Feb 20, 2009

The Future of HDR...

John Doogans LR2 Workflow on Landscapes

Credit: John Doogan, FNZIPP
With advent of Lightroom 2 and Photoshop CS4, new Tone Mapping twists are beginning to be applied to high dynamic range (HDR). An exhaustive Google search provide only a few tutorials; nevertheless, they were quite illuminating. John Doogan, Scott Kelby, Matt Kloskowski, and Ben Willmore each have a new direction in HDR. Doogan works with LR2 and CS4; Kelby and Kloskowski work with Lightroom 2; Willmore likes some of the advanced masking tools in CS4 (his book HDR and Beyond in CS4 is available in March).
Regardless of how the cookie crumbles, one can choose either Photomatix or Lightroom and Photoshop to assemble a 32-bit HDR. After converting to a 16-bit tiff file, paths and workflow techniques differ. Doogan shows both CS4 and LR2 working paths. Kelby and Willmore proceed to use Camera Raw sliders for global changes. Then, techniques differ for localized changes. Personally, I prefer nondestructive local adjustment brush changes - either in Lightroom or CS4 - based on Adobe Camera Raw 5.3.

To get this sense of future direction for HDR, Doogan’s videos bring LR2 and CS4 to life. Kelby has six pages in his new Lightroom book describing the process. You can either buy a DVD or take online training to watch Kloskowski's HDR video. You can watch 2 Willmore videos free or buy his upcoming book.
While many people use Photomatix to assemble HDR images, opinions differ about post process Tone Mapping. Lightroom 2 and Photoshop CS4 both depend upon Adobe Camera Raw 5.3 for nondestructive global and local tool packages. CS4 adds the remarkable facility for masking.

Future Directions in HDR…
Now that we have ‘honking’ CS4 subtle adjustment brushes available - a truly remarkable masking tool - it is my anticipation we may see more HDR tutorials which step beyond the ‘Photomatix uber alles (German for over all)’ HDR paradigm. So, I began an advanced Google search for today's viewpoints and projects…
I’ve actually seen a book and several free video examples which preach new paths, similar to our LR2 path proposed in prior workflows. You ask, “What paths…?”

Paths the Pro’s Use…
John Doogan, FNZIPP, Adobe evangelist, and Adobe beta tester, lives in Christchurch, New Zealand. Last night, after watching Eric Jones present a tantalizing Alternatives to HDR workflow at Enchanted Lens Camera Club, I found Doogan’s Landscape Photographer’s Guide to Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop, watched the 80 minute video, and felt like I witnessed a Revolution…
Doogan showed both Photoshop CS4 and Lightroom 2 performing the same Auto-Align and Auto-Blend steps as well as more refined interactions between LR2 and CS4 in each separate piece of software. Granted he was doing broad brush landscape tone mapping – but, I was able to see far enough into CS4 to know it’s clearly in my future. In effect, he indicated, “While CS4 can do more than the present LR2, some of its steps are clunky compared to the more streamlined LR2.” Then, he showed how LR2 reduced his first cut development and tone mapping time by ~ 30% - so, even though he has CS4, his total time in LR2 now approaches 90%!
For those interested in tone mapping the future thru CS4, I commend Doogan. I would also suggest perhaps you take a careful look at some other free tutorials on Adobe’s eSeminars website.
*John Doogan is a commercial photographer and digital retoucher from Christchurch. He has been using photoshop since the mid 1990s. John is a Fellow of the New Zealand Institute of Professional Photography, an Adobe Ambassador and a software beta tester for Adobe Photographic software. He has a particular interest in landscape photography, and has won the NZIPP Landscape Photographer of the Year three times.
Scott Kelby, National Association of Photoshop Professionals (NAPP) President, discusses HDR from a different view - in Lightroom 2, HDR images can go straight from Lightroom to Photoshop's Merge to HDR feature. The result is a 32-bit file. Choose Image, Mode, 16 Bits per Channel. The HDR conversion dialog appears. Choose Local Adaptation. You've finally started to add the HDR look. Ctrl-Shift-S opens a save dialog box, you name the photo, then save as a tif file.
Now, open the tif in Photoshop which opens the Camera Raw menu. In CS4, development sliders are like Lightroom 2. Now, you're back to familiar ground.
Kelby describes the use of sliders to Tone Map. Now, it's time to get that file back into Lightroom. Click and drag the file into the same folder where your original bracketed photos are stored. In Lightroom's folder panel (Library module) choose Synchronize Folder. The dialog says you're importing one new photo (finished HDR you drug into the folder).
The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2 book for Digital Photographers, ©2009, Scott Kelby, p. 262-267.
Matt Kloskowski, NAPP Educator, has released an HDR video. It advocates minimal use of Photomatix as a tone mapping tool; rather, Photomatix is great at Assembling the initial file. Matt is great at subtle tool masks and usage in Photoshop. I haven’t seen it, but would like too…
Ben Willmore has 2 free videos with Bert Monroy at Pixel Perfect. The first discusses how Photomatix can leave uneven interpretations from Tone Mapping. The second discusses intricacies of using subtle masks in CS3 to emphasize or de-emphasize more refined aspects of HDR capture. I find this video interesting, simply because it shows a somewhat more limited approach to local tone mapping in HDR.
Part I: http://revision3.com/pixelperfect/hdr/
Part II: http://revision3.com/pixelperfect/hdrpartii/
Willmore shows how he fashioned the Cover for his new book HDR and Beyond in Photoshop CS4…
High dynamic range (HDR) imaging uses multiple exposures of the same scene to create a single image with a huge range of values between light and dark areas of a photograph. It is an extremely popular and ever-growing niche of photography; a search for "HDR" at Flickr results in over 975,000 uploaded images.
In this book by noted photographer and popular digital imaging expert Ben Willmore, you'll learn the best practices for the entire process: from image capture through tone mapping and output. You'll learn how to create stunning HDR images...and you'll go beyond those "basic" techniques to learn exactly how Ben creates his own trademark HDR images, which have a slightly surreal and painterly quality to them. Equally instructive and beautiful, HDR and Beyond will teach and inspire you to create stunning HDR images! Amazon Product Description.

Perhaps these examples can broaden our horizons. For me, use of Camera Raw 5.3’s tools have both sped up my workflow and provided rich, yet natural appearing fine art. And, it matters little whether it’s Lightroom or Photoshop which acts as my final localized brush Tone Mapping vehicle.
Take a look at a more in-depth Lightroom 2 HDR Tone Mapping workflow here.

No comments: