Deal 8: Here it is: The most requested deal of 2014!
Over in the Digital Photography forum one of our members, Technical Tim, shared the following ‘before and after’ of an image that he’d manipulated with some post processing. Other forum members were keen to hear more of how Tim had done it and asked him to write it up. Tim’s done that and has offered it to be published here on the DPS blog.
As a relative newcomer to Digital Photography I am keen to learn and improve my skills and a colleague has recently introduced me to a piece of software called Photomatix Pro3. The software’s primary function is to enable the creation of HDR images from a selection of RAW images taken at different exposures; however it can also be used with a single RAW image.
I dropped a rather gloomy, unassuming image of the clock tower at Manchester Town Hall, taken in May this year, into the software and it then creates a pseudo-HDR image – then the fun part begins.
Using the tone mapping function I then played about with the settings in the Details Enhancer tab, focusing on the building. Once I was happy I then saved this as a jpeg and also saved the settings for future projects.
I then imported the original image again into the software and this time using the Tone Compressor tab I adjusted the settings to alter the sky and saved both the image and settings as before.
The final stage was to open both images in Photoshop Elements and using layers I combined the two processed shots removing the sky from stage 1 to let the dark blue sky show through. It was then a case of tweaking the levels, applying a bit of dodge and burn and then a vignette to produce the final image.
The ability to take what may look like a redundant or wasted shot and turn it into something with visual impact has encouraged me along with the positive feedback and comments I have received. The process and resultant image may not be to everyone’s taste but it definitely broadens the scope of the mind’s eye.
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March 4, 2012 11:53 pm
This is amazing, now I think I can style my facebook photos with a bit more creativity...thx.
January 10, 2011 11:15 am
Using computer software to fix bad images, or to request software to compile multiple images into one single high dynamic range image is pure lazyness! Creating an image that contains a high range of latitude, and tone takes patience, persistence, and most importantly - timing. Anyone with a tiny amount of computer literacy can use software to manipulate bad images into better photo's, and or "HDR's". However, those of us who make a living with our art rarely utilize anything other than the camera, glass, optical accesories, and raw know how. My advice, read some photography books, and learn about "Magic Hour"!
November 17, 2009 09:52 pm
From my post in July until a few days ago I had only used Photomatix for HDR. Also much of my HDR work had been what others have described as pseudo-HDR ie. cloning a single RAW into 3 TIFs and 'retro-processing' these through Photomatix (I make no apologies to those of you who regard this as a waste of space; life's too short).
I now have a new weapon in the armoury: Digital Photo HDR (DPHDR: see http://www.mediachance.com/hdri/index.html). This works a bit differently to Photomatix, and it's difficult to say which is better, or why. I now have both so who cares? One major difference with DPHDR is that it is quite fast. It also has a feature whereby you can throw it a single RAW and it will give it a sort of HDR look. In fact it will also do this with a TIF or JPG so long as you don't mind the noise. But if you're thinking about reprocessing old (pre-RAW) shots, or in my case pre-digital shots that I have fed through a film/slide scanner, you don't have much option. Another thing I use DPHDR for is to throw it a single file and have a look at the more or less instant 'HDR' preview it shows you. If this looks rubbish then it's probably not worth spending too much time in either Photomatix OR DPHDR. Conversely if it looks interesting, then it may well be. DPHDR is also cheaper at US$55.00
To those of you still reading, check out http://www.trencherman.org/hdr where there is a collection of mostly retro-processed shots so you can see before and after the HDR treatment - but no warranties!
November 17, 2009 01:14 pm
Great idea. Recently I've started playing with Photomatix and have used it to do two things - restore the WOW in some shots and go after the Grunge setting. For now I'm using one shot. that is a great idea to separate the shot (tones) even more.
The Photomatix saves a lot of time over achieving the same results by spending time in Elements.
Again, great idea. thanks
October 7, 2009 12:51 pm
That is pretty amazing.
August 11, 2009 01:07 am
There are a feew free HDR programs that you can try
check it at my website in the HDR chapter, at http://web.me.com/danimolowny/Tecnicas_Fotograficas/HDR.html
It's all in spanish but in the middle of the page you get the name, icons, prices of the programs and links to download them.
August 5, 2009 07:51 am
Just a note:
Don't forget though that pseudo-HDRs are far lower quality than a typical HDR from several shots. You'll end up getting a ton of grain in a pseudo-HDR shot, so if you can help it, search for other ways first to save a shot. Personally, and as someone mentioned above, turning your image into a black and white shot can usually transform a bad shot into a decent one. Check that out.
Those are my two cents.
July 30, 2009 08:52 pm
Robert Harvey, I think you have missed the point.
With respect, if you can call me a cynic then I could call you myopic.
Firstly, I was not criticizing HDR but the use of it to save dud photos.
Maybe you didn't bother to read anything about Ansell Adams and his 'Zone System' as I suggested in my previous post. You would find that this was the precursor to modern HDR.
