Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Moving away from HDR..

HDR or High Dynamic range is using for many different things in post processing. Usually it helps with blown out skies and improve details on textures like wood.. However, when the shot is blown up and looked at closely, blotchy pixels can be seen - especially in the sky.

This annoyance has crept up on my and now I try to avoid using the HDR process all together.. so what other options are there? Basically two easy process's will get you round HDR.

  1. Graduating filters. These are a good idea but again don't come without issues. If the landscape rises up from the horizon as in a tree or mountain - the filter will make this part darker.
  2. Burning. This for me is the way forward currently.
To burn or blend images - take a set of 3 exposures as if you were doing an HDR.. maybe -1.5 exposure, 0 and +1.5. Next import them into photoshot in three seperate layers using camera raw to process them - but keep them similar - if you are not sure - leave them as per shot. Layer order is 0 exposure (normal) on top, then the +1.5 (lightest) and the -1.5 (darkest) on the bottom. Set the erasure tool to a soft round brush opacity 46 flow 24. Then - use the brush to bring up any highlights you wish to see... basically burning off the top layer and revealing the lighter one below. One done I combine these two layers - then you can work the brush in areas that are blown out like the sky and bring through the bottom dark exposed layer adding details to that area.. when you are happy - combine that being the last layer will flatten the image.

Remember to use a tripod and watch out for moving objects - but these can be easily cloned out or avoid burning on those areas. Here is an example of an image which has been treated this way..

I hope you find this short lesson useful - if you are interested in learning more please message me in the usual way.. Regards - Ray.



  1. Yo tambien uso HDR , me encanta el resultado de esas imagenes
    Saludos desde España , Galicia

  2. thanks - I still use it sometimes - it's hard not to but avoiding it is good also and teaches you new techniques :)

  3. Hi Ray, I encountered the same problems with hdr, but are still figuring out a way to use it trying to avoid these diaadvantages. Thanks for the short tutorial. BtW: Cool pic
    Greetings Dirk

  4. Hi Ray, I think you've done the right thing moving away from HDR as I had the same problems you explained above. I felt really uncomfortable sometimes in processing skies and frustrated in not knowing what to do with those blotchy pixels and I always asked myself if there is a way round but still using HDR process. I still think HDR is a powerful method for bringing out details in patterns and textures where a manual manipulation would be "bulky" in terms of time, concentration, accuracy and everything else.
    I would like to thank you for the tip about the brush tool you gave me on flickr and I also would like to know what kind of filter you'd suggest to use for landscapes.

    Thank you very much Ray and keep up with the good work.

    Cheers, Angelo.

  5. Great post. You have inspired me test this method on some of my shots. Thanks.