HDR Tutorial:Dual Processing HDR Images

HDR Tutorial:Dual Processing HDR Images

We have all fallen victim to the lazy HDRtist.  You know, when you are processing an image in Photomatix and there are distracting highlight blow outs so you do everything in your power to fix them and in turn end up sacrificing the rest of the image.  So you tell yourself, eh, I can fix the rest in Photoshop in post, no big deal….

Instead, how about processing the image twice.  Process it once for the great image with highlight blowouts and then process it again without the blowouts.  Then in post combine the best of both worlds!  If you think that is advanced you may want to check out this tutorial, it is much easier than you may be thinking!  I use this technique all the time, I cannot tell you how many times it has pulled me out of a tight spot.


Blake Rudis
Creator of f.64 Academy
Most people think I am passionate about Photography, but in reality I am not.


Wait, before you freak out, you are on a photo site, I am addicted to post processing. To be more specific, I am addicted to workflow efficiency and cracking the codes to complex systems. That's what I do here, crack the code to photo post processing and present it in a concise way, for you :)
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  1. i appreciate your lessons but i enjoy your commentary … literally lol a couple of times… keep it up bro

    Jason from Summerville, SC

    • Awesome! Thanks Jason! I am glad you have found the tutorial helpful!

  2. This HDR tutorial was very informative, I am just getting started.. Thank you for sharing this.

    • No problem Christian. I am glad it has helped you, if you need any help in the future, you know who to come to. Happy HDR-ing!

  3. Watched your tutorial. What is the difference if you shoot to meter the highlights and shadows and then use the HDR automation in Photoghop? That is new to me. In the past I would have done things similar to your video. Just trying to get a handle on when to use the different methods.

    • Thanks for stopping by! Well you could meter for the highlights and meter for the shadows, but sometimes we forget to do that as photographers. Also the tone mapping process in Photomatix doesn’t really care too much about your meter, for some reason the algorithm embedded in Photomatix hates white areas, it makes them really dirty! When you get the setting you like for most of the image, the highlighted areas turn out dirty, when you fix those areas the rest looks not so HDR. This is a great technique to use when you want the best of both worlds from one set of exposures without metering for both the highlights and shadows.

      In the case of this scene, I was grab and go! I had 1 hour to shoot my favorite areas of the museum, I needed to get on my HDR Exposure horse and go to town! Unfortunately, I had to have extremely long shutter speeds due to the lighting scenarios presented, while I love my camera it is very unforgiving at higher ISOs (yes I mean higher than 200, especially with HDR).

      I hope that helps! Take care Connie, please feel free stop by often!

  4. Thanks, Blake, for this very informative video!

    I always wondering what to do with those blown up areas that, sometimes, ruined my HDRs. Now, I know!

    Keep it up!


    • Awesome, I am glad I helped! Comments like that keep me going, fuel for the fire!

  5. Blake extraordinary explanation as usual. Thank you very much.
    Your friend José

    • Thanks Jose!

  6. I just read the comment that you mentioned that your camera sucks with ISO higher than 200 specially with HDR.
    Recently I bought a Canon 60D and went on to do a photography shoot of a building for a client. I wasn’t yet used to those subtleties of the camera since my previous camera (pentax) worked just fine with hdr.
    When i got homeand started processing, it was absurd the amount of noise I was getting at 400, almost as if it exponentially multiplied.
    My question is, does the reduce noise option in photomatix actually help? Do you limit yourself to maximum 200 iso for cleaner results? I thought i was doing something wrong in the process but seems like you have the same problem.

    • The Olympus E-30 did have a very horrible Noise problem at higher ISO’s, well above 400 which isn’t actually very high at all! However I recently purchased the EOS 6D which has an impeccable image sensor that handles noise like a champ so I now shoot at higher ISO’s even when shooting for HDR. I don’t notice any noise problems until I am above ISO 500 or so, but that is only with HDR, and even then it is not too bad. I have shot at ISO 2000 and noticed a bit of noise, but still nothing comparable to the horrific noise at ISO 400 on the E-30. Nothing against the E-30, however, it is 5 year old technology!

      The problem with HDR and higher ISO’s is exactly what you spoke of in your initial question, noise compounding. If you think the noise is bad in a single image, when you begin to combine multiple exposures of the same scene the noise does actually compound. It compacts and combines the noise so much that areas that should be free of noise almost begin to appear as details that should have been there in the first place. This is a serious problem for noise ware post processing plug-ins such as ACR (Adobe Camera Raw), Lightroom, even noise ware specific ones like DeNoise and Noise Ninja. The noise ware programs begin to treat these compounded areas as detail, therefore they don’t work very well to help avoid them. There are ways to combat them and I do describe some of them in my eBook, Exploring HDR. One way is to actually use the blur tool and blur out the noise. It sounds destructive but trust me it works!

      How do I avoid it altogether? I tend to shoot at the lowest ISO I can for the scene without compromising my shutter speed too much, ISO 50 or 100 is usually where I am with it. However, there are times when those ISO’s generate a very long shutter speed, therefore I will take one exposure, process the noise out with something like ACR and maybe do a pseudo HDR with ACR or run it through an Action that creates multiple exposures in PS and process them in Photomatix without the noise. As far as Photomatix, I do not check the reduce noise block anymore, I noticed it made my images blurry, I do all noise processing after the image is tone mapped. Or I address the noise before tone mapping. It is a constant battle with that noise stuff!



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