If you have followed me for any length of time you will know that much of my work is or has been done by merging images to create an HDR image. Whether you like them or not you have to admit that HDR has somehow grabbed a study foothold in the world of photography. However, like most people I went a little crazy in my younger years but have toned it down a bit (pardon the photography pun) in recent years.
Say want you want about HDR photography, it is here to stay and strangely some of crazier images keep getting picked up and shared by news outlets and different sites. I made it into viral list with a shot of a local McDonald’s. That list has been shared and reshared and transformed ever since it was first published in 2012. Similarly, another horrible shot was shared by USA Today.
At any rate, what I am talking about today is talking about how to turn a basic image into a relatively realistic-looking HDR. I am using the term “relatively” as some may say that anything that is as rich and as vibrant as an HDR photo is not real. In reality they are right but I am not about to debate that here.
The first thing that I want to point out is that we are enhancing the image and are trying not to push it too far. The reason many HDR images look like crap is that many are pushed well beyond their “breaking point” and the images starts to break down. By this I mean, there will be halos around the edges of buildings, noise, and really odd contrast. We are going to try not to do that here.
The best HDR images start with good images. That means they should have been shot on a tripod and typically separated by a stop or 2. For this example, I used my Canon 5D mk iii and used 5 images separated a stop apart. So that would be -2,-1,0,+1,+2 and I find this gives the best results when merged together. The reason is that the jumps between exposures are not as severe, so you are more information in the merge. When merging keep in mind that if you turn on the ghost reduction or chromatic aberration, it will take longer to process.
The key here is to adjust within the images limits. You can boost the saturation but again keep in mind that we are going for natural look so try boosting the vibrancy first. From there, make your usual adjustments but keep an eye on the halos as global adjustments like exposure, contrast and highlights/shadows. One of the interesting tools that Aurora 2017 has to offer is the polarizing filter. You can easily add deeper blues to your skies without cooling the entire image. This is really helpful as many HDR images do have a blue color cast if they are shot in the evening.
The one last thing that you should go over is the dust and noise. While you can’t do this in Aurora (though I wish that they would) you can export to Lightroom, photoshop or Macphun’s own snapheal. As I said earlier, processing through any HDR platform will bring out any sensor dust or blemishes that you have on your lens. Thus, you need to remove them asap. The best thing to do is keep a clean camera. The second thing is to jump over into one of the previously mentioned programs and remove the spots. Aurora 2017 allows you to export quite easily and that is one of the great features about this program.
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