Mucking with Photoshop and HDR

For anyone who has any interest in playing around with HDR (high dynamic range) pics, and who find Photoshop a bit uncooperative, here’s a great piece of software that you can download and trial free of charge for as long as you like, as long as you don’t mind their watermark stamped all over you pic. The software is called Photomatix Pro 3 and can be downloaded from

Here is the original pic, before I had applied Photoshop’s gradient mapping and other techniques (apart from burning in the clouds):

The idea with HDR is to take a number of photographs at different exposures and then merge them. The camera should be set on aperture priority and then bracketed. Of course, as far as I’m concerned, that’s just silly. Why take seven pics if you can take one RAW image and adjust the exposure in Photoshop?

The nice people at Adobe disagree. They’re happy for me to adjust the exposure, of course, and to save seven different versions of the pic – from super dark to extremely bright – and they’re happy to apply the HDR recipe to the pics. And then they get to the end and tell you that there’s not enough range to create a decent HDR pic. Ah well.

If you open your images in Photomatix, though, the software will allow you to create what they call a ‘fake’ HDR. It does the whole job pretty quickly too, and has a very simple tutorial to follow if you’re feeling a bit intimidated. Obviously my pic still needs some more work. And the fellows at Adobe were probably right: I need to shoot something with a whole lot more contrast to create a really good HDR image. But it’s a fun technique nonetheless – kind of in the class of shooting with infrared film, or cross-processing your slide or print film.



Filed under Photography

2 responses to “Mucking with Photoshop and HDR

  1. Nice job.
    But rest assured, when you shot bracketed images correctly, you get optimum exposure of both the darkest and brightest points in the originals. When you use a single jpeg and create your brackets in Camera Raw, you really can’t create more data in the light/dark areas than is already there. Try some in camera bracketing and compare your end results. Use at least 5 images, if not more, with a full stop increment.
    Anyway, still nice work from the single jpeg.

  2. Patty Adams

    Maybe combine the original and the hdr and mask out the hdr part of the girl and her shawl… that way you will get the lovely bright colours back but keep the great effect of the sky.

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