HDR Finishing Touches Tutorial

I received a lot of great responses to the image I posted yesterday of the National Building Museum HDR image.  First of all, this place really lends itself to the HDR process so I kept the tonemapping fairly simple so that the HDR effect was pretty low-key.  I used 3 images shot in RAW on the Canon T1i to create the original RAW files.  The images were then merged in Photoshop CS4 using the Merge to HDR command from Lightroom 2.0.  The tutorial picks up in Photomatix Pro after I have already made my tonemapping adjustments and then follows along as I take the image into Adobe Camera Raw and finally Photoshop for some noise reduction and image sharpening.  These are two areas where Lightroom just can’t deliver the goods.  For the noise reduction I used Nik’s Dfine 2.0 and then applied sharpening using the high-pass filter.  Check out the video to see the entire process.


  1. OK, I seem to have missed a step here. Your intro text says you merged to HDR via Photoshop, but then you pick up with Photomatix Pro tonemapping.

    Did you save in CS4, then open in Photomatix? Did you merge again in Photomatix? Could you have just moved into Camera Raw from the merged-in-CS4 result?

    Where did I get lost?



    • Hi Steve,
      Didn’t mean to be so confusing but I see where you got lost. I always do my HDR file creation using the Photoshop Merge to HDR function and then save my file as an EXR. I find that PHotoshop does a better job of image alignment when creating the original HDR file. After I save the HDR file, I open it in Photomatix Pro for processing (I don’t use the Photomatix plug-in so I have to save the file first). After I have completed my tonemapping in Photomatix Pro, I then save the file as a 16-bit TIF and then open it in Adobe Camera RAW and finally Photoshop. I hope that answers the question.

  2. Great video Jeff. Quick question, what was the reason that you converted to grayscale before dropping the high pass? I was under the impression that you didn’t need to do that…but would love to know if I’m missing something. Thanks! – PJZ

    • Peter,
      It’s kind of an old habit of mine but here’s the reason why I convert to grayscale. If you need to use a very high radius for the High Pass, the color starts to come back into the image, which can lead to some funky colors when using the blend modes. By converting to grayscale first, I am only effecting the luminosity with the High Pass. Like I said, if you are just using a low radius then it probably doesn’t make any difference and you can skip the conversion.

  3. Didn’t understand a word but loved the picture. Thanks.

  4. Jeff,

    Thanks for expanding on the last steps of tonemapping with the Dfine plugin and CS4 HiPass filtering. I like the effects luminosity had on the upper columns.

    This video is aptly named – Finishing Touches – HDR

    A necessary step, IMHO!

  5. David Latour says:

    Hi Jeff. Great tutorial and great image. I have been there before and the place is one big photo-op. I wanted so badly to go on the photowalk this year on the Morristown Tn walk. I had a great time last year at the downtown Knoxville walk. I have come down with a horrible case of pneumonia, yes pneumonia during the summer and it has grounded me like I have never been grounded before. I will be out of action until at least the beginning of next week. I look forward to seeing all of the images when they are uploaded.

    Keep up the good work on the blog posts.

  6. Luis Barcelo says:

    Grate information, tks very much!

  7. one more place I need to go!! see you Saturday!!


  1. HDR Finishing Touches Tutorial http://bit.ly/15PlMr
    from @photowalkpro

  2. photoframd says:

    #photoshop PhotoWalkPro » HDR Finishing Touches Tutorial http://tinyurl.com/mr36ye

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