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If you ask people who they do HDR images, they will all tell you something different.  When I first started doing them in Photoshop, I used a “recipe” that I read about in a book by Scott Kelby. I was reasonably happy, but I knew I could do better,  Then David, over at csd’s Daily Photo, recommended Photomatix Pro to me, and I haven’t looked back.  Over time I have worked things out and have come up with my own way of doing them.

Before I start this tutorial on how I do them, I want you to understand that I am not claiming to be an expert, far from it.  I do things my way. I’m not a highly technical person and tend to do things more on instinct and what I think looks good.

The first image I am going to work on is one I did for Christmas.  I shudder when I look at it now. The image is very gray which can happen with HDR’s.  Too much gamma, or something, not sure what.

The other problem with this image is the ever present halo.  I don’t know how many times I see HDR’s on the internet and you can tell what they are, they have a grey coating, I don’t know how else to describe it, they also have the halo around solid objects, and the over saturated colours.  I am not sure why it seems appropriate to oversaturate the colours in HDR images. I don’t know about you, but I really don’t like the bright green grass I see in many of them.

There is a detail of that image to show you what I mean.  It is really annoying and really makes the image stand out as a HDR image.

Admittedly this was done in Photoshop.  As I said, I now have Photomatix Pro, here is what it looks like when you open it up and press load images.

Remember you can click on any image and get a bigger picture.  I have made the Photomatix ones larger for that reason.  Hopefully you will be able to see them.

So in the image above you can see, we are ready to load our images, for the sake of this tute, we are using more than one image.

The three images I needed for this HDR image are there in that folder.  I highlight the 3 images and press open.

Here are the three images loaded.  There are a whole heap of pre-sets that you can use on the right, or they are underneath if the image is in landscape mode, but I find them too surreal or hyper-real and I don’t like them.  I click on Enhancer – Default.  It is also a pre-set, but is probably closest to the more natural image.  From there I go about changing all the pre-sets that are available on the left.

You can see the sliders have been changed on the left. I change the strength to over 80, depending on how I am feeling.  I don’t touch the saturation, I turn the luminosity down but no further than -4.  The details I go up about 2 or 3, be careful with this one, it can make the image quite dark. One thing I do do, which does really seem to change the image, well for me, the lighting adjustments.  I move it, most of the time all the way over to the right.  It nearly always gets rid of the halo.

More options, I don’t really do that much more, I do smooth the highlights sometimes, but more on that soon.  I change the gamma as well, you have to be really careful about gamma.  It can also darken the image.  If you do it the other way, it will lighten it, but again, be careful.

Once you have done that press process.

It is still very grey, but I suspect that is the scene more than the HDR process.  I hope you agree that this one is a lot better.  That is the difference, after viewing it again, I realise, it isn’t as luminescent.

I thought I would do another image as well, and show how to adjust for that halo.

Here is an image of the silos that are near my mum’s.  I have done this before, but as I was looking at it recently I realised how bad the halo was around it.  I will show it at the end, and you can compare the two different HDR images.  I have opened it up and clicked on the enhancer-default setting.

I have started making changes here, you can see the halo forming around the silos, and the lighting adjustments is still on 0.0, it is also still quite dark.

The lighting adjustments slider has been moved all the way over to the right, and you can see the image has lightened up a lot.  I also upped the smooth highlights as well, which really does help even it out as well.

So here is the image the first time I did it.

Here is the second time.

The first image has had some post processing, but I think the lighting in the second one is more natural and is a good image to begin post processing with.  I hope you agree. I am hoping you notice that the halo is gone.

That is about all of it now.  I don’t do a lot, but I think it is important to develop your own style.  I play with the settings, and I would recommend you do the same. Work on a copy of your image if you are worried about messing up your image, but you don’t have to save it if it doesn’t work.

Playing with the settings is really the only way to understand how each of the settings work and what they do.  I don’t really know what they each are, I won’t pretend, but I have a pretty good idea what each of them will do to my images.

If you have been following my blog you will know, that this is usually only the first step in processing my images.  I go on to do a lot more to it in Photoshop and with Topaz as well.  HDR images are not always necessary, but I nearly always take bracketed shots, why not, and then do the HDR.  I don’t think it hurts, I have a pattern now and it doesn’t take me very long at all.

I hope you understand all that.  Teaching isn’t always easy and explaining what you do can be really hard.  I am hoping to do one a week.  I am also hoping that Photomatix will come on board and offer you a 15% discount if you want to purchase it after this tutorial.  Next time, we might look at putting watermarks on your images, something I have been asked about a lot.

Update on  Photomatix Pro by HDRsoft .

Here is the coupon code for your 15% discount – LeanneCole15, it is not case sensitive.  I am told that you click buy, you will be taken to the order form where you can enter the code where it says Coupon code.  I hope many of you will take advantage of this, it is a great deal.  I would like to thank HDR Soft for this opportunity.  To purchase the software you can click on the Photomatix Pro link above, or go to their purchase page here.

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