Category Archives: RAW processing

Thoughts on HDR – Part 1

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HDR photography seems to be all the craze these days.  I first encountered it about 3-4 years ago, and was amazed at the look, and pop of the images.  After doing some research, and getting some software to process the images I started  my HDR odyssey around December 2009.  My camera, tripod and imagination went to my friend’s house that was all decked out for the Christmas holidays.  I ended up shooting a few of his Christmas trees, and other decorations.  Some of the shots turned out great which I attribute to getting balanced exposures across all 3 bracketed shots.  For others I was able to do something with, but the dynamic range of the scene was a bit too broad, and they may have benefited from a 5-7 bracket capture.

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At the time I had been doing 3 brackets at 2 EV spacing.  Since then I have found that I can expand it all the way up to 5 shots in camera if I just roll the range from the -2 EV end to the +2 EV end.  To get even more granular I can roll the range up in 1 EV increments to end up with a total of 8 bracketed exposures.  Caveat; I have been reading that when you do this you can introduce some digital noise in the HDR process.  These days I generally try to stick to 5 exposures, and I shoot in RAW + jpeg when I can.

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I am scouting some locations for a good subject, and am planning on trying to get the 8 bracketed shots.  I won’t necessarily roll all of them into the HDR process.   I plan to pick and choose 5 and try a few different variations with different subsets of exposures from the shoot to see what I like most aesthetically.  More to follow!

Single Exposure RAW processing for HDR

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I posted earlier today about using a single RAW file processed in ACR to yield several images you could then run through your HDR process.  I found a reasonably well exposed RAW file from a trip I took a few years ago to Williamsburg, VA.  The shot was of the Capitol Building.  The above image is the result.  The below image was the starting point.

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It was a pretty simple process.  I took the before RAW file, and opened it up in Adobe Camera Raw.  You could do the same in Lightroom as the controls are very similar.  I adjusted the exposure values, and then saved the images out as uncompressed tiff’s.  I did this so I would have a range of EV’s from -2 to +2 with a spacing of 1 EV.  Once I saved them out I imported them into Lightroom, and then exported them to my HDR software.  In this case I used Nik HDR Efex.  The original RAW file was pretty evenly balanced between lights, and darks so I didn’t have much trouble in running this through the workflow.  This is a good example of what I was talking about in my earlier post – if your sample is good to begin with then you get much more flexibility with what you can do, and also run into less artifacts such as noise, and weird color shifts.

After I ran the HDR process I made some basic contrast adjustments in Lightroom to finish up.  I am planning to further mine my image library to see what other images I can try to bring back to life.

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