Aug 222010

HDR photograph of Kilmore church on Mull. Processed by Photomatix Pro

I recently wrote a blog article about Photoshop CS5’s new “Merge to HDR Pro”. In that article I mentioned that the recent improvements with HDR software will mean that I will start to do more HDR photography in the future.

However, before committing to doing HDR with Photoshop CS5, I thought that I would do some more tests. The ultimate HDR test for me is how easy is it to create a HDR panorama?

Whilst in Scotland, I made a handheld panorama at Tobermory. The light was harsh, so it was a great opportunity to try HDR at the same time.

I first tried to process the HDR in Lightroom and Photoshop CS5. The result was good but I couldn’t find an easy way of batch processing all the segments of the panorama in one step. In this case there are 10 different segments with 3 exposures per segment.

Click on the photo to see more of this hand held HDR panorama of Tobermory.

With Photoshop CS5’s ‘Merge to HDR Pro’ I had to process each frame separately and stitch the HDR frames.

I then tried to do the same task with Photomatix Pro. Photomatix has a Lightroom plugin, when the plugin is combined with Photomatix Pro’s batch processing, it is easy to select ALL the photographs for a panorama (in this case 30) and process them together. It can achieve this because you can tell Photomatix Pro that you want it to do the HDR processing in steps of 3 (in this case).

If you photographed a HDR panorama with 8 segments and had 5 exposures per segment then you would select all 40 photographs in Lightroom, export them to Photomatix Pro and tell Photomatix Pro to do the HDR processing in steps of 5. It’s that simple!

I’ve been so impressed with Photomatix Pro that I contacted the developers (HDRsoft) and have got a 15% coupon code. If you want to buy Photomatix then click here and type ‘RBERRYPHOTO’ as the coupon code and you’ll save money!

Jun 012010

Mesa Arch at sunrise with typical single exposure

I have to admit that I’m pretty excited right now! The biggest bane with landscape photography is the limited dynamic range that our cameras have, especially when compared to our eyes. To overcome this problem, I often use graduated neutral density filters to make the bright areas of a photograph darker, this allows me to use a similar exposure for the highlights and the shadows. Graduated filters do work well but they have their problems.

One place I’ve always had problems is Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park. In the photo above, how do you make the middle darker without underexposing the arch?

The answer is HDR photography. The idea is that the photographer takes multiple, identical photographs with different exposures and then uses software to combine the images. The resulting photograph should look like the scene was perceived by the photographers own eyes. The only snag was that HDR software often made a mess of the combining and the result was a fake, cartoony looking image (below). With work, it was possible to get the right result but it was often easier to use a filter then use HDR.

Typical result from older HDR software

When Photoshop CS5 was announced, Adobe said that they had updated their ‘Merge to HDR’ and they called it ‘Merge to HDR Pro’. It is supposed to be easier to use and produce a more pleasing result than the older version. When I downloaded Photoshop CS5 today it was the feature I tested.

One nice thing about ‘Merge to HDR Pro’ is that there are now presets. The presets allow the photographer to quickly see how the image will look with different settings. I am finding that ‘Photo realistic low contrast’ is the best one, especially when combined with a 0.5 increase in exposure.

Once the Merge to HDR is completed I added several curves layers to increase contrast in specific areas. The result is below and it took about 10 minutes! I think that HDR photography is now a feasible alternative to using filters. It is fast, easy to do and looks great. I can’t wait to do more HDR photography when I go to Scotland.

Mesa Arch at sunrise. 5 exposures (1 stop interval) Merge to HDR Pro

Apr 102010

You’ve taken a nice photo but the light was too flat (overcast, hazy etc) and your photo lacks OOMPH! This week’s Photoshop tip is a simple way of adding OOMPH! (contrast) to photographs that need it. This technique works with Photoshop Elements as well as Photoshop.

This is Candlestick Tower in Canyonlands National Park and the photograph was taken on a very cold and hazy morning.

Although there is some nice red light, the image lacks impact.

A simple way to add contrast to photographs like this is to use Levels.



The histogram on the right is narrow which means that the photograph lacks tonal range.

With Levels we can increase the tonal range (make the histogram wider) and give the photograph the well needed OOMPH!

First of all, create a Levels adjustment layer.

With the layer created you should now see a dialog box that looks similar to the one on the left (the dialog boxes vary from version to version).

Below the histogram you will notice that there are three sliders. (Shadows, Midtones and Highlights).

These are called Input sliders.

To add OOMPH! you simply have to move the shadows input slider to the left edge of the histogram and the highlights input slider to the right edge of the histogram.

The end result should look like this.

By leaving the output at 0 (black) and 255 (white) you are essentially grabbing the ends of your existing histogram and stretching it so that your darkest tone is black and brightest tone is white.

This adds a lot more OOMPH! (tonal range) and as you can see it’s very simple.

Candlestick Tower with added OOMPH!

This is the end result!

Candlestick Tower with added OOMPH!
Mar 292010

When I finish editing a photograph I save the result as a layered Photoshop document (.psd) that usually has a bit depth of 16 bits, it has the ProPhoto RGB colour space and is huge! I call this a ‘master file’

How do I turn the huge master file in to a small JPEG quickly and easily?

Photoshop has a built in script then can create different file types, resize the files and in the case of JPEG files, convert them to the sRGB colour space. The script is called ‘Image Processor’.

How do you find Image Processor?

Click on the ‘File’ drop down menu. About 2/3 of the way down you’ll notice ‘Scripts’, click on that and you’ll see ‘Image Processor’ at the top of the Scripts menu.

This is what you’ll see.

The dialog box is self explanatory.

1. Choose which files you want to process.

2. Choose where you want to save the new files. Note, Image Processor will create a new folder inside the folder of choice. The folder will have the name of the file type that you’re creating. E.g. if you’re creating JPEG files then the folder will be called JPEG.

3. Choose the file types that you wish to create. More than one file type can be created at a time.

JPEG option – most jpeg files are used in email or on the internet. It is important that those files use the sRGB colour space. Clicking the sRGB option will allow the Image Processor to convert the file’s current colour space to sRGB.

The JPEG quality option affects the file size and image quality. Use a high option e.g. 10 for high quality but large size. If I’m creating files for the internet I use 6.

Resize to fit – Type in the size in pixels that you want the longest edge to be. If you’re opening a variety of portrait and landscape oriented images then set the width and height to the same values.

4. Preferences – It is possible to run an action during the Image Processor. Create the action in Photoshop first and then select the action in preferences.

Copyright Info – Use this box to add your copyright information to the processed files. This does not create a watermark, it just adds the information to the metadata.

Check the box to include the ICC profile.

Using the Image Processor from Bridge – Perhaps the best way to use the Image Processor is through Bridge. To do this, launch Bridge, select the photos you wish to process, click on the Tools drop down menu, choose Photoshop, then click on Image Processor. You’ll see the same dialogue box as shown above.

I hope you find this useful!