I decided to try a little experiment with my slide scanning. Having scanned a bunch of slides and negatives using a DSLR and macro lens set up, I had come across a few slides where the image just didn’t seem to work out very well. A big part of this is that the original slides were not very well exposed so I was starting from a less than ideal place. However, when editing the raw file, I found I wasn’t able to get a balance of exposures that I liked, despite slides supposedly having a very narrow dynamic range.
Since I could see some detail in the original slide, I figured an HDR approach might be of use. I took three shots of the slide with differing exposure – an inconvenient thing to do when tethered since the AEB function didn’t seem to work on the 40D in that mode – and then ran the HDR function in Lightroom on the three exposures. Despite the borders possibly confusing the algorithm, it seemed to do a pretty reasonable job of getting more of the image in a usable exposure range. This is not a great image and would not normally be making it to the blog but, as an example of getting something more out of a problem shot, I thought it might be of interest to someone.
I was taking some shots for work recently where the sky had some nice cloud detail and the foreground was in a lot of shade. Since the pictures were needed for a project, I was covering my bases and shot some brackets to allow me to do some processing in HDR later. Some people hate HDR but I have always been looking to use it to get a shot that reflects more the human eye’s ability to deal with extremes of contrast. With a wide range of light levels in a shot, HDR can give you a more usable image.
However, when I was processing the shots, I was struck by how I could use the middle exposure alone and, with some helpful adjustment of exposure, shadows and highlights, I was able to get much the same sort of result as the HDR image provided. The raw files seem to have enough latitude for processing that going to the bother of taking and processing the HDR image hardly seemed worth it. There are still situations where the range of exposure is so wide – outdoor sunlight and shady interiors – that it is still probably necessary to bracket and process later. However, for a lot of the situations I used to use HDR for, there seems little point. How many of you still shoot HDR?
I am a little late to discovering the Enfuse plugin for working with HDR images. I started out many years ago using Photomatix. At the time, it was the go to software for creating HDR images. Then Adobe got a lot better with their HDR software within Photoshop and I started to use that. Even more recently, Adobe built HDR processing in to Lightroom and I didn’t need to go to Photoshop at all. The HDR software worked reasonably well so I stuck with it. I sometimes felt that it didn’t do as good a job of using the full range of the exposures but it was okay.
I wasn’t entirely satisfied though so have kept an eye on other options. Someone mentioned Enfuse to me so I decided to give it a go. It is a plugin for Lightroom and, in the free download, you can try it out but with a limitation on the output image size of 500 pixels. Obviously this isn’t useful for anything other than testing but that is the point.
The first thing I tried it on was a shot I made at Half Moon Bay looking up at a P-51 Mustang prop and directly into the sun. This is certainly as much of a range of exposures as you are likely to get. The perfect thing for an HDR trial. The results in the small scale file seemed pretty impressive so I decided to buy the package. There is no fixed price. You make a donation via PayPal and get a registration code. I am impressed by the quality of some of the work people put out so I am happy to donate for what they do. With the software activated, I reran the P-51 shots. Below is the version I got from Lightroom’s own HDR and following it the version from Enfuse.
I did have some issues initially. Lightroom was not reimporting the image after it was created. This turned out to be an issue with the way I named the file in the dialog and a tweak to that seemed to fix things. Strangely, it had been fine on the trial so I have no idea why it became an issue but it is done. I also played with a slightly less extreme case with an F-22 and, as above, the Lightroom version is first and the Enfuse version is second. I was really pleased with the result on this one with a very natural look to things. So far, I see Enfuse being a useful tool for my HDR going forward.
This one is something that I can attribute to the Kelby media juggernaut. I did not discover this myself but, if you are a user of Lightroom CC and use either the HDR or the panorama functions, this could be of interest. One of my issues with them was that they took a while to bring up a preview. Once you had got this, the processing would work in the background.
It turns out, if you don’t need to tweak the settings and are happy with what you used previously, you can hold Shift and Ctrl and press either M for panorama or H for HDR and it will launch right into processing the whole thing in the background. You can set multiple versions off if you wish and they will all get to work out of sight while you do something else. While my feelings on the outcome of the processing are not universally great and I covered this in some previous posts, it does a reasonable job most of the time and this is an even better feature that is well concealed!
This post is a plea for help. Anyone who is a regular user of Lightroom and Photoshop may be in a position to educate me a little. I use Photoshop to process my HDR shots. I start out in Lightroom, select the shots and use the Edit Photo>HDR Pro method to open them up in Photoshop. I then use the 32 bit version of the HDR Pro processor to create the file. I then take the Edit Using Adobe Camera Raw option for opening the file to undertake the final mapping. This works pretty well and I can usually get something I am happy with.
I then close the file and save it which automatically reimports the finished file back into Lightroom. This is when things go wrong. The view of the file in Lightroom doesn’t appear to make use of any of the edits I had done in ACR. The highlights are too bright and the shadows too dark. I can then use the Lightroom Develop settings to get something close to what I want but surely that should not be necessary. I might make further tweaks but shouldn’t it look the same when I close out of Photoshop.
Below is a sequence of screen captures to show you the unprocessed shot in ACR, the finished version, what it looks like in Lightroom and then what I can tweak it to. Any suggestions are gratefully received. (Note, I didn’t make this exactly match the two edited versions. It is aimed to illustrate the disconnect and the recovery process.)
Original HDR merge pre tone mapping
HDR with ACR tone mapping applied
How the saved image appears when imported to Lightroom
Using Lightroom to get back to something like I had in Photoshop
The iPhone has an HDR function available in the camera’s software. However, it hasn’t impressed me in the past. My friend Hayman introduced me to an app called HDR Pro and I have used that as my default iPhone HDR app since. Recently, they introduced an updated version of the app called HDR Pro X. I decided to give it a go. I wanted to see what the images it produced were like, how the new controls worked and also to make a comparison with the output from HDR Pro.
The top shot is from the new app. The second one is the previous version. The added control certainly seems to be beneficial and the blowing out of the higlihgts is far better controlled. I am generally happy with the new version. The controls could be more user friendly. When you use Lightroom/Camera Raw all the time, anything less seems clunky! See what you think of the results.