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Using HDR To Salvage Your Pictures

Using HDR To Salvage Your Pictures

Before I begin this post, let’s see what is the definition of HDR.

“.. high-dynamic-range imaging (HDRI or just HDR) is a set of techniques that allow a greater dynamic range of luminance between the lightest and darkest areas of an image than current standard digital imaging techniques or photographic methods. This wide dynamic range allows HDR images to more accurately represent the range of intensity levels found in real scenes, ranging from direct sunlight to faint starlight.” – Wikipedia


HDR image can be created using multiple images set at different exposures merged using a graphical software to create one final image output that contains all variance of colors “seen” by the software used.


In this case, I’m going to use Adobe Photoshop CS5 as an example.


I had the chance to do a profile shoot of one upcoming Malaysian actor last week. I took about 600 shots during the shoot and as usual, not all can be used in the final selection. What I’m going to show and use in this entry is one of the “not usable” image that I took.


Here’s the original image, resized and flattened to JPEG format (I shot all my pictures in RAW format).


As we all can see, the image is too washed out with overblown details and flat colors. This is the result of overexposing the shot.

What I did was to create 2 separate images from the same picture with different level of exposure. I did this in Canon’s Digital Photo Professional (my normal software used to handle RAW file processing) and created a JPEG output of each image.

I set the exposure to -0.5EV and +0.5EV go the the results.


Next, using this 3 images (original, -0.5EV and +0.5EV), I merged this image into Photoshop’s Merge to HDR Pro tool ( File > Automate > Merge to HDR Pro)


Select the 3 images you want to process into HDR image.


Tweek your settings until you get the final desired output, keeping eye on Detail, Vibrance and Saturation. Balance out the sliders until you get your desired output. When everything is done, click “Ok”.


Here’s the final output from my 3 images that was merged to HDR in Photoshop, after tweaking.


As you can see, all the colors received a bump and the details of the picture suddenly appear clearly. This technique is time consuming, but it can somehow be used to salvage “that-only-good-pose-for-the-moment” shot that went accidentally overblown.

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