My last post created a little discussion about what method is best for processing HDR and if you already have Photoshop, is it necessary to go out and spend more money just to get get the benefits from HDR photography. Instead of debating this with myself in this post, I thought I would take an HDR file and process it using both software packages and see which one you prefer. As I said in a comment in my last post, I am always on the lookout for the “next thing” especially if it is going to speed my workflow and give me the results that I want. The bottom line is that there really is no “better” solution, just the solution that’s best for you. Also in the comments, Roger pointed me to an article over in Layers Magazine called HDR Another Way in Photoshop that is uses two exposures and then overlies the images and masks back in the tones that are wanted for the final image. There is certainly more than one way to skin this HDR cat but as I read through the article I noticed that there were no less than 25 adjustment layers used to create their image.
I would love to have that kind of time to work an image but let’s face it, i have other things to do and probably not the patience for it. Now if I can find a software solution that brings me close and then I can spend a fraction of the time in Photoshop finishing off the image then sign me up!
So let’s take a look at our image to be processed.
So here are my three exposures; one normal, one shot at +2 stops, and one shot at -2 stops. I processed the images in Photoshop to create my HDR file (see Part I of my HDR tutorial for more information on this process). Once I had the HDR file, I then went about processing them in Photoshop and Photomatix Pro.
In Photoshop I changed my mode from 32-bit to 16-bit. This brought up a dialog box that offers four different ways to make this conversion:
Exposure and Gamma, Highlight Compression, Equalize Histogram, and Local Adaption. Local Adaption is the only one worth a damn for this project and is the setting used by most individuals who use Photoshop to process their HDR images. By using this method, you can adjust the Radius, Threshold and Tone Curve to get the best possible detail and tonal range from your HDR file.
Here is that file without any further Photoshop adjustments.
Now here is the same file processed in Photomatix Pro as described in Part II of my tutorial.
Both of these images would require further processing and sharpening in Photoshop but it gives you a good idea of where each software application goes with the HDR file. There are many more effects and techniques including combining the HDR images with normal processed exposures for more realistic images. Just like any image in Photoshop, you can work it till the day you die and never be done. Unless you decide you are done because in the end, it’s your decision where to take your images and yours to decide what “look” you really want.
But if I can help you get there, just give me a shout. I’m happy to help.