Many HDR images have been criticized because of the tendency of lots of photogs to go over the edge in post-processing. In this “How To Do Stuff” post, I’d like to demonstrate one of my techniques for producing realistic High Dynamic Range images that can be enlarged without losing too much visual detail. This image is a result of a bit of fine tuning with Nik HDR Efex Pro, Adobe Camera Raw and Adobe Photoshop CS6.
- Sharp and Smooth – Un-Cooked
I’d like to start with the image as it came out of Nik HDR Efex Pro and show how I use Camera Raw for most of the post-processing.
I started with the Basic panel to modify just about everything that was needed except sharpening/luminosity and correcting chromatic aberration.
As you can see, minor adjustments of Highlights, Clarity and Vibrance can add much more punch to an image. My next step is to add sharpening and noise reduction using Luminosity on the Details tab. I’m using a before and after blowup of the side of the water tower to show the details and the sky.
I’ve found that the settings on this tab are usually dependent on the starting image. With this shot, I was able to get a pretty decent compromise of sharp and smooth. But, as you can see, this was a windy day and some of my branches are doubled from the image blending process. This shot was taken with an old Nikon zoom lens that seems to produce quite a bit of Chromatic Aberration. So, the next step required some automatic removal with the Lens Correction tab.
I realize that most people don’t get too concerned with this level of detail but if you plan on making large prints, things like detail sharpness, luminosity and chromatic aberration need to be addressed. This is usually my final step in Camera Raw unless I want to do some type of split toning or additional color correction.
- Sharp and Smooth – Photoshopping
Now I’m ready to move into Photoshop for some final enhancements and size modifications. By working with Layers, I made adjustments to the final image. My major effort was to remove the halo effect around the trees and tower. For this I simply used the burn tool at a very light, 3% setting with a soft blend. Slight adjustments to Hue/Saturation for realistic color, Exposure for Gamma Correction and Curves for overall contrast gave me just what I wanted. Here are the before and after versions.Now that we have a nice sharp and smooth image, it’s time to do the final stage for a large print version.
- Sharp and Smooth – Big Time
By using the Photoshop Image sizing tool, I’ll create a larger than final size image for slight sharpening using High Pass filter. I’ve found that sharpening at a larger size and then reducing the size to the final print dimensions creates a more realistic effect. My final size is 36 x 24 inches so I’ll create a copy with a 40 inch horizontal length. I then apply the High Pass filter using 8 pixels and Soft Light at 100% Opacity and Fill. The last step is to reduce the image size. This is a comparison with a small part of the original image.
Not sure where this is? Note the red box in the image below. That’s a pretty sweet rendition for a shot from an old, not so sharp lens.
This is one of many methods that can be used for enhancing an image to produce large prints. I will be presenting a few different scenarios in the future. And I hope this has been helpful.