My HDR Workflow

1) HDR File Generation

Export from Lightroom to Photoshop the raw files to generate a 32-bits hdr file with HDR Pro.

That’s because Photoshop is better aligning pictures, reducing noise and with CS5, a great removal ghost tool is included.

The advantages with this step are that you get less noise than using directly Photomatix to process Tiff or raw files and you get more details too.

The disadvantages are problems with colours and withe balance that I have to resolve later in PS. There is a problem because by default, the colorspace for LR is ProPhoto, and Adobe RGB 1998 for PS. So for example, if you try to export directly from LR to Photomatix or you export to PS to generate HDR file and later open this in PS, not only the noise is different, the colour is too.Take care and assign correctly your colour space to be coherent during your workflow.

2) HDR Tonemapping

Open the HDR file in Photomatix 4.0 and do tonemapping. Save the processed file as TIFF 16 bits file.

My usual settings or around them:

  • Strength: 70%.
  • Colour saturation: 42%.
  • Light smoothing: very high.
  • Luminosity: +7.
  • Gamma: 0.7.
  • Temperature : 0.
  • Micro-contrast:  7.
  • Micro-smoothing:  2.
  • Highlights smoothing: 0.
  • Shadows smoothing: 0.
  • Shadows clipping: 0.

3) Photoshop Post-processing

Open the TIFF file in PS and adjust the colours and WB with curves, shadows and highlights and hue/saturation.

I am also using Topaz Adjust and Details plugins with default presets. My usual ones are ‘Popup’ for Adujst and ‘Feature Enhancement’ or ‘Micro Contrast Enhancement’ for Detail.

Color Efex Pro with ‘Tonal Contrast’ and ‘Glamour Glow’ as my favourite presets.

Silver Efex Pro for BW, with favourive preset ‘High Structure’.

I sometimes do a little burning/dodging, creating a new layer with fusion mode set to Soft Light and a pencil with low opacity (around 10%) .This is a non-destructive technique for dodging and burning. When you set your pencil to 50 % gray, there is not effect. If you paint with blacks you are burning and if you do with whites you are dodging.

To reduce noise I use Imagenomic Noiseware plugin.

Finally, I sharpen the pic using a ‘High Pass’ filter in a new layer with fusion mode set to Overlay and radius around 3.

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