As a follow up to last Wednesday’s post on A Few HDR Shooting Tips here are 5 HDR tone mapping tips using Photomatix in particular.  I have shown a few videos that go into Photomatix a little more in depth, but here are a few of my quick tips that I live by.

1.  Never use a Photomatix Preset as your final tone mapping decision.  I love Photomatix, I use it for 95% of my HDR processing, however, their presets (for lack of a better word) SUCK!  One preset will not work the same from scene to scene based on the varying dynamic range from scene to scene, but these presets have never done a single one of my HDR’s justice.  The Painterly Preset is decent, but Grunge what the hell were they smoking?

2.  Save your tone map settings that work as your own presets.  As I said before, the same preset will not work the same from project to project because the dynamic range will always vary from one scene to the next.  However, if you find a great looking set of slider adjustments chances are they will look decent on another series of photos and need minimal adjustments.  I have saved 110 presets and am sure I will save 110 more by this time next year.  There are only 2 or 3 that work well for almost every tone mapping situation, I use those as starting points for other projects.

3.  If you get weird looking skies that have electric blue patches there are ways to recover your HDR project, please do not process these images and think these areas will be over-looked.  A savvy HDR photographer will read them in an instant and ultimately, you will lose credibility.  The best way to fix these areas:

  • Reduce the White Point:  this will decrease the overall HDR effect in your final product, but you can always process it twice, once with a high white point for your details, and another with the lower white point to achieve a better looking sky.  In post, mask out the bad sky with the good one and voila!
4.  Let’s talk about the saturation slider.  Keep this bad boy below 65 percent, 70 max, for the love of all of us HDR photographer’s out there.  I will bet you money that you did not see the scene you are processing with your saturation slider set to 100.  Super saturated HDR’s only look good to a beginner rookie HDR photog.  I was super excited when I did it for the first time, but now it looks like a boy named Color ate a little too much multi-colored carnival food, rode the Farris Wheel for a little too long, and vomited his name all over a perfectly otherwise painted canvas.  Those HDR images give the rest of us HDR pohotog’s a bad name.  I have had it up to my ears trying to defend HDR photography due to the over saturated crap that is spewed all over the internet.  But who am I to judge, you are the artist.
5.  Last but not least, make sure you polish your tone mapped images in Photoshop or some other Photo editing software.  Consider the final product as a work in progress, bring it into Photoshop and take it to the next step.  Adjust the levels, curves, saturation, vibrance, clean up the noise and give it a High Pass sharpen.  Think of your Photomatix product as a negative that can only come to fruition with some labor intensive TLC in the digital dark room.
Blake Rudis
f.64 Academy and f.64 Elite are the brainchildren of Blake Rudis. While he is a landscape photographer he is most passionate about post-processing images in Photoshop and mentoring others.

For Blake, it is less about the art and more about the process. He dives deep into difficult topics and makes them easy to understand through his outside the box thinking.
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