Colorado Mesa Roadwork and a Mini HDR Tutorial

Here’s an HDR for all of you hungry for HDR images. To review: HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. HDR images are technically HDRI (if you want to sound like you REALLY know what you are talking about). HDR allows more light options to be shown in the image because you take several different exposures of the same shot, essentially allowing for a dark, light and normal version of the image (3-9 is the usual amount of shots taken)- that are then combined in a computer program (I use Photomatix Pro 4) to create your image. You can tone map the photo from there, which allows you to control the amount of detail in shadows and in highlights. Tonemapping also can give you the look of a realistic image, or a SUPER CRAZY OVERCOOKED HDR, depending on your settings. So play cautiously. Sometimes an image needs the overcooked look (I tend to get my slider as close to the left as I can get away with on the “micro smoothing” tab, which definitely adds noise and the grungy HDR look I like. But I try to temper it with sanity. Really I do!). I’ve found (and the vast majority of photographers out there with HDR tutorials seem to say as well) that you need to take that noisy image into Photoshop and play with it there before you have a clear final image. I will sometimes take parts of the original images and mask them into the HDR image in spots where the HDR didn’t work so well. I also play with the colors of my images A LOT- in this, I desaturated and darkened the blues to get the sky look I like, and changed around the yellow and rust colored equipment until I liked it better. I think noiseware of some kind is a must with HDR, and I always use either Noiseware Professional or Topaz DeNoise (both have their positives and their negatives, look up my reviews of each in this blog if you are interested in pros and cons… but know that as I’ve learned how each works, both have become very usable and friendly). Noiseware desharpens the image, so sharpening of some kind is needed to finish the picture- either in Photoshop or Lightroom. But be careful, as sharpening brings back some digital noise if you aren’t watching!

This particular image was finished with a hard light layer added over the main layer and mixed in. But that’s just my work… and a recent obsession (adding lighting layers to change the look). Totally not HDR-specific.

I’m not the best out there with HDR, but there are several places and people you can check out to see and learn from the real experts. For me, Trey Ratcliff at stuckincustoms.com is the master for HDR landscapes. I’d also look at Rick Sammon’s work at his blog site. Trey has a great HDR tutorial for free on his site, and Rick might also have something. Finally, to be inspired I go to HDRspotting.com. The featured images on the home page are always well done HDR, and the editors picks are amazing. If you can get invited to join, then share your work there. They rarely deny submissions, but to get on the featured page or editors picks requires a great image (and sends TONS of people to your website or flickr page, which is a plus). Contact me if you want an invite code, I have one free, or go to the HDRspotting facebook page and show your work there- maybe you will get a code from that. I suggest contacting artists directly from the HDRspotting website, complement their work, and ask for a code then. I am sure there are many more great HDR artists out there- I’d add Laurie Shupp, Brian Matiash, RC Conception and Scott Frederick on the short list of photographers that I really admire.

For other programs to create HDR, I’ve heard great things about the Photoshop CS5 program, and also Nik Software’s HDR Pro. It’s becoming more common, so look around and see what you can find. Photomatix has been around a while (Pro 4 just came out in 2010 though) but does quality images- and is fairly cheap. You still need Photoshop to really finish the images, though, and I heard that the Nik Software works well even without Photoshop… haven’t tried it though and so I can’t vouch one way or the other.

If I get comments on this, I’ll be glad to go back in and add more detail to any sections you want- well, more detailed. So feel free to comment good or bad on it! I’d also love more “go-to” people to suggest out there, so if you know a great HDR artist, let me know who he/she is! I have a “Check This Out” category on this blog where I suggest great artists I admire, so this could work into an article there in the future!

I wouldn’t say this is the best of my HDR. Here are some others which have gotten good comments or view counts:

To see more of my work, head to www.kelleybard.com and enjoy. I have a whole gallery just for HDR at www.kelleybard.com/hdr. There you can see my good images (and some of my bad HDR, I’m sure). Lastly I love to get connected with you on flickr, facebook, buzztown and twitter. Links are above to the right… and you can always search “Kelley Bard” or “Kelley Bard Photography” if you want to find me on one of those sites!

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About Kelley B.

I am a Durango, CO photographer who specializes in portraiture and wedding photography. My business is Kelley Bard Photography. You can find me around town, gardening, or on my website at www.kelleybard.com. View all posts by Kelley B.

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