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How to post process Realistic HDR using Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop.
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In Realistic HDR part 1 we learned when and how to shoot multiple exposures with a view to producing a realistic HDR image.
Here in Realistic HDR part 2 we will learn a technique for merging and developing multiple exposures using just Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop to produce a realistic looking HDR image.
There are numerous different image management and photo manipulation software options available - including some which are exclusively for processing HDR images.
However, this tutorial for Realistic HDR images deals exclusively with two programmes that are extremely common and used by many photographers - Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop
Download the images into Adobe Lightroon.
Isolate the the exposures you took (see Realistic HDR part 1 ) and wish to merge to the final HDR image.
I like to group them in a collection where it is possible to reorder them if necessary from darkest (most underexposed) to brightest (most over exposed)
See the screen shot below
If the images require cropping or lens corrections and chromatic aberrations removed, now is the time to do it. Select all the images make the adjustments to one image and those adjustments will sync across all the images.
However DO NOT be tempted to make any tonal or other adjustments to the images at this stage.
Return to the Library module for step 3
To merge the images to a photoshop HDR file follow the following steps (refer to the screenshot above for additional guidance)
Select all the images to be merged
Go to PHOTO - EDIT IN - MERGE TO HDR PRO IN PHOTOSHOP
It may take a few moments as photoshop processes the file but you will eventually have see the following dialogue box
If the dialogue box looks different - make sure you go to the top of the right hand panel and change mode to 32 bit.
If there are elements of your image which may vary (due to movement between the exposures) also tick the "remove ghosts" box (also top of right hand panel)
Now you are NOT going to make any further adjustments to the image using photoshops HDR tone mapping - simply go to FILE - SAVE and then close the image.
This will create a 32bit TIFF image and import it back into Lightroom - see screen shot below
Now you can simply use the normal tools in the Lightroom Develop module to adjust the tonality, colour and contrast of the merged image until it appears as you remember the scene in reality.
Unlike with a normal RAW file - the 32 Bit Tiff image allows a for greater range of exposure manipulation - up to plus or minus 10 STOPS (versus the usual 5) Furthermore you will find that you can make much greater adjustments to both shadows and highlights without apparently damaging the image quality (without introduction of noise etc)
If you look at the adjustments sliders in the screen shot above - you will note that I made 100% adjustments the the image but without the resultant "painterly" unrealistic effect that would normally result. This is because the 32 bit image has such a huge amount of extra data to utilise.
So there you have it.
A relatively simple technique to create realistic HDR images using only Lightroom and Photoshop - tools that many photographers are likely to already possess.
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