November 01, 2006

Creating professional HDR images

Ryan McGinnis of Backing Winds has posted a solid intro to creating high dynamic range images in Photoshop.  "Photoshop CS2 has a little-known (it seems) built-in HDR assembler," he writes, "that, while lacking the ‘make my photo look like an acid-trip‘ tone-mapping features of Photomatix, is capable of creating extremely realistic or extremely surreal HDR images." He ends up with a beautifully exposed image of the interior of a cathedral, although it would be nice to get a bit more info on how he (very capably) tone-mapped the 32-bit file down to 16bpc. [Via]

I mentioned the article to Photoshop engineer John Peterson, who worked on the Merge to HDR feature.  He points out a few things:

  • Instead of opening images via Camera Raw, setting their parameters, and then choosing Merge to HDR, you can simply select them in Bridge and choose Tools->Photoshop->Merge to HDR (or from within Photoshop, choose File->Automate->Merge to HDR).
  • Merge to HDR and Camera RAW have a secret handshake where M2HDR tells Camera Raw to always zero out the exposure-related parameters (Exposure, Shadows, Brightness, Contrast) and guarantee linear output.
  • "The alignment feature doesn’t usually work so great" — Fair enough, and we have some good ideas on how to improve it.
  • "You don’t need to adjust the histogram…it has no effect on the final image" — This is true, although it does set the exposure value for the finished document.

Speaking of HDR, here’s an otherworldly photo of an Italian cathedral.  And John P. speaks highly of the Merge to HDR chapter in Mikkel Aaland’s Photoshop CS2 Raw.

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