Adams (who was 'in the real world' but unfortunately now long dead) was a master photographer and his technique relied on his film to be perfectly exposed to start with before he applied his special film and print processing techniques. To make the most of HDR you need a properly exposed set of pics OR at least a properly exposed single photo... which I might point out your adequate example (hdr3) was... well done!
Shooting on a dull day is not a draw back. Excellent results can be produced in low contrast conditions. Post production processing is a fact of life for any photographer, but lets not lose sight of the fact that a good photograph begins in the camera. A good photographer also needs to be patient and exacting as well as able to adapt to the conditions at hand. We really need to strive for something a little better than 'not half bad', otherwise we end up being just mediocre.
I'm sorry... but "the point of HDR" (or any other post production technique), in the real world, is NOT to rescue a dud shot or to "introduce a new look". While I agree that many do, your suggestion that post production software is mainly used for this purpose is plainly ludicrous.
July 29, 2009 05:16 pm
Firstly can I thank everyone who posted comments on this my first every tutorial. As a newcomer to Digital photography I have found the DPS site very useful, especially when posting images and getting great comments, it makes me feel like I must be doing something right. I am still learning and I was surprised that the tutorial got published - must be doing something good. I did notice some negative comments and of course I will take these on board.
I would love to be able to take great shots all the time but I don't think anyone can claim to do this. Photography is art and to quote in part (Nick Turpin) "confidence to experiment technically and carry this through wil let you stand out as unique." Another recent quote I read was "enjoy photography, remember that it's not a contest"
July 28, 2009 11:30 pm
i agree with all of u, and this forum give me a loot of new photography skill, good forum
July 27, 2009 09:24 pm
My God, what a cynic Digga is. If everyone only ever took perfect pictures, then Photoshop and its ilk wouldn't sell too many copies, and Photomatix would hardly sell any. Back in the real world, life conspires to mean that we all, at some point or another, take - if not exactly crappy - pictures that are not exhibition quality. It was a dull day, we had the wrong lens on, we had only seconds to capture the image and getting the settings perfect would have meant missing the shot, etc.
Surely the point of HDR is either
a) rescuing a shot that was not perfect (blown out skies and/or deep shadows etc) - as in my examples
b) to introduce a new look to an otherwise acceptable picture
or both - as with Technical Tim's tower shot (and, arguably, my /hdr3 shot).
If your photos are great to start with, that's marvellous. But if they aren't, but they can be made to look not half bad, then that's good too - and this is NOT 'making a silk purse out of a sow's ear'.
Lighten up, people
July 26, 2009 03:50 pm
Have to agree with JM
The old adage "you can't turn a sow's ear into a silk purse" is very true in photography.
If you are keen to give HDR (or any processing) a go, then start with a great shot to begin with.
Using post production techniques like this are great but using them to 'save' crappy photos is the marque of a true amateur.
Go back to basics. Google 'zone system Ansel Adams' He invented the method of manipulating the dynamic range of black & white film through proper exposure and then fine tuning the development time. After final dodging and burning in the dark room, he produced results he has become internationally famous for to this day, long after his passing.
Digital HDR software will do the same but the mechanics are a little different. To get good results it is essential that you get an understanding of what it is you are trying to achieve.
"Wax on, wax off. Don't forget to breathe, very important." Karate Kid 1984
July 26, 2009 04:33 am
Ok I'm going to stick my foot in my hypocritical mouth. I use Photoshop to push some dull photos but I think we're giving the impression that you don't need to take a good shot to begin with and I'm afraid that this tech will be the only way to impress anyone with your photography. Granted i can tell an HDR photo from a regular shot but if we inundate the the public with high def. photos do you think that people will stop accepting a trained photographers work from the anyone with HDR programming and a computer??
By the way it's a really cool image and that's what the point of "art" is anyway
July 25, 2009 09:23 pm
Wouldn't it be more worthwhile to spend one's time becoming a better photographer and learning how to avoid capturing dull shots, rather than trying to salvage crappy photos with tacky-looking digital wizardry?
If it could ever be described as a bad photo at any point in its existence, it will never be a good photo.
July 25, 2009 05:08 pm
Now I've got to go back through all my old shots and try this! Thanks for taking the time to explain this method. Really 'popped' your shot!
July 25, 2009 08:54 am
Wow. I love digital enhance photo it create more of a creative eye than just getting the right shot. thanks for the tip! Good Pict!
July 25, 2009 04:20 am
Great topic... HDR is something I still haven't delved into but I'm sure I'll get there.
I also find that Lightroom has huge potential for rescuing mediocre shots and turning them into strong content.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/robinryan/3447269819/in/set-72157603329594706 was a studio shoot I where I was working on dragging the flash, so I had the subject tilt his head for the 1/4second shot. The result was mediocre, but through a b&w transfer and the following adjustments, I think it ended up looking pretty cool.
