Original photo

This is one of the first HDR photos a friend of mine took, it’s shot with a borrowed Canon 300D, it’s a very nice photo and shitloads better then my first tries at HDR but I thought there was more potential in the picture so I asked if I could play with the raw files and this is kind of a walk-through of what I did to the raw files. Maybe someone can snap something useful up… maybe not… anyways, here goes… =)

First I opened the images in Adobe’s browser Bridge, I am not a Canon user and my OS can’t view the images in Finder it seems. I selected the images that are a part of this bracket and opened them in Camera Raw

In Camera Raw I set the white-balance on the snow to something close to white, put all the sliders to neutral (zero) and also set the contrast curve in the next tab to linear

Over the list of thumbnails [Select all] then [Synchronize] -> Everything (So all the images get the same settings in the Raw conversion)

Under the list of thumbnails is a button called [Save Images] I saved the converted images as 16 bit tiffs…

Go make coffee while Camera Raw is working, then go to Photomatix. Select [Create HDR Image] then browse to where you saved the images and open them.

Unless you are absolutely sure that there are no movement of the camera click the [Align source images] and Matching feature is the better alternative. I usually don’t use either reduce CA or Reduce Noise because I can do a better job in the post processing, this time I saw that the images were very noisy so I clicked that… The Reduce ghosting option is not very useful in this picture, that is more of a summer thing… =)

Aah the HDR image… take a break to admire it before clicking the [Tone Mapping] to make it a Low Dynamic Range image again…

This step takes a bit of fiddling around, there are no correct way to set the sliders but this is how I did it…

Strength: 100 (I can always fade back later)
Color Saturation: 60 (here too I want to go a bit over the top so I can fade back to what I like later)
Luminosity: +8 (I still don’t really know what this actually does… I set the overall brightness with gamma…)
Light Smoothing: 3 of 5 – Medium (It’s easy to make cartoonish HDR’s by dragging this too low… I usually use 3 or 4 on this)
Micro contrast: +8 (I like to keep this one high, it brings structure to the image)

White Point: 0.015% (Where to clip the white end of the histogram)
Black Point: 0.010% (Where to clip the black end. Usually you don’t want to clip much of the ends, unless you want a black night sky for example)
Gamma: 0.51 (This is where you set how bright the image should become…)

Temperature: 0 (This is worthless if you are shooting raw, the converter is making a hell of a much better job)
Saturation Highlights: 0 (This is good for toning down the colors in the highlights, snow for example)
Saturation Shadows: 0 (Good for colored shadows)

Micro Smoothing: 20 (This smooths out halos and other artifacts from the HDR process, good slider, I like)
Highlights Smoothing: 0 (I never needed any of these last three, they sure are good for something but I haven’t figured it out yet)
Shadows Smoothing: 0
Shadow Clipping: 0

360 Image: Not checked (this is for panoramas, sometimes it can help to get more light to the edges but normally this is not interesting for me)

When you’re done with the sliders and buttons press [Process] and watch the progress bar, that coffee is done now by the way. When you come back from the kitchen go to File and Save As, 16 bit tiff, check the open in Photoshop box.

Photoshop… I was trying to open one of the middle exposures to blend back some of the tonemapping but the image was so very noisy and it didn’t align very well so I figured that I don’t need to fade this back, it’s fine just like it is.

I opened a filterpack called NIK Color Efex Pro, I’ve been using NIK filters for some time and I find them very good.. the module that was on was Glamour Glow, though it was not what I wanted it looks pretty nice…

What I did want was the module Tonal Contrast, it brings out the contrast in a nice way, without messing up the levels to much.

I like to work on the tones in a black and white converter / darkroom emulator, This is called NIK Silver Efex Pro and it’s without any doubt the best black and white converter I’ve tried, it’s better then the actual darkroom…
I pulled up structure and contrast, and adding some light to the snow

Added a magenta color filter and some vignette, that looks fine I think –> [OK]

Back in Photoshop set the black and white layer to only affect the luminosity, and not the colors.

There was a little color artifact around the sun that made the sky look green, I made a layermask and remove that then copied the merged layers to a new one (Mix)

Next step is to try to get rid of the most of the noise, I used a Noise reduction filter from NIK called Dfine

To get back some of the noise structure I faded the layer back to 80% and mixed down…

Finnish up with a slight curve adjustment, Flattened the image and saved…

Photo by Jussi Väisänen (click on through his blog too and give him some traffic.)

The End