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Painted HDRs

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Here’s my latest Flickr post, as an example of what I mean by ‘Painted HDR’:
Winter Dock

HDR/HDRi (High Dynamic Range Imaging) gets a bad rep these days from overuse, inappropriate use, or being just plain ugly. (Insert “Like your face” joke here.)  Just Google “Bad HDR” and you’ll see what I mean.  Wait, I’ve even done it for you.

HDR is a photo tool.  Like Photoshop and Lightroom are tools.  As such, it should be used to create the look you want as a photographer or artist.  It shouldn’t be a look itself…

HDR ranting out of the way, the finished product above started out as these two pictures, one underexposed and one overexposed by about 1.3 stops:
Orig HDR2

Orig HDR1

Contrary to some beliefs that HDR needs at least 3, 5, or even 20 reference photos, I feel the best results are achieved using only two.

I opened them in the popular HDR program, Photomatix Pro.  If you’re really serious about HDR Photography, you need Photomatix Pro.  Other alternatives are the built-in HDR functionality of Adobe Photoshop, or go completely free with qtfpsgui.  No, that’s not a typo, that’s the name of the program.  Please let me know how you choose to pronounce it in the comments. 🙂

After opening and tone-mapping the photo according to my tastes, (Medium settings all around.  Basically default.) I opened up the picture in Adobe Lightroom 3.  At the time of this post, Lightroom 3 is still in Beta, so you may want to download the fully-functional trial while you still can.

One of Lightroom’s strengths is the ability to edit any minute aspect of a photo like hue, contrast, brightness, split toning, etc.  This is not to be confused with manipulation, which is left to Adobe’s flagship product, Photoshop.  Anyway, once these parameters are set, you can save that set of editing tweaks as a preset. You can also share and download these presets online!

The main preset in Lightroom 3 that I used was from LRB DRAGAN’s collection.

A few small contrast and color tweaks later, and I had my finished image!

SO, Not to over simplify, but again:

Orig HDR2

plus this:
Orig HDR1

plus Photomatix Pro, Adobe Lightroom 3 and the LRB Dragan Presets equals this:
Winter Dock

Questions? Please leave in the comments, and check out other related reading:

What is HDR? (High Dynamic Range)
How to use Photomatix Pro
What is Adobe Lightroom?
How do I install a Lightroom Preset?


4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Dia #

    The result is gorgeous. It really looks painted and not a similarity to the usual HDRs (that annoying grey hue, brrr). And you say you use only two photos? I must try this! Oh, and the tutorial is short! Perfect!
    Have a great weekend, Josh!

    March 4, 2010
  2. Thanks very much Dia! ^_^ If you decide to try it, let me know how it goes! Any questions along the process, feel free to post. Thanks for the comment!

    March 4, 2010
  3. Julien #

    Great tutorial…I’ll have a look at it again next time I attempt HDR!

    March 5, 2010
  4. Thanks Julien. Hope it goes well!

    March 5, 2010

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