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Tutorial - HDR from 1 JPG | by Christiaan Leever NL
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Tutorial - HDR from 1 JPG

A big thankyou to everyone for visiting! This photo has 158'000 views, and 350 favorites!


Welcome to my photostream! I hope you enjoy this tutorial and my photos. To read more about this photo and why its edited the way it is, scroll to the bottom of the tutorial. Please leave a comment if you visit! :)


Note: Below tutorial was written for Photomatix Pro 2.22. Photomatix latest software version has similar but slightly different settings.


About this photo:


This photo was taken out of the train, speeding through the Dutch countryside. I decided I wanted to try something new. A lot of my HDRs are bright and very saturated with colour. I wanted to go for the darker more ominous look, close to black and white, but not completely, still showing a hint of colour. I think it turned out nicely. Because of the strong tonemapping settings I got pretty much noise, but I also decided to leave that, because it gives the photos something rough and old looking, which I find fits to the colours and darkness.


How to succesfully make a HDR from 1 JPG


Would you buy an expensive DSLR, expensive lenses, and lots of filters, when you can get similar effects with just a cheap compact camera and cheap tripod?


Ok, I must admit, there are a few more benefits of having a DSLR verses compact, but still, for the beginning or budget photographer, you can do a lot with software and a reasonable compact camera. This is supposed to be a tutorial about making HDRs (High Dynamic Range Photos), so let me get back to the point. You may know that for HDR images, you need to take multiple photos, of multiple exposures. If you want to know more about creating HDRs in general, I suggest you also read my HDR & Photomatix tutorial. Of course everything that you want to photograph in that way has to stand perfectly still, or you will have exposures that don't "fit" over eachother. Of course sometimes this effect is nice, such as in this example from Altus: Ethereal Skating.


But if you want a HDR of a person or car that's moving by, and you want it to be sharp, in focus as in a normal photo, its impossible to do it with multiple exposures. So you may have seen some of the HDRs that were created from 1 RAW image... Another nice example from Altus, also about skating and also one of my faves is this one: Tokyo Transition. This was made from 1 RAW photo, shot with a camera that supports RAW. Software is used to extract multiple exposures from the RAW file, and then you can use your favourite program to turn those exposures into a HDR.


But I dont have enough money to buy a DSLR that can shoot RAW...


So lets say that you don't have a camera that can shoot RAW and don't have the money or dont want

to spend the money on a new one, like me, there are other options. I thought, why cant I create HDRs from 1 jpeg? I know its not RAW, but its worth a try... (before you try this, read the whole tutorial)


1. I opened my photo in Photoshop.

2. I pressed control + M to get the "curves" tool, and made the photo a lot brighter.

3. I saved the image with a different name next to the original.

4. I undid the curves, with Control + Alt + Z.

5. I did the curves again, but instead of making the photo brighter, I made it darker.

6. I saved the image again next to the two other exposures.

7. I opened all three exposures in Photomatix, and generated and tonemapped the HDR image.

8. It worked! Yay!


But is that the end of this tutorial?


In fact you are still sortof creating 3 jpgs... And its a lot of work... And is Photoshop actually creating detail in silhouettes or blow out highlights? No... It cant do that, you cant just magically create detail where your camera captured nothing... Is Photoshop lightening too dark areas that still show detail? Or darkening areas that are just a little bit overexposed? Yes... And what does Photomatix do in comparism? Maybe you have noticed before that the HDR result is exposed even better or more equally than the darkest or lightest exposure you fed into it... (depending on your settings of course) Even if you really photographed three different exposures. So Photomatix brightens and darkens as well. It doesnt just combine.


The tonemapping of Photomatix is a pretty strong tool to get some detail back into over or underexposed images, as long as there is detail in the first place. It wont turn a totally black silhouette into visible detail, and the same goes for a blown out overexposed white spot...


Now that we know that first creating several exposures in Photoshop is not required, as this is basically the same thing that Photomatix does with its tonemapping, our list of steps changes to:


1. Open the photo in Photomatix.

2. Open the photo again in Photomatix.

3. Generate and tonemap the HDR!


So that saves you a lot of trouble and work! And who wants to do unneccesary work?


To save even more time you can copy and paste all your photos in the same folder to create copies, and then drag the original and copy into Photomatix right away, instead of having to open the same image twice. Deleting all the copies afterwards doesnt take as much time as opening each photo twice in Photomatix.


But are the tonemapping settings the same?


Not always. Of course the settings depend completely on the result you wish to achieve. But in short, you have to do a few things to make sure not to get too much noise, and saturation. Apparently when working with 1 jpg, the noise and saturation get a lot higher than when I use three "real" separate exposures.


Try the following settings in Photomatix:


Luminosity: between -2 and +2

Strength: between 30% and 60%

Saturation: between 30% and 50%

White clip: set slider about halfway

Black clip: set slider about 1/10th from the left.

Smoothing: High!!! This is really important...


To reduce noise and halos:


Smoothing should be on high (reduces noise and halos) and

luminosity should be 2 or lower. Higher luminosity reduces halos, but

creates a lot of noise. The lower you set the general Strength, the less

noise and halos.


I hope you have enjoyed this tutorial, and I hope it will yield some nice results. Finally you can take HDR shots with your cheap compact camera straight from your bike or out of your car window whilst driving past something! Or you can pay attention to traffic of course! :)


For more tutorials written about HDR, Photoshop, and lighting, click here...



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Taken on September 27, 2006