HDR Tutorial II

A few weeks back I showed you how to start 20121015-386_HDRout processing in high dynamic range photography with this HDR tutorial. I hope you had a chance to play around with it, because it really can be a lot of fun. As I promised here is now the second part, in which I will show you how I got to the finished picture in my fine art series here, and a little more to tonemapping and programs. And if you want to see how I processed this new photo you have to read to the end of this article.

20121230-057But first let’s start with my initial picture, which I got after adding multiple exposed images of the same scene together in order to mimic the high dynamic range that our eyes are able to see. This picture is quite realistic, but somehow still not what I saw and definitely not what I envisioned. So here are the next steps I took to get it closer to that.

The thing that bothered me, and it happens a lot in HDR pictures completely or only in parts, is that it looked over saturated. That is a pretty easy fix. Just add an adjustment layer ‘hue/saturation’ to your picture and play with the levers. In this case I kept it easy and reduced the overall saturation. I could have tried and just decreased the orange one, but I am all for simple and this one worked.

Next up to give the image a little more depth and away from reality I added a texture by Kim Klassen called Sundays.


With any layer that you add to the one before you can adjust – well, just about anything. But what I am getting at is that when you use a texture, you want to add to your picture without taking away. To do that you need to change the blending mode of the texture layer. In the end I used ‘multiply’. But as you can see in the following pictures, depending on your taste and what you want to accomplish, you could just as well use, ‘overlay’ or ‘softlight’ or any of the other modes.


In the first picture you can see that the texture, which is originally in color, shows in this picture as a not very pleasing greenish-brown. Hence I simply converted the texture only, by adding a clipping mask, to monochrome. So, I got the pattern, but not the color cast. Below as an example how the picture would look if I had used ‘overlay’ or ‘softlight’ instead of ‘multiply’ – quite a difference, huh?!


To ‘multiply’ as the name indicates usually tends to darken a picture. To counter that I added another adjustment layer ‘levels’ as a final step and brightened the picture a little. Et voila – this is the picture I got in the end.


So, you have come this far and probably wondered about ‘tone mapping’, which I had mentioned at the beginning of my HDR tutorial. I cannot word it any better than you can find it on wikipedia, but I can show you a few examples so you can picture what is meant. Here is the theory: ‘Tone mapping is a technique used in image processing and computer graphics to map one set of colors to another in order to approximate the appearance of high dynamic range images in a medium that has a more limited dynamic range.’ You can do the tonemapping with Photoshop similar to the steps I showed above or you can simply use a program for it. Photoshop also has got an in-house HDR solution with tonemapping, but I have to say as happy as I am with Photoshop, I didn’t like the HDR processing. But I have to admit that I haven’t tried it in a while.

NIK2Because in the meantime, actually some time back, I found NIK software. They have an excellent bundle of processing software including e.g. an excellent monochrome converter (NIK SilverEfex) I love and also an HDR program, called HDREfex Pro II. The beauty of this software is that it is easy to use and you see different versions of your image that you can choose from before you actually apply that version. Some of the presets are, in my opinion, totally over the top, but then again, hey, they might work for you. Have a look for yourself:



The one that I actually used to do some further work on, was the ‘realistic landscape’ preset. Obviously I didn’t want it too realistic, because I am trying to convey the drama that I saw during this sunrise. Which led me to emphasize the light and shadows and also some selected increase and decrease in saturation. All of this I did in Lightroom. Naturally I could have done it also in Photoshop or in NIK while processing the HDR or I could have used any of the other editing programs available. I also toyed with the idea of adding a texture, but in my mind it would be too overpowering. Tell me if you agree or disagree, in any case I hope you’ll enjoy!


So, tell me. What do you think? Any questions? Let me hear it in the comments!

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10 thoughts on “HDR Tutorial II”

  1. Beautiful and thank you! I’m new to photography and want so badly to take beautiful pictures. I am so thankful for folks like you who share their knowledge!


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