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Expanding Dynamic Range In Photoshop - Adapted From Rick Sammon's HDR Secrets for Digital Photographers
The following tutorial, Expanding Dynamic Range In Photoshop, was adapted from Rick Sammon's HDR Secrets for Digital Photographers.
Look ma! No HDR program or HDR plug-in! That’s right, HDR fans. This image was created in Photoshop with basic adjustments that were applied with adjustment layers. Sure, the dynamic range of the image was expanded. But compared to some of the other images in my book, the dynamic range of the actual scene was not very wide. Still, to achieve a realistic image, the dynamic range had to be expanded. What follows is an overview of the Photoshop process I used to create the image. Keep in mind that if the dynamic range of your scene is within three f/stops, you can manage it in Photoshop. If it’s greater than that, you really should use Photomatix. I took this image at sunrise at South Tufa on Mono Lake in California.
Adjustment Layers are the Law
Here is my original digital image. The light at sunrise was nice, but not for a straight photograph. Before digital photography, if I had loaded my camera with slide film, I would not have taken this picture. At the time this was captured, I was able to envision the end-result, knowing the capabilities of Photoshop. I took the shot ... and man o’ man, am I sure glad I did!
Below is a screen grab of the Layers panel. It shows all of the adjustment layers and layer masks that I created to enhance the image.
If you are new to Photoshop, it’s important to know that an adjustment layer is a method of applying an adjustment to an image without working directly on the original file. Your adjustments are placed on a covering layer. That way, your original image always remains untouched.
After you apply an adjustment, you can mask out the effect. Just set black as the foreground color in the Tool Bar, and click on the layer mask. Then, just use the Brush tool to paint over the area that you don’t want affected by the effect.
To create the image at the top of this page, I used the following adjustment layers, which show up in the layer panel (from bottom to top) Shadows/Highlights, Hue/Saturation, Curves and Photo Filter.
As a final step, I sharpened the image using Unsharp Mask. You always want to apply sharpening as the final step, because other adjustments—such as Curves, Levels and Brightness/Contrast—also affect sharpness, and the last thing you want to do is over-sharpen an image.
Basic Adjustments, Big Improvement
Here is a screen grab of all my adjustment windows. You see them here together; but when you are working on an image, you’ll only see one at a time. I made this screen grab just for your convenience. All these adjustment layers are accessible by going to Layer > New Adjustment Layer. The one exception is Shadows/Highlights.
The Shadows/Highlights adjustment is not readily available as an adjustment layer. You need to know this trick to make that happen: Click on the background layer of an image while holding down the Control key on your keyboard, and then choose Convert to Smart Object.
When working on my image, I opened up the shadows and toned down the highlights using Shadows/Highlights. I increased the saturation and color using Hue/Saturation. And I brightened the image using Curves. I then added some more color with the Photo Filter. As a final step, I sharpened the image using Unsharp Mask.
Note that you can use Unsharp Mask as an adjustment layer if you first go to Filter > Convert for Smart Filters. An advantage of this technique is that you can apply sharpening to certain parts of the image. In this picture, the parts I selected for the effect were the tufas (rock formations) and not the sky and water.
Adapted with permission from Rick Sammon's HDR Secrets for Digital Photographers by Rick Sammon. Copyright © 2010 (Wiley Publishing)
Rick Sammon's HDR Secrets for Digital Photographers
Learn digital photography from start to finish in the comfort of your living room with Rick. Coming soon — Rick Sammon's HDR Secrets for Digital Photographers. In this book, top photographer Rick Sammon shares his greatest HDR tips and tricks
World-renowned digital photographer and Canon Explorer of Light Rick Sammon reveals his most amazing HDR tips, tricks, and techniques for creating the best possible HDR images.
Packed with more than 150 of Sammon's stunning full-color photos and more than 200 techniques, this invaluable guide inspires and motivates you to capture and edit your own unique still-life images. Rick Sammon's HDR Secrets for Digital Photographers will inspires both amateur and experienced photographers to boost their creativity, and improve the quality of their images in the digital darkroom.
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