Help needed Post-Processing a HDR Image

    Quote Originally Posted by Spaticles View Post

    Where would you say I should go from here? Or have I gone in the wrong direction already? lol
    Err, actually, I was meaning for you to be on the inside of the windows to photograph the view outside the window AND the room (this typically requires a HDR type shot).

    A classic example of this is _GUI_'s excellent examples here ...

    Zero Noise virtual RAW

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    Re: Help needed Post-Processing a HDR Image

    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Southern View Post
    Err, actually, I was meaning for you to be on the inside of the windows to photograph the view outside the window AND the room (this typically requires a HDR type shot).

    A classic example of this is _GUI_'s excellent examples here ...

    Zero Noise virtual RAW
    I knew what you meant, but I had already been out for the day, and had captured the images I figured it would have been the same effect but backwards, where it's brighter everywhere, and dark in the windows, instead of darker everywhere and bright in the windows.

    You know what I think may make all of this easier...if you knew of any tutorial videos of HDR where it starts with merging the image, and ends with editing to make the final product. Pretty much a full tutorial video as a "making of" so to speak from start to finish. I think once I actually see it being done and what enhancements and edits are made, I'll get a better idea of how I should be editing, and what things I should be looking for specifically.
    Last edited by Spaticles; 30th January 2009 at 04:40 AM.

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