REVIEW THE PHOTOS
Check Your Histogram* – You might have seen one of these before and not thought much of it. A histogram is a graph that shows the distribution of light captured in an image. It’s like having each pixel of your picture line up according to its tonal value. The taller the line, the more pixels you have at that value. The right side of the graph represents white and the left side, black. If the distribution in your histogram is touching either side, that means information is missing from the scene. It’s crucial to check because the goal here is to make sure you’ve captured all of the available light. If you haven’t, adjust your exposure as needed to compensate. The pictures below show a series of histograms that would pass the histogram review.
*Not to be confused with Hipstergram, which is another eBook and set of commentary entirely.
Check for Movement – It can be heartbreaking to think that you’ve captured an amazing set of bracketed shots only to find that your overexposed (+2) is blurry and unusable when you get home. Don’t make that mistake. Check for blur by zooming in and pixel peeping. It’s okay.
MERGE FOR HDR
GET DOWN WITH PHOTOMATIX
Load Your Shots – You might not actually collect $200 for this next step but you’ll feel like you’ve passed GO all the same. With Photomatix open, click LOAD BRACKETED PHOTOS. Find and select your photos and click OK. (If you have Lightroom or Aperture, plugins allow you to export to Photomatix directly).
A new dialog box will open with a few check boxes. We typically only use the first check box, which tells Photomatix whether or not to align your images and in what manner to do so. Make sure you select the appropriate option based on how you took the pictures. Feel free to mess around with the other options to get acquainted with them. Sometimes the REDUCE CHROMATIC ABERRATIONS option comes in handy. When you’ve made your final decisions in this window, click PREPROCESS and hold on to your hat and glasses! Now is when things start to take shape and get really fun.
When Photomatix finishes churning, the screen below will open with a first look at your new HDR. The default settings are a little dull and in need of tweaking. (Not twerking. This is a twerk-free zone.) Can you see why we need all three exposures from the examples below? The normal is nice but the light fixtures are blown out and the shadows are lost. The under exposed gives us the information we need for the lights. The over exposed shows what’s lurking in the shadows (like the chairs at the table by the window!).
While Photomatix has a few different methods for processing HDR, we stick with the DETAILS ENHANCER 99% of the time. Let’s take a look at those sliders!
SO MANY SLIDERS
Don’t let the sliders overwhelm you. Take them one at a time and adjust them to your liking. There’s really no right or wrong way! When you’re happy, you’re done. Click APPLY & FINISH and save your new HDR image. Each new image will behave differently and present its own unique challenges. Tackle them like the pro that you are and keep growing!