Monday, August 20, 2012

HDR Made Simple

So this is a shot that I did in April last year. I was still right into HDR and this was my attempt at trying to copy Farbspiel's work. He truely is the master of the HDR-vertorama and an inspiration to anyone that's keen to do HDR. Also, his "vertorama" technique has allowed incredible perspectives, especially with indoor architectural shots.

My shot comprised of three shots at -2, 0 and +2 exposure values pointing straight forward then the same again at 45 degrees then finally another 3 shots with the camera pointing straight up. Each of the nine shots was then individually manipulated in Light Room. These were exported as JPEGs (sorry Farbspiel but have never got my head around TIFFs) and then each group of three was imported into Photomatix. The HDR for each section was then created resulting in 3 HDR pictures - one for the bottom, one for the middle and one for the top of the vertoram (which is essentially a vertical panorama).

The three HDR shots were then opened with Photoshop's Photomerge panorama menu which is found under the tabs --> New --> Photomerge panorama. This was set to "auto" mode and the program plays around with the three pictures and lines them up appropriately to make the final vertorama.

A few more tweaks were added in Photoshop like a bit of contrast and some levels work and finally the image layers were flattened and it was added to a black background etc. This is the result and while it's quite a cool effect but very time consuming. If this was my full time job then I could understand the necessity for this level of input but as this kind of photography for me is more of a hobby for me I simply can't justify the work required for this result.

So what is the solution for this? Surely there must be an easier way to produce something like this? Ok, I realise that any short-cut method to do this might not stand up to much scrutiny but still if it's just for fits and giggles then I don't suppose it really matters that much.

This is the alternative. This took me about 7 minutes to do. Essentially, I used only three shots in total instead of nine - one from the bottom, one from the middle and one from the top. I used the "zero" exposure shots from each series and uploaded them into Lightroom. I played about with the highlights and shadows and then added some clarity and vibrance. These were exported as JPEGs and then photomerged as above. I think at this point I had used up 3 minutes!

Next I opened Topaz Adjust in Photoshop and used the HDR filter with the "dynamic pop" selected. I adjusted the sliders for adaptive exposure and for colour / saturation and clicked "ok". 6 minutes!

Finally I added the border, the watermark and overlaid the text at the top. Total time - 7 minutes. Not bad and you can be the judge of the result. Frankly, I think that it seems to be almost the same as the one at the top. In fact, I might actually prefer it. I certainly like how little time it took to do this in comparison to the first shot which was about an hour's work. It just goes to show how easy it is to do this kind of thing now and all off these effects are very accessible to everyone.

At this point I could have a gripe about how hard it would be to make a living being a photographer mainly due to the fact that everyone has a camera nowadays and often a very good one. When people see a painting that they like they will ask the artist, "How much is that?" but when they see a photo they like they ask, "How did you do that?"

As I said, I could have a gripe... but I won't. :p

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