Highlights + Light: upped
Darks + shadows: dropped
Similarly this shot (http://www.flickr.com/photos/robinryan/3555196810/in/set-72157603329594706/) in Boston was looking pretty bleak until I converted to b&w and really went to town on the different colour levels. The result is a ghostly scene that I'm quite happy with.
A couple others where b&w saved the day:
If you've any questions about exactly how these were done, feel free to ask.
July 25, 2009 01:55 am
It's a crappy shot to start with and ended with a crappy looking shot. If it quacks like a duck, and if it looks like a duck, it's a duck. Same goes for HDR and just plain bad shots. I'm sure the author/photographer is very good but this image should have been trashed upon first pass review, not manipulated into this.
July 24, 2009 06:50 pm
Further to Robert Spendlove's comment about Photomatix Pro discounts, check out
And to all those that responded to my /drr1-2-3 pics, thanks. What amazed me most is how easy it is. Simply open a RAW file 3 times in Photoshop Elements, and save as a TIFF at 0,-2,+2 EV. Throw these 3 TIFFs at Photomatix Pro and go through Tone Mapping and Details Enhancer. You can set Photomatix so that when you save the finished result (ideally as a 16-bit TIFF) it will automatically open this in Photoshop Elements, for final tinkering.
To Rasmus, happy to send you the original RAW file, but I take your implied point: this process CAN introduce a load of noise if you're unlucky- it all seems to be down to choice of shot. Frankly I'm surprised that pics that don't seem to have much potential turn out well (eg. Auckland harbour), while others that you think have plenty of HDR potential don't seem capable of much improvement. But I admit I'm pretty new to HDR.
July 24, 2009 11:39 am
Just a tip for anyone wanting photomatix... if you're in college, that is, if you have a .edu email address, you can get a great discount. Look for educational discounts on their website. If you're in a photography or graphic design major... even better.
July 24, 2009 11:29 am
I have used this Photomatix and am hooked! It's awesome - I just love how much detail it gives the images. I cant take enough images now to keep me going!
July 24, 2009 04:57 am
July 24, 2009 04:43 am
The shot looks great - at least at a small resolution. How much noise does it generate in the image, though?
The image you used was pretty dark (at least the tower part), and I would be very interested in seeing how badly the image quality deteriorated going through this process.
July 24, 2009 03:29 am
July 24, 2009 03:08 am
You have given me a reason to revisit my "dull" pictures!
July 24, 2009 03:03 am
Fantastic! I have a similar shot of a building that I couldn't bring myself to delete. Now I know what to do with it.
July 24, 2009 02:24 am
Wow! That's an amazing and seamless transformation. TFS.
July 24, 2009 02:17 am
That is absolutly amazing. I too am a digital photographer, taking about 5000+ a year, but only a select few ever make it to my computer files that I show. I have photos like the old one too. I think I'll go back and start twicking some of them. Never knew it was possible.
July 24, 2009 02:15 am
Wow, that's awesome! There's tons of pictures that I've deemed too dull but now I'll definitely have to go back and play with some of them!
July 24, 2009 01:21 am
Entirely agree about the joys of HDR. I'm a recent convert to Photomatix and I'm most impressed with the ability to go back to old (single) shots and apply HDR to them, even though they weren't bracketed. Check these out:
July 23, 2009 11:34 pm
July 23, 2009 04:10 pm
Nice "After" effect!
July 23, 2009 01:37 pm
Just for fun, I dragged the before image into Photoshop Elements to see what it would do. I got a similar — not identical — result. Good enough to save the shot and then some. It's amazing what even the "cheap" apps will do.
July 23, 2009 10:30 am
of course it wont be the same, that's why i said similar :) For people like me who doesnt have the cash to buy photoshop or photomatix, lightroom can be our only way.
July 23, 2009 10:25 am
@Victor, you can get something similar to HDR in LR, but it won't be the same.
July 23, 2009 09:39 am
I never delete anything since I'm always learning new ways to bring photos to life. Photomatix is a great tool, which I use often. Thanks for the post.
July 23, 2009 08:49 am
awesome tutorial! it has been known that a single image can be turned into HDR look for quite some time, but it is still a nice way to turn bad photo into a good one.
For the folks that doesnt have photomatix, you can also achieve similar effect with Lightroom nowadays. Check out this tutorial How To: HDR Look From JPG Using Lightroom
July 23, 2009 08:39 am
Well I guess if you call ugly overdone HDR exciting...
July 23, 2009 08:37 am
Great idea! I will definitely be taking a second look at my "throw away" shots after seeing this.
July 23, 2009 08:32 am
Great article, thanks. I am just starting to play with this software and your simple method helps a lot for shots I too might have tossed.
July 23, 2009 08:25 am
That's awesome! Never thought of using that method before. It may have just saved me a lot of lost photos!
July 23, 2009 07:59 am
Cool thing turns ugly into a beauty - nice post
Greets from Germany :)
July 23, 2009 07:57 am
That's simply amazing. You've inspired me to give my old photos a second view!
That look is simply amazing. Thank you for the tutorial!
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