Friday, May 14, 2010

Unbelievable Believable HDR with Adobe Photoshop CS5

I had an interesting encounter the other day. I ran into a retired commercial photographer I’ve known for more the three decades. He’s seventy five plus now and freely admits he bailed out just when digital photography got started rather than go though the education process as a novice. I’ve always respected his opinion and asked if he’d care to see some of my current work. I showed him today’s image and saw, what I thought was a strange reaction. I asked him what was up. He said he thought it was a fairly average shot that any amateur could take with a point and shoot camera. I have to admit I was a little put off by the comment considering all the work that went into the image. After he left I was still pretty bummed about the comment until I thought a little more about it. It was then I figured out that I had done a “good enough” job on the image to fool a very serious commercial professional. As I said, he had retired from photography at the dawn of the digital age and had no working knowledge of modern techniques, or HDR, or any of the tools we use today. He had no idea, nor could he have had knowledge that the barn was really askew in the original shot. Then I first looked at it I thought the camera might have fired accidentally while I was bringing it up to my eye the thing was leaning so much. The barn had to be rotated about ten degrees counterclockwise to straighten it up. Rather than crop into the shot I considered letting Content Aware Fill do its magic and see what would happen. Imagine a line from the lower left corner up to the top of the shadows of the fence on the lower right. That’s a pretty good chunk of real estate. Look what Content Aware Fill did. As far as I can see it did a remarkable job sorting out the shadows and highlights. Seeing as the bottom was tilted so much, the top had to be off by that much also. Luckily it was sky, but it also added in the second treetop right on the edge of the shot. Again, an amazing piece of mathematics. To find out more about other things that went into the making of today’s image, hit the “read more”.

Some things were simple. The barn is in a more powerful position on the right and high in the frame, so I flipped the shot. The fence had the address numbers on it, so I cloned them out. Easy stuff.

The bigger deal was the mask making. Before I knew it I was three quarters of the way through using the Calculations Dialog box. I’ve got to start remembering the Refine Task dialog box that’s available in CS5. The mask separated out the details of the trees (particularly the center one)and allowed the sky to be treated on its own.

Another switch from the normal was in the individual Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layers. Rather than the normal six (Red, Yellow, Green, Cyan, Blue, and Magenta) I wound up with double Yellows, double Greens, and double Cyans. As an example, the trees needed more saturation than the grass. I prefer using multiple Adjustment Layers to the alternative method of making the brush a shade of grey because it lets me fine tune each level of saturation. With the grey brush method the ratio of fully masked to partially masked would be fixed, giving less control than I like.

So, I guess when my old friend said it was a shot anyone could take with a point and shoot camera, he was giving me a back handed compliment about my post processing work. I’ll take it.


katty said...

I love the all the variation you can do with photoshop. There are websides which distort things how ever I found I side that presented a great houses and when visit the place I convenced me that was real. In fact I decided to approach the costa rica investment opportunities and buy a beautiful house there.