News and Views from Dave Wilson

HDR Tip #5 – Great Sky and Great Foreground

by on Mar.05, 2011, under Photography


Texas State Capitol

Quite often, I find that the tone mapping settings I like for part of my image cause other parts to look bad. In these cases, if I’m going for an artistic look, I will save the .HDR or .EXR file from Photomatix then open it twice and tone map it with settings that look good for each area independently. I then take these images into Photoshop and blend them together to give me the look I want in both areas.

If you are generating a realistic looking image, you can usually get away with not re-tonemapping but just blending in one of the original exposures. This is something I frequently do to get rid of blown highlights, noisy sections or weird contrast inversions in skies while keeping the tone mapped look of the foreground.

Open both of your tone-mapped images (or the original and tonemapped image) as layers in Photoshop with the main image on the bottom. Add a layer mask to the top image then fill the mask with black. Using a soft-edged, white brush, paint into the layer mask in the areas that you want the top image to be visible (the sky, for example). Once you’ve done this, you can change the opacity of the top layer to vary the amount of the original effect you let through.

Before anyone complains, I should admit that the picture at the top of this post is not the final version of this particular image since I’ve not uploaded that one to Flickr (you can see it on ImageKind and SmugMug though if you are interested). The final version fixes all the highlights in the clouds using this method.

I have another tip for fixing sky problems coming up but I think I’ll hang on to that one for a couple more days!

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