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I have very little success achieving what I want to do with HDR (high dynamic range imaging). HDR promises to deliver tonal detail throughout the dynamic range and a fine promise that is. My goal with HDR is to produce high dynamic range photos that are photo realistic, but I rarely achieve that goal. Granted I am discouraged enough that I don’t invest the time to master the HDR process and to short of time to peruse it as I should.
I have turned to an alternative that others may find useful. Having bracketed and shot a series of photos with the goal of HDR processing I have the information I need to make a photo realistic photo the hard way – in layers.
Upon failure of achieving an undetectable HDR masterpiece I color correct and optimize them in Aperture of Lightroom. I then do some finishing touches in Photoshop then I go back into Adobe Bridge ———–> tools ———–> export to Photoshop layers. I select my three most representative photos of the range I desire then place them in the order that will work, usually darkest on the bottom, medium exposure in middle then the lightest on top.
I than selectively erase portions of the layer to reveal the more desirable exposure below. When necessary I vary the opacity of the eraser to more subtly reveal parts of the exposure below.
When working around hard edges as where a mountain meets the sky or trees extend into the sky, extra special care needs to be exercised to achieve a believable blend.
When all looks well I flatten the image than blow it up to 100% or more, sometimes $400% and I will do the necessary cloning and other touch up where the exposure merges didn’t marry in a believable way.
When finished I have a HDR image without funny glows, halos, or colors that defy believability and appear as our eyes perceive the landscape.
I will continue trying to master HDR as time allows but until then I am glad that because HDR has incentivized me to expose extra images that I can use in an alternative creative process.