View Full Version : to HDR or not? - Layering HDR in Photoshop

10-04-2011, 04:22 PM
I have two images below:
The first one is processed using Lightroom (gradient, contrast, masking of trees on the horizon).
The second one is obtained using Photomatix HDR software from a single RAW image.

Which one do you prefer?

10-04-2011, 05:20 PM
IMO, I like the first one. To me, the second one seems a little animated around the mud.

Mad Aussie
10-04-2011, 05:27 PM
I like the second one but would back the saturation down quite a bit and maybe just darken it a tad as well.

10-04-2011, 05:36 PM
Hard to choose. I like the sand better in shot one but the clouds and trees in shot 2. Agree w/MA about the saturation in general.

10-04-2011, 06:20 PM
Sorry, I'm not going to add anything to what's been said other than to agree with Marko and MA. The first one seems more real and less fake but the saturation seems way over the top to me.

10-06-2011, 08:00 PM
cool : 3 - 2 in favor of the first shot (1 tie in there).

I don't know why I tend to add a lot of saturation to my images (i guess it like adding too much salt to my food :). Probably just my way to create a colorful world to "get away from it all"!

Thanks for you comments !

The HDR process performed by these programs is too magical too me. In other words, I don't really know what the program is doing to blend images together. The output textures look kinda funny to me (in a good surreal way sometimes), but I would like to know how the algorithm works.

Can anyone point me to a source that explains a good HDR algorithm in detail? I wouldn't mind trying one of these procedures manually (as MA suggested in a previous post)??


Mad Aussie
10-06-2011, 08:17 PM
The manual process I use is totally aimed at a more real outcome.

When the shutter clicks, the camera has but a split sec to capture a wide dynamic range on a sensor that can't cope with that dynamic in full anyhow. Hence the need for the HDR process.

HDR software though, usually enhances things, and creates artefacts that were not there in reality.
For me, and many others, strong HDR images rarely are as appealing for landscapes and nature as a more natural shot would be because they introduce un-natural images. Instances where there's lots of texture in a landscape/nature shot can be the exceptional exception though.

To create an HDR image manually I simply use layer masks. I open the 3 (for example) bracketed photos in Photoshop, and copy two of them and paste them onto the 3rd photo. I usually stack them with the photo that has the best exposure for my scene on top. I might also apply some levels etc to them if I feel it's necessary now but it can be done at any point before any merging of layers is under-taken.

I then add a layer mask to that top photo and use the paint brush with black (choosing a suitable opacity, usually 30% or less), on that layer mask, and 'paint in' the bits I need from the layer below. Think of the photos as printed photos one on top of each other. This process is like dissolving parts of the top photo so the photo below starts to show through only in those areas painted.

Then I usually merge those two top photos so I now have two photos left, the bottom one I haven't touched yet, and the top one which is the combination of the top two photos. Now I add a layer mask to that top photo and repeat the process.

The end result is a photo that is a combination of the 3 photos but with no un-natural processing applied.

When you get good with layering like this you can selectively sharpen parts of your image well and also selectively saturate or any other process you feel is necessary.

I just gave away my processing secrets ...

10-06-2011, 11:14 PM
Thanks for that detailed run-down. Now i can try it!

You just gave away your processing secrets indeed, but you have most likely spent time developing a good talent to put some great images together.

In the end, it seems like a much more controlled way that to feed a bunch of images through a program, dial a few knobs, and get an output.

Mad Aussie
10-07-2011, 02:43 AM
There are times when I love the 'processed' style of HDR programs like Photomatix give, but it's usually with architecture, heavily textured subjects, or man made things like cars etc.

10-07-2011, 03:18 AM
MA's technique is similar to Michael kelley's method:

michael kelley - architectural photography process and technique (http://mpkelley.com/technique/)

10-07-2011, 09:59 AM
(edited the thread title to make it easier to find)

I often process like MA as well. I find it faster.
Photomatix can ALSO be used in a subtle way, but may people choose whacked out processing when using it.