HDR in Lightroom

posted in Other on with 2 Replies

When I was writing the 11 tips for Lightroom, I also thought to include how one works with 32-bit files in Lightroom. But as this is a little bigger subject, in the end I decided to give it a separate blog post. So here it is.

Lightroom is a great photo editing too, and since few versions ago, it can also edit 32-bit tiff files. If you remember my What is HDR post, 32-bit files can contain a huge dynamic range, so being able to edit them directly can create some very nice results.

Of course, same as with all the different ways of editing, it’s not perfect, and does not work well for every photo. But it’s an interesting technique and I suggest you give it a try.

So how to do it?

1. Merge the files in Photoshop

Yes, you still need Photoshop (or Photomatix Pro or other program that can create 32-bit files), as Lightroom can edit 32-bit files, but can’t create them. So first, once you select the files you want to merge, I would suggest correcting chromatic aberrations and lens distortions. You can do this also alter, but the results are not so good.

HDR in LightroomChoose merge to HDR Pro
HDR in LightroomMerge to HDR dialog

After that, select all the brackets, right click on one and choose Merge to HDR in Photoshop. Once you do this, all the files will be exported into Photoshop and the Merge to HDR dialog will open. Here you will probably see the 16-bit version, but that’s not what we need. Change to the 32-bit mode and just confirm (in the case you need to remove ghosting, choose also that option).

HDR in Lightroom32-bit file in Photoshop
HDR in LightroomSave as 32-bit

The file will be opened in Photoshop in 32-bit mode, and can be saved as a 32-bit tiff file from there.

2. Merge the files in Photomatix Pro

Another option to create a 32-bit tiff file, is to use Photomatix Pro. Just exporet the files you want to merge from Lightroom, or use RAW, and open them in Photomatix. What you need to do, is check the Show 32-bit image and choose merge. In few seconds, you will see the 32-bit file, which you can save as 32-bit tiff.

HDR in LightroomMerge in Photomatix
HDR in LightroomSave as 32-bit tiff

You can also find a Lightroom plugin from Photomatix, that does this step directly and you never have to leave Lightroom. You can find it here: Merge to 32-bit Plugin

3. Edit the 32-bit file in Lightroom

Once you have the 32-bit tiff file, you can import it back into Lightroom. You will see that nothing changes in the interface, and you can edit it as any other photo. The only change that is there, is that the Exposure slider goes from -10 to +10 instead of -5 to +5.

HDR in LightroomNegative exposure
HDR in LightroomPositive exposure

You will notice, that you can go really to extremes with all the sliders, and still you get a lot of detail and very little noise. That’s because, where Lightroom normally tries to works with information, that is not in a photo. But with the 32-bit file, there is just much more of it there.

HDR in Lightroom32-bit tiff file, with no edits
HDR in LightroomAfter few edits (but could be better :))

So from here you can use any of the tools available in Lightroom, to get the result you want. But before you start, I suggest playing a little with the Exposure, and find a good start in that huge dynamic range. For some photos it can happen, that you will start with a completely dark or white photo, so just move the slider up/down until it’s ok.

As every Monday, also this one I’m sharing with you another processing post. For today I chosen a photo from Paris, of the Eiffel tower, taken from the Tour Montparnasse. So let’s start.

As always here is first a look at the finished and the starting image. As you can see, I didn’t need that much to change, as the photo was quite alright already from the start. It just needed more detail, contrast, and few tweaks here and there.

Soft sunset in ParisFinished photo
Soft sunset in ParisOriginal photo

For this photo, I took 5 exposures, but I didn’t need all of them. In the end I just used two. I think I mentioned it in my Oloneo Photoengine tips, that if one does not need exposures, one should not use them. More exposures will just lead to more ghosting and a less sharper image.

