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Merge To HDR Pro - Photoshop CS5 Tutorial
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New to Photoshop CS5 - Merge to HDR Pro
I have to admit to not being a big fan of the original Merge to HDR feature in previous versions of Photoshop and, although not a big user of plug-ins or additional image editing software, I did succumb to purchasing standalone HDR software – this has, however, all changed with Photoshop CS5.
The automated feature for creating High Dynamic Range (HDR) images in Photoshop has been given a complete overhaul for Photoshop CS5 and has been given a new name ‘Merge to HDR Pro’. The Auto Alignment, Lens Correction, Remove Ghosting and expanded controls for rebuilding detail and contrast are now so good it will firmly establish Photoshop CS5 as the software of choice for photographers interested in HDR Photography.
What do we need Merge to HDR Pro?
The dynamic range of camera sensors cannot compete with the dynamic range of human vision so high contrast has always been a problem for photographers. When the Subject Brightness Range (SBR) exceeds the Dynamic Range (DR) of the sensor, the excessive contrast can result in a loss of detail in the highlights and/or shadows. HDR photography uses techniques to resolve this problem and/or enhance detail throughout the contrast range of the image. To exploit the full dynamic range that your image sensor is capable of, it is recommended that you capture in Raw mode as JPEG processing in-camera may clip the shadow and highlight detail.
The first image in this HDR project was captured using the Meter Indicated Exposure user the Aperture Priority exposure mode. The other four exposures were captured as part of a bracketing burst. The images for this project were all captured hand-held. The five files have first been opened in Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) prior to using the Merge to HDR Pro feature. The aim of opening these files in ACR is so that we can optimize the images prior to merging them.
It is recommended to correct Chromatic Aberration prior to merging the exposures. This can be achieved by going to the Lens Corrections tab and in the Chromatic Aberration section of ACR and then moving the Fix Red/Cyan Fringe and Fix Blue/Yellow Fringe sliders. Holding down the Alt/Option key as you move each of the sliders will switch the preview to show you only those colors that each slider can fix (for those users who may have trouble recognizing Blue from Cyan). Selecting the All Edges option from the Defringe drop-down menu may also help to clean up the edges.
The Spot Removal Tool can be used to remove any sensor dust. Click on the Hand Tool or the Zoom Tool to exit the Spot Removal panel.
Click the Select All button in the top left-hand corner of the ACR dialog and then click the Synchronize button. In the Synchronize dialog choose Lens Corrections from the drop-down Synchronize menu and then check the Spot Removal checkbox before selecting OK. Click the Done button in the bottom right-hand corner of the ACR dialog to commit these settings to the Raw files and close the ACR dialog.
Go to File > Automate > Merge to HDR Pro. From the dialog that opens click the Browse button and locate the same five files that you just finished optimizing in ACR. Make sure the Attempt to Automatically Align Source Images is checked and then select OK to start the HDR processing.
The five files will appear in the new Merge to HDR Pro dialog along with a large preview of the merged version. This preview will appear a little flat until you optimize the settings using the sliders and the tone curve to the right of the image preview. Adjust the brightness by moving the Gamma slider to the left or right. To increase the contrast of the file we need to click on the Curve tab in the bottom right-hand corner of the dialog. To protect the highlights from the contrast adjustment, click on the diagonal line to set anchor points in the top right-hand corner of the curve. Increase the steepness of the curve through the shadow section of the histogram and flatten the curve off as it approaches the mid-tones.
By checking the Remove Ghosts option it is possible to reduce multiple versions of the same subject matter to a single sharp subject (click on a different thumbnail if you need Photoshop to select alternate detail). Look how sharp the water is in the river after selecting this option. It is also great for leaves blowing in a breeze and anything that is moving in your scene for the duration of the bracket burst.
Set the Mode to 16 Bit and raise the Radius slider to around 180 pixels and the Strength slider to 0.80 in the Edge Glow section. This action will add depth to the file. Increase the vibrancy of the colors using the slider in the Color tab. It is recommended to save all of these settings as a Preset before selecting OK. This will ensure that you can return to these settings at a later date and fine-tune the process a second time if required.
An extended version of this project can be found in the book Photoshop CS5: Essential Skills by Mark Galer and Philip Andrews.
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