My HDR Procedure

Seems like people either love my HDR or hate it.
I happen to love it. :)
I've gotten some requests regarding how I do my HDR. Here's a quick run-down of how I do it. If you go through this and I seem to be missing something, please let me know.

This is basically what I do:
I shoot with a Canon Rebel XTi. I use the bracketing feature and I usually shoot three RAW photos, each 2 stops apart. I use Adobe Bridge, Adobe Camera Raw, Adobe Photoshop CS3 and Photomatix by HDRSoft. You may be able to do it with other programs, but I think that Photomatix is a definite here. You can download the full-use version for free, but your photo gets watermarked.

Here's the procedure:
-Select 3 RAW exposures in Adobe Bridge.
-Then click Tools--> Photoshop--> merge to HDR-Let Photoshop do its work
-When it's done, click OK
-Then save merged image as a Radiance file (.hdr)
-Open Photomatix Pro program
- Open your Radiance (.hdr) file in Photomatix
-Then go to HDR---> Tone Mapping
-You want the 'details enhancer' option
-I crank Strength, color Saturation and Luminosity to 100% on this first pass through the program, give or take.
-Click on the Light Smoothing buttons to see what looks best (for me, usually middle or second button from the right)
-You want a little bit of white point (how much pure white is in your photo) and a little bit of black point (pure black), but not too much. You can always adjust contrast and lights/darks later on
-Under the Micro Tab, lower Micro-smoothing to zero
-Under the Micro Tab, increase Micro-contrast to about 90%
-Hit Apply, but make sure you click 16-bit first (very important!)
-Save file as tiff
-close that file.
-Now, if you want, you can re-open that same tiff file and follow the same procedure to run the image through the tone-mapping again. This time, you'll have to lower the color saturation slider considerably. you can mess around with the other sliders to see if that gives you the desired effect.
{EDIT: I don't run the photos through Photomatix twice very often nowadays, but you can certainly experiment with this process.}
-Once again, save as a 16-bit tiff.
You can run it through Photomatix as many times as you want (just make sure you always save it as a 16-bit .tif). The more you run it through, the grungier it looks.
Now you want to open the photo in Adobe Camera Raw and adjust the following:
-luminance to 60%
-color saturation to about 40%
-fill light to 40% (give or take)
-blacks up to desired darkness
-The most important slider for me in ACR is the CLARITY slider. Crank it to 100%.
Go to the curves tab in CAMERA RAW and lower the shadows & darks sliders just a little below the middle point.
-you can adjust other sliders as desired.
Click SAVE at the bottom left and save your new adjusted version under a modified file name (as a tiff). Then hit CANCEL. You want to preserve your original Photomatix tiff file, in case you want to start over again. Now open your modified tiff in Photoshop.
Now you can do your final adjustments in Photoshop. Contrast, Brightness, Saturation, etc. I use a lot of brightness, curves and hue/sat layers to get the look that I want. Levels are also important, as it adds great depth to an otherwise flat image.
That's about it in a nutshell. I'm no expert! There are people here on photosig that do it an LOT LOT LOT better than I can. Check out Mike Savad's HDR. I think he has written some tutorials on how to do it. Good luck!


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