A Better Approach to HDR Processing Workflow with Adobe Lightroom

Last year, I wrote a bit about my mid-2011 photography processing workflow. I talked about how, for single-image HDR processing using RAW images, I would open them in Photomatix Pro rather than using Lightroom’s export image capability. I also wrote how, for HDR bracketed images, I did use Lightroom’s export image capability to convert them to JPEGs for processing in PhotoMatix pro.

My friend Doug Kaye has shared his new insights about a better workflow for HDR processing – one that maximizes the dynamic range available for post-processing rather than limits it as the Lightroom export flow automatically does. Be sure to read his insights – along with those of Klaus Herrmann who introduced the notion creating extended EV value images as TIFF files from the original bracketed RAW images in his article “Creating HDR Images the Right Way.” If you have comments for Doug, please share them on his Google+ post.

Douglas C-47 Skytrain at Castle Air Museum

Douglas C-47 Skytrain at Castle Air Museum

Here’s another photo from almost four years ago taken at the Castle Air Museum in Atwater, California. This time, it’s a C-47 Skytrain, the workhorse transport aircraft of WW II, the Berlin Airlift, etc.

This shot was taken using my first digital SLR, a Canon 30D, as a single RAW image. Postprocessing was done using Lightroom 3, Photoshop CS5 (to remove power lines, etc) along with Nik’s HDR Efex Pro and Color Efex Pro.

Hope you enjoy it!

The Power of Black and White – Canon S95 HDR

Maybe it’s the visit to the Ansel Adams show with Chris on Saturday that has sent me over the edge, but I’m continually intrigued by how one can take a color photo and turn it into a much more powerful black and white image.

See the photo below – it’s #3 from my initial Canon S95 HDR post earlier this morning.

Rodin's Gates of Hell @ Stanford

Frankly, I didn’t spend much time on this photo – the point was to provide it (a traditional HDR post-processed shot) as a point of comparison with the new in-camera HDR feature built-in to the S95.

As I was looking at it, I wondered how a conversion to black and white might look – now that I’ve become acquainted and familiar with Lightroom 3’s excellent Black and White Mix controls.

So, I gave it a shot – here’s the result – after about 10 minutes of tweaking in Lightroom:

Rodin's Gates of Hell - Canon PowerShot S95 - HDR

Obviously, it’s the same subject as the original photo – Rodin’s Gates of Hell – but it’s been transformed into a more powerful photograph through the conversion to black and white.

I also experimented for the first time using the new Lens Correction features in Lightroom 3 – to remove the distortion in terms of angle, etc. that I had in the original image. It now looks very close to a direct, head-on shot at the scuplture.

Finally, I tweaked it in Flickr – using Picnik to add a museum frame around it – dressing it up a bit.

I like the result. What do you think?

You may also want to view my Flickr set of Canon S95 HDRs taken this morning at Stanford.

HOW TO: Setting up the Canon PowerShot S90 to Shoot HDR

Golden Gate Bridge - 2010

[Update: These same techniques apply to the Canon PowerShot S100 and, I believe, to the Canon PowerShot S110 as well as the Canon PowerShot S95.]

A friend has asked how I’ve been setting up my Canon PowerShot S90 to take the HDR (High Dynamic Range) photos I’ve been sharing.

Here’s what I’ve been doing:

  1. Put the S90 into Aperture Priority mode by setting the mode dial to Av. By shooting in Av, you ensure that the camera isn’t adjusting the aperture (which could cause focus issues) but, rather, only shutter speed. 
  2. Select a fixed (not Auto) ISO (see p. 76 in the S90 manual). In daylight, choose 80 or 100. You want a fixed ISO so that the camera isn’t trying to adjust ISO between shots.
  3. Select Large format JPEG or RAW (see p. 72 in the S90 manual). (I find the Large JPEGs are the easiest to post-process while purists say to shoot in RAW. The S90 does a superb job of processing in-camera, so just choose Large JPEG when you’re getting started.)
  4. Turn on Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB mode – see p. 93 in the S90 manual). Chose the middle option – “Takes 3 different shots at different exposures”. While still in that setting, press the DISP button and turn the dial to select +/- 2 stops. This ensures that the camera takes 3 shots: one properly exposed, one underexposed by 2 stops, and one overexposed by 2 stops. These three photos are what Photomatix Pro then uses to create the HDR image.

Now, the S90 is ready to go.

For best results, mount the S90 on a tripod to prevent any movement as the three shots are being taken. If you don’t have a tripod, you can try handheld HDR – just try to brace your arm against a support to minimize any camera movement. When you hit the shutter button, the camera will take the 3 shots – about a shot per second. After 3 seconds or so, it’s done.

I post-process in Lightroom – using it to import the photos from the S90. I then use Photomatix Pro and just point it to the 3 shots in the file folder to begin generating the HDR image. Once the image has been generated and tone mapped, I save it back into the same folder and then import that image also into Lightroom – telling Lightroom to just add it to the catalog but not to copy it as the image is already in the folder.

For the best overall tutorial on HDR processing, be sure the see Trey Ratcliff’s Stuck in Customs HDR tutorial.

More HDR Photography – Allied Arts Guild in Menlo Park

It was another bright sunny January early afternoon today – following a clear, crisp night last night with temps early this morning in the mid-30’s and frost on the deck!

Getting Outside

Allied Arts Guild, Menlo Park, CA

HDR – Fully Processed

After (seemingly!) playing endlessly with Twitter and FriendFeed this morning, I decided to leave the computer behind and to head outdoors to do some more mid-day, bright sun, high dynamic range (HDR) photography. For me, HDR is perfect for mid-day, high contrast sun/shadow photography – just the opposite of that special early morning / early evening soft light that photographers otherwise learn to love.

This time, I wanted to stay close to home and minimize the travel time. Stanford University is always an option – it’s literally just around the corner and is where I started my HDR exploits in early September 2008. There’s a world of photo opportunities still waiting for me there at Stanford. But, been there, done that! I was looking for new adventures today!

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