Updated: May 10, 2019
HDR / High Definition Resolution photography software is definitely one of the greatest additions to Photography since the onset of pixels. HDR allows photographers' to capture a dynamic range not previously possible before. HDR software allows the photographer to make multiple exposures per scene; exposures will range from highlights all the way to the deepest of shadows. With a little de-saturation as stated in the above article and some basic color balancing techniques, most HDR images could pack a more realistic punch and in my opinion appeal to a larger and more sophisticated audience.
HDR / High Definition Resolution photography software is definitely one of the greatest additions to Photography since the onset of pixels. HDR allows photographers' to capture a dynamic range not previously possible before. Dynamic range is the contrast ratio between the lightest and darkest areas within a scene. Film and digital capture prior to HDR lacked the latitude to capture a scene with an extended tonal range, a common example that we have all been confronted with: a bright sunny day with deep shadows and blasting highlights.
In the days before Pixels photographers used graduated density filters in order to compensate for the brightness of the sky and the Zone System which allowed photographers to compress tonal values within a scene into eight zones of gray plus a pure white and black. Getting the zone system set up required numerous tests with film, exposure, and development as well as darkroom printing times, etc. not a method for the faint of heart and quite time-consuming in the beginning to get the system fine-tuned. Today photographers can capture an extended range of tonal values using HDR Software from Photoshop or Photomatix; the process is straightforward and relatively easily pulled off.
HDR software allows the photographer to make multiple exposures per scene; exposures will range from highlights all the way to the deepest of shadows. Like magic, the software will blend the over and under exposures together creating an image with shadow and highlight detail in full tonal fidelity, a magical feat compared to days past. There are still some inherent problems with HDR technology but in most cases, HDR software can be coaxed to pull off a natural looking high dynamic range photo without the over exaggerated color saturation which produces the HDR LOOK.
Newbie's to HDR can easily be seduced with HDR LOOK that frequently distracts from the content of the image itself. With a few Photoshop tweaks and a bit of understanding in regards to photo imaging, the HDR software can be tamed down to impart a natural looking beautifully balanced image with an extremely long dynamic range that still preserves the HDR PUNCH. When the viewer has to ask "IS IT HDR?" My take is; that is the point where HDR is successful.
Once you have processed your multiple exposure HDR images using either Photoshop or Photomatix software the next step in the workflow is to back off the overstated color using the Black&White adjustment layer in Photoshop. Apply the black & white adjustment layer to your image and you will see that your image has been morphed into a grayscale. Simply go up to the opacity slider in your B&W adjustment layer and slide it over to the left for a starter to around 20%or 30% you should see that your overly saturated HDR image is now looking a lot more realistic and has maintained its highlight and shadow detail.
You are now ready to fine-tune your tonal values within the image with the color sliders in the B&W adjustment layer. At this point, you can easily create a vector mask and tweak out the area's of saturation that you would like to fine tune, add a little dodging and burning to create the proper relationship between the highlights and shadows and you are done, it's that simple!
The HDR process is inherently noisy so a good noise filter will help reduce the pesky color noise in your image. Noise Ninja is a good choice as is Topaz Denoise. Both work well and are a great addition to digital imaging. A bit of tweaking with a noise filter and Photoshop layers adjustments will raise the level of your photo capture and the over exaggeration of HDR will be a thing of the past. You will have found your balance using HDR, a powerful tool and a straightforward process to incorporate into your digital workflow.
Take a look at a website by Trey Ratcliff/stuck in customs. Trey's site is filled with lots of good info on the HDR process, although in my opinion, his HDR photographic aesthetic is somewhat over the top in regards to exaggerated color however he has a good following. I can see how easy it can be to be tempted by the HDR LOOK, it allows one to put aside foundational basics for traditional photography on the back burner and leaves the outcome to the software without the intervention of the photographers' personal photo aesthetic.
With a little de-saturation as stated in the above article and some basic color balancing techniques, most HDR images could pack a more realistic punch and in my opinion appeal to a larger and more sophisticated audience. That said, enjoy the journey of the creative process and chances are you will enjoy the results. Creativity is dynamic; the magic is in the doing!
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