44 In­crease your range

Cre­ate nat­u­ral-look­ing HDR im­ages with ease by merg­ing ex­po­sures in Cam­era Raw and Pho­to­shop. James Pater­son shows you how…

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Merge ex­po­sures in Cam­era Raw and Pho­to­shop to cre­ate nat­u­ral-look­ing HDR im­ages, with­out the over­cooked ef­fect that spoils many

Of all the ways to cre­ate High Dy­namic Range im­ages, Pho­to­shop’s ‘Merge to HDR Pro’ com­mand has al­ways lagged be­hind the best op­tions avail­able. Like all HDR tools, it en­ables you to com­bine a set of ex­po­sures into one im­age with a dy­namic range be­yond what your cam­era is ca­pa­ble of. How­ever, it suf­fers badly in com­par­i­son to ded­i­cated third-party of­fer­ings, such as Pho­tomatix Pro, and al­most all of the HDR pre­sets it of­fers are too harsh, for my taste at least. It’s not com­pletely with­out merit, as it does let you cre­ate 32-bit HDR files, but if you’re se­ri­ous about HDR then it’s worth ex­plor­ing other ways to achieve the ef­fect.

Thank­fully, Adobe has added an ex­cel­lent fea­ture to Pho­to­shop CC’s Cam­era Raw plug-in (and Light­room) that merges a set of ex­po­sures for you, cre­at­ing a 16-bit HDR RAW file in the process. It means you can pro­duce HDRs with­out the over­cooked ef­fects that turn many pho­tog­ra­phers off.

The HDR con­trols on of­fer in Cam­era Raw are fairly lim­ited, but the re­sults are usu­ally very good. In this tu­to­rial we’ll ex­plain how it’s done, first by com­bin­ing frames in Cam­era Raw, then by en­hanc­ing the de­tails and fin­ish­ing off the im­age in Pho­to­shop. With these skills you’ll be able to cre­ate im­ages with a level of de­tail that wouldn’t have oth­er­wise been pos­si­ble. You can pro­duce land­scapes with ra­di­ant skies and de­tail-rich land, even in con­trast­ing light. Or you could cap­ture in­te­rior scenes with­out blown-out win­dows.

In fact, any high-contrast scene can po­ten­tially ben­e­fit from the HDR treat­ment, and with the con­trols on of­fer in Cam­era Raw, bring­ing ev­ery­thing to­gether is both quick and easy.

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