Soft sunset in ParisAll 5 exposures
Soft sunset in ParisEditing in Oloneo Photoengine

So I continued by few tweaks in Lightroom, removed chromatic aberations and corrected the horizon line. I then exported the two exposures I needed and opened them in Oloneo Photoengine. There I created two versions, one for the city (natural mode on) and one for the sky (natural mode off). I could have of course use also a different approach, like manual blend, but this is what I did :)

Soft sunset in Paris1st Photoengine result
Soft sunset in Paris2nd Photoengine result

From there I loaded these two versions and the -1EV image into Photoshop. There I did the following edits (layers numbered from bottom up)

1. 1st Oloneo Photoengine result
2. 2nd Oloneo Photoengine resutls, masked out to only show the sky and the tower
3. -1EV exposure, to correct a little ghosting of the cars in the foreground
4. Retouched out the light streak that was on the bottom of the photo.
5. Noise reduction using Imagenomic Noiseware.
6. Added more overall contrast
7. Added more contrast to the buildings in the distance, to make them more dominant
8. Removed a little color from the tower by using the 1st Oloneo result
9. Color efex Pro contrast to add a little more detail to the city (but I ended changing the opacity of the layer to 25% :))

Soft sunset in Paris
And that’s all I did with this image. To find out more on how I edit, check out the guides and before after categories on this blog, or check out my video tutorial series here:

Blue hour in Zurich

posted in Switzerland, Zurich on with No Comments


Follow me on Ello

For the last few days I’ve been hearing about the new social network ello.co, so I thought I give it a try. My first impressions, are really very positive. Very clean UI, no visible compression on the images, nice responsive design. If you compare it to Facebook, it’s like comparing Google to Yahoo. One is clean and simple, the second is a huge pile of random stuff. Ello is currently invite only, but I hope they open it up soon.

So since I like the style, I will be posting to it for some time, you can say on a trial basis :). Let’s see where this network goes. You can find me there under https://ello.co/miroslavpetrasko and if you already have an account, feel free to follow me.

Blue hour in Zurich

Somehow, my photos from Zurinch are not that great. Somehow the light was just not the best. And since I was there only 2 days, I could not really wait for better one. But still, with a lot of tweaking, there will be few nice ones. There always are.

So for today, here is a blue hour shot taken in the center of Zurich, one, with a nice reflection to it. This is a HDR from 4 exposures, created in Oloneo Photoengine, finished in Photoshop.
Blue hour in Zurich

The curvy road

posted in Switzerland, Zermatt on with No Comments

Behind the scenes in Dubai

These are two behind the scenes photos, taken earlier this year while I was occupied with taking photos :) They were recently posted by Marek Kijevsky (check out his photos on his Facebook page) who joined me for most photo shootings there. But I should give credit to his lovely wife Julia, as she took them :)

Btw. I’m the one on the right in the first photo, and on the left in the second :)
Behind the scenes in Dubai

The curvy road

There were so many nice spots in the Alps. Just going along the road, we had to stop few times, so I can take more photos. Same here. I really liked the curvy road, even if I could not find a place that was high enough to see ti better. Still, it creates a nice path for the viewers eye to follow into the photo :)

This is a HDR from 5 exposures, created in Oloneo Photoengine, finished in Photoshop.

The curvy road

11 most common HDR mistakes

posted in Other on with 2 Replies

There are some problems with HDR photos, and it’s sad that that’s how most of HDR is characterized. And since I think, we all should strive for better results, and showing everyone that HDR can create stunning results if used correctly, here is a list of most common HDR mistakes, that I think one should avoid.

Before I get to the list, two more notes first. I will be using my older photos to illustrate the problems (as I did the mistakes myself at one time or another) so don’t expect any great photos here :). Secondly, if any of the results I describe here, are the results you desire for your photos, that’s doesn’t mean you are doing it wrong, it just mean you are going more towards the artistic HDR and that’s your decision. I would probably not like that, as I go more towards the realistic result, but again, style is very personal and is different for everyone, so keep doing what you like :).

That’s all for this, and lets look at the list :)

1. Lost contrast

The most common problem I see all the time. It’s the result of what HDR is and why you actually using it. Just think about it. If you have a proper exposure for every part of the photo, there are no highlights and now shadows. And that’s actually what a HDR result is. But a photo like this is very bland and boring. Nothing stands out.

So the goal should be, that the shadow areas are still a little darker then the average area of the photo, and the bright areas are still a little brighter. With this, the contrast is still there, but you don’t have extremes. Also the human eye is drawn to the highlight areas, and if you have none, it just moves randomly around the photo. And that’s not what you want.

