Thursday, February 2, 2012

My Photography Work Flow for HDR - Part 3

Today I'm going to let you in on my HDR photogrphy work flow. Most of my tropical and beach landscapes are HDR shots these days. The most common comment I get on my photos is..."it looks like a painting". That is all due to the HDR process. HDR stands for High Dynamic Range photography. It is made by taking at least 3 different shots at different exposures, and blending them together with some HDR software. For a great HDR tutorial, check out the Stuck in Customs website.

You will need to learn how to bracket shots in your camera. For that, consult your owner's manual. I always bracket 3 shots at -2, 0, +2 exposure. On some cameras you can bracket more shots, but I always use three. You will need to shoot in RAW mode for the best results.

Once I capture my shots, it's off to Adobe Lightroom again to import all my photos. Once in Lightroom, I flag the photos I like.

You will need to purchase some sort of HDR software. I have two HDR software programs. Photomatix Pro, and Nik's HDR EFEX Pro. For most of my photos, I prefer Photomatix over HDR EFEX Pro. I just like the way they turn out better. That said, I do get some good results from the NIK software package. I have the Photomatix stand alone package, and I have the HDR EFEX Pro plug in for Lightroom.

For this blog post, I'll talk about my workflow using Photomatix and Photoshop Elements.

In Photomatix, I open my 3 bracketed shots. I then choose my reprocessing options. I check the boxes "Align source images", "Reduce Noise", and "Reduce Chromatic Aberrations", then hit the "Reprocess" button. This may take a minute or so. Once you have an image on the screen, you'll have to experiment with the sliders to get the desired HDR effect. I never use the presets as I have designed my own "preset" as a starting point.

Once I get the image exposed the way I want, I hit "Process" again and I will have my HDR image. If you don't like it, you can go through the process again. The Stuck in Customs website gives you some basic starting points for your settings. Again, you'll want to experiment with this until you get it the way you like it. I personally don't like the over-processed, "cooked" look of HDR. I go for more of the "Painting" look.

Once I have my HDR image, I save it as a jpeg image to my hard drive. Some people like to save TIFF files...I usually don't. I don't need the gigantic TIFF files for most print jobs. From there, I open Photoshop Elements and do a little touch up. I will adjust the shadows, then brightness and contrast, then sharpening, then I run my Neat Image noise reduction software and BINGO...I'm done. Of course I could also do some spot editing with the magic selection tool. I'm all about contrast and saturation when I edit. I have learned to be careful though of "going too far" with these effects.

There are a lot of good HDR photographers out there to learn from. You can look around on Flickr for lots of great ones!

That's it! sounds easier than it is. You will have to practice a lot and be OK with experimenting to come up with your own style. Have fun with this really awesome photography style! Call it photography, or call it digital art...I call it AWESOME!

To see my gallery of HDR photography, visit my website at

1 comment:

Mara Mattia said...

Hi Darrel,
I enjoy the clearly understandable commentary on your blog - and I love your photography!