Free HDR Tutorial Part 2

Welcome to part two of the tutorial, I wanted to separate the camera setup and the editing part. The main reason is the fact that there is so much information to take in, in part two of the tutorial you will learn the basics of composition and how I see the world in HDR. You will also learn the basic editing process through Photomatix, Adobe Bridge and Adobe Photoshop. So lets begin

The basic thought process of composition.

When I first started taking photos I would line my main subjects with the rule of thirds, they turned out ok. While I was surfing the internet there was a forum where people kept referring to Phi and when you use this rule your photo will turn out better. Phi is the ratio of beauty 1.618, the ancient architects designed some of the well known buildings in the world with this rule, the famous Mona Lisa was painted using these Phi points. If you look at a rose and the way the petals splay out, this also uses this rule. Over time I have been able to train my eye to line up subjects along these Phi points. Below are two samples of the how I lined up these points with the main subjects, after you start using Phi your photos will really make a lot more sense and they will be more appealing to the human eye.

Phi Points Example 1 Phi Points Example 2

When you start capturing images in HDR the final result will give the viewer a feeling of being there, you see images are 2D but the human eye can see 3D. Whenever I am on a photo adventure I always look for repeating subjects, when you shoot repeating subjects it gives your photo a sense of depth. Below is a sample of repeating subjects I captured, in the case I lined up the pine trees to give the viewer a feeling of depth.

2D Becomes 3D

First Step In Processing

Now you know the basics of composition it’s time to bring the artist out in you. To make it easy for you I have attached a link that are 5 exposure bracketing images straight out of my camera, these images have not been touched in any way. The only thing I have done is converted them from RAW to JPEG, if you click the link the images will start downloading ( completely virus free)

The first program we will be using is Photomatix, I class this program to be a base coat on your canvas it is mainly a starting point. First open your downloaded images folder, highlight, drag and drop all 5 images on top of the Photomatix icon. This first box will come up, press ok

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You will see this next box appear, click ok


This next box will pop up, now I know what you are thinking it looks very complicated. The only thing I tick is Reduce Chromatic Aberrations, then press Preprocess.


You will now see this very large window pop up, this is where the fun begins. There is a lot of personal choices you can make here and you will find every photo will be different.


On the right side of the window you will see all of the same image but with different effects, these are called presets. I start my editing process by choosing one of the presets that works best with my image and I then start playing around with the sliders on the left.


The sliders shown below all do something a little different to your image.


Some of sliders I use are

. Strength ( I keep at 100% )

. Colour Saturation ( More to the right increases the colour of your photo )

. Luminosity ( Move the slider to the right you will get a more painty effect, move the slider to the left to gain more contrast )

. Detail contrast ( Adds more micro contrast )

. Lighting Adjustments ( Move the slider to the right to gain a more realistic look)

. Smooth Highlights ( Move the slider to the right to brighten the sky )

. White Point ( Move the slider to the right to add more white )

. Black Point ( Move the slider to the right to add more black)

. Micro Smoothing (move the slider to the right to make your photo look more smooth, move the slider to the left to add more texture)

Once you are happy with your image click the process button on the bottom left.


Once you click the process button a new box will pop up, here you will be able to enhance or decrease the colours of your image. You can do this by clicking the colour button and adjusting the sliders to suit your photo.

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Once you have adjusted the colour, you can then increase you sharpness by clicking the sharpening button. I always use the medium Sharpening setting as I find it seems to add just enough sharpness to my images. When you are happy with your image click the done button, you will then need to save your image by clicking file and then save as. Rename the image to whatever you like and save it to your folder where the five original photos are.


It’s now time to use Adobe Bridge to import your photos into Adobe Photoshop as layers. This program can do a great job of organizing your photos, but I personally just use the import feature. First I open bridge and on the left hand side you will find some folders as shown in the photo below, I then click on the Desktop folder.

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Once you click the desktop folder the main screen will then show all the folders and images that are on the desktop, look for the Working Files Jpeg.


Double click on the folder and the main screen will show all of the five original images and you Photomatix images we worked on a little while ago. Highlight all six of the images.


Now you want go up to the top bar and click on Tools then click onto Photoshop then click on Load Files into Photoshop Layers, this will then open up Photoshop and stack all of the photos as layers shown in the second image.


You can move each photo within the layers to what ever order you want, just click and hold on the image and move it up or down. I always put the Photomatix image on the top, the next part is where you can get very creative. Right down the bottom of you layers box you will see a button that looks like the Japanese flag, click the button.


Once you have clicked the masking tool ( Japanese Flag button) it will the add a white box next to you image, to put it simple it means that when you use the brush tool and paint over your top image it will bring through or poke through the image below. For example if you like the sky better in the image below you can remix it with you top Photomatix image.


The two important things you need to remember, the first is when you are remixing with masking always use your brush tool. Two down the bottom of the tool window you will see a black and white square, when you are painting through the image below with the top image the square should be black. Don’t worry if you make a mistake just switch the black square to white and reprint over your mistake. Once you have finished with remixing the two layers highlight the top layer first then hold command and select the second layer, then press E this will flatten those two layers. You can then start remixing the rest of the layers.


Well that’s the basics of editing a HDR image, once you master the basics the world is your oyster. I started capturing my images in HDR a little over two years and it has enriched my life. The world is so inspiring and if I can capture it in such a way that when the viewer looks at my photo and feels like they are really there, then that keeps me inspired to capture many more amazing things.

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