Close to the lost of contrast, is also the lost of all shadows. There are very few instances when a scene has no shadows in it, and a photo looks just strange without any.

HDR mistakesMissing all the contrast
HDR mistakesJust too much color

2. Too many saturated colors

First of all, I think that you can have saturated colors in photos. There are enough examples of objects , that are just very colorful. But, if the whole photo consists only from strongly saturated colors, this is very tiring for the viewers eyes, and one can’t look at it for a longer time. If you include areas where the saturation is not so high, the eyes can move to them, and rest for a while.

So having a nice balance, between saturated and un-saturated color, is the best way to go.

3. Too much detail

Similar to the colors, one can have also to much detail. Not every part of the photo has to be super detailed, and if one wants to highlight the subject, it’s even better if the remaining areas are a bit less detailed, so they don’t pull the focus away from the main subject.

The human brain does not work in absolutes. It compares stuff. So something looks the sharpest when there is something blurry near by. Something looks detailed, when there is something less detailed near by. And actually same goes for color saturation.

HDR mistakesJust too much detail
HDR mistakesLight inversion

4. Light inversion

Another very often seen effect of HDR. This is when the dark parts of a the scene, are brighter than the light parts of the scene in the finished photo. This looks just strange and very artificial. If you want your photo to look realistic, the shadow areas should be darker than the light areas. Always.

5. Grey whites

This is also a classic result of HDR editing programs. What they do, is, that they try to darken the bright areas of a photo. But if an area is white, it can not be darkened while keeping it white, and from this the ugly grey color is created. Either don’t use HDR when taking photos of white objects, or blend the area back from the non-HDR photo.

HDR mistakesThe clouds should be much whiter
HDR mistakesNo real sense of composition

6. Forgetting about composition

Just making a photo HDR, will not make the composition better. If you are shooting a normal or a HDR photo, the first step should always be to decide the composition. If that’s bad, HDR editing will not make the photo better. Feel free to go over my list of composition tips for more.

7. Bokeh HDR

A place where HDR just looks ugly, is bokeh. The reason is simple. Where bokeh created a soft transition between shapes, HDR usually creates a hard, very defined transition. It’s always better not to create HDR from the out of focus areas of a photo, or blend them manually, not by using any of the HDR tone-mapping software.

HDR mistakesThere is no need for detail in the Bokeh
HDR mistakesThe edit is visible everywhere

8. Processing artifacts

There are many HDR processing software and many techniques how to blend images. Each of them can create really ugly artifacts in a photo, hard transition, strange shadows, out of place outlines and much more. Usually when one sees this, one needs to tone down the settings in the respective software or play more with the masks when manually blending. It’s hard to get rid of them, once they appear, so try to avoid them as much as possible.

Also photography errors, like chromatic aberrations, not properly focused areas and noise, are more visible after HDR processing, and should be dealt with before one even goes into HDR processing.

9. Using HDR when it’s not needed

As with every technique, HDR is not always needed. Don’t force HDR on every photo. Especially photos of people are great example, for when to avoid it. Some photos just look better, when there are strong shadows, overexposed areas and lost detail. Photos, where you just want to show a feeling, or mood, are the ones where you usually just don’t need HDR

HDR mistakesThe mood would be enough without HDR
HDR mistakesOveruse of Topaz Adjust

10. Using HDR filters

A filter named HDR is not the same as a HDR photo. They usually create very grungy, unrealistic looking, a lot of times ugly, results. Even the better ones, can’t really have the best results, if they don’t have the information they need in the image file. And usually when one uses a filter like this, one does not have the brackets required for the dynamic range.

I personally try avoid these, as a real HDR looks always better.

11. Just going overboard

One can use anything while editing photos, but everything should be used sparingly. Just throwing a bunch of filters on a photo, and thinking that that will make it great, never works.

For instance this photo. It’s just so over the top in detail, colors, just everything. I actually still like it, but probably only because it’s old and I’m nostalgic about it :)

And that’s all for this post and feel free to ask if you have any questions.