Alley in Pisa, Italy

by Lars Kotthoff

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I am processing some photos intended to show HDR and I mainly want to bring out all the tones of a scene, which is why I took three bracketed shots to begin with.

But pushing the detail pretty quickly turns it into the bright "disneyland" acid trip that got really popular on flickr a few years ago. That sort of thing has its place, but it's not what I'm going for right now

What's a good workflow for using bracketed exposures and using them to create another photograph that simply has better exposure? I'm going for subtle not "wow colors!1!1!!! join my hdr stream!"

Currently just selected my three exposures in Lightroom and clicked "edit in HDR Pro in Photoshop"

I'm not sure what the current tools are for HDR, either. I remember reading about avoiding these automated things because they are not "true HDR" or something about tonemapping. That's great; now how do I use some good tools to get the dynamic range I'm looking for?

With HDRPro in Photoshop, 32bit mode seems to be automatically creating results closer to what I imagine. But this doesn't give me any latitude to adjust exposure, etc., before further processing.

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Do you use the photorealistic presets in HDR Pro? –  MikeW Mar 5 '12 at 2:07
    
I'm not familiar with them –  cqm Mar 5 '12 at 2:20
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1 Answer 1

up vote 10 down vote accepted

What you are looking for Exposure Fusion not HDR.

This averages out pixels from different exposures to produce directly a low-dynamic-range image, so there is not need to do the tone-mapping like for HDR images. Tone-mapping is the delicate operation where, without a subtle hand, you end up with the types of images you are talking about.

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Whilst exactly what they're after, I'd argue that the guy writing that article is wrong when he says it's not HDR. It is exactly what HDR was meant to be originally, until people started confusing crazy tone mapping with HDR. So now people confuse crazy tone mapping (or that cartoony look) with how HDR should look and think this fusion is somehow different –  Dreamager Mar 5 '12 at 8:54
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@Dreamager Exposure fusion produces a LDR output from multiple LDR inputs. There's never a HDR representation of the scene, as there is in true HDR processing (prior to tone mapping). I think you're looking at it from the standpoint of "capturing a scene with a large dynamic range," while the author is looking at it from the perspective of intermediaries and outputs produced. See for example research.edm.uhasselt.be/~tmertens/papers/… –  coneslayer Mar 5 '12 at 12:31
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@Dreamager You said "HDR is ... taking lots of normal exposures to combine them to create a high dynamic range to work from". That's my point: Exposure fusion doesn't do that. There is no HDR representation of the scene at any point in the exposure fusion process. Exposure fusion is algorithmically distinct from both HDR generation and tone mapping, or the combination of the two. –  coneslayer Mar 5 '12 at 14:34
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But a collection of bracketed LDR source material is HDR data. The algorithm process that combines them all is the HDR element between the LDR input and the LDR output. It is just not a part of the process that is visually manipulative like tone mapping sliders in something like photoshop, but the HDR data and element is still there, the 'fusion' just takes care of all the work for you. It's just an alternative way of utlising HDR to the normal tone mapping method people associate with it. –  Dreamager Mar 5 '12 at 15:10
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@Dreamager: In exposure fusion, there is no "HDR element between the LDR input and the LDR output". I'm not merely saying "it's not presented to the user" or "it's not written to a file". It does not exist as a data structure at any point in the exposure fusion process, period. –  coneslayer Mar 5 '12 at 15:17
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