Piping up… with a new HDR tutorial

Figure 1.0

For today, I’ve decided to toss together a quick tutorial on my work flow for you all, showing you how I worked my way from from the brackets (figure 1.1 below) to today’s photograph, ‘Piping Up’ (figure 1.0 above).  I’ve done a video version of this in the past, with another photograph, which you can find over on the right side column of my blog, or you can just click here!


Figure 1.1

From Lightroom 3, the software I use to keep my work organized, I will export my brackets (figure 1.1 above) to Photomatix Pro (if you don’t use Photomatix, I recommend it highly for HDR work.  You can save 15% on Photomatix my using the coupon code fotofreqhdr at check out.).  I’ll almost always ‘zero’ things out in Photomatix by clicking on the DEFAULT button, which results in the image you see in figure 1.2 below.

Figure 1.2

With the default settings in Photomatix (figure 1.2 above), I’ll first drag the Strength Slider all the way to the right, before dragging the smoothing slider left and right between 0 and +10.0 until I get something I am happy with.  In this particular case, I settled my smoothing setting in at +8.1. (see figure 1.3 below).

Figure 1.3

If you take a look at the histogram box in figure 1.3 above, you’ll notice that the whites (the lights in this case) are blown out.  So I pulled back the White Point slider to 0.019. Then I dragged my Microcontrast up to +10.0 and my Luminosity to +8.0.  I increased overall brightness by increasing the Gamma slider setting to 0.67.  To get a little more gritty detail into the shot (beyond that provided by the Microcontrast slider), I dragged the Micro-smoothing slider all the way left to 0, ending up with what you see in figure 1.4 below.  Finally, I click the save & reimport button at the bottom of the Photomatix sliders tab to get my “canvas” back into lightroom.

Figure 1.4

Next step is to open all the images in Photoshop as layers, as you can see in figure 1.5 below.  I’ve renamed the layers so you can see how I normally arrange my layers.  You’ll notice I have a Photomatix layer (the image I ended up with in Photomatix) at the top and bottom of the stack, with the bottom just there as a back up in case I need to duplicate and mask part of it in later.

Figure 1.5

Now, with all the layers in place, I take my time masking in bits and pieces of the layers as needed.  Once I’ve masked in all the tasty bits I want from the various brackets, I end up with what you see in figure 1.6 below.  Whew!  No on to some final tweaks!

Figure 1.6

Finally, I use several filters in Photoshop, usually plug-in from Nik Software, that I selectively brush in (with my Wacom Intuos 4 tablet) to taste; you can see those last few layers below in figure 1.7.  That’s pretty much it as far as how I went from my RAW brackets, to Photomatix, into Photoshop and to my final image (figure 1.0 above).  Let me know what you think, and fire away with any questions related to this mini post-processing walk through and tutorial.


Figure 1.7

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Awesome tutorial – always interesting to see how other ‘togs workflow differs to mine!

Great tutorial.
I assume that the ‘Midnight’ filter gets rid of the blown out windows at the top of th image? That’s one of thparts that I always have particulat trouble with.

nice to see some Tiesto and Deadmou5 in the playlist too 😉

Thanks, gentlemen.

Mark: The midnight filter does, indeed, help with some of the blown out windows, if you do not have a dark enough bracket to mask in. Re the music, I suppose you can see I have REALLY broad range of tunes I dig. Lately, I’ve really been into a lot of dubstep.

Very good tutorial, loads of added value here! Would be good if you could do these on a more regular basis, as well as going deeper into your arcane art of post-processing with Niksoftware’s plugin suite!

thanks for that tut Jacques, it´s very interesting to see how others get their results, esp in Photomatix. So there isn´t just one way to do it…. 😉
Brilliant shot btw, like out of Aliens!!

Love it, dude. You are certainly an excellent resource in our industry and it’s great that you are doing this.

Only question – where is the onOne love??? 🙂

I can’t wait to buckle into this 🙂

Awesome image and tutorial – now if only I had Photoshop. 🙂

Thanks for sharing, Jacques. I like the way you’ve done this — quick, clean, and to the point. It’s great to get a peek behind the curtains.

Great stuff! thanks for sharing.

Thanks for the tutorial! Really great info!

sick shot, great tutorial too!!!! i am gonna try the photoshop edits…peace.