Lousy HDR results

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by bodhisoma@gmail.com, Dec 28, 2006.

  1. Guest

    I just went out and took some great HDR shots of the coast. Came back
    home, dumped all the NEF (Nikon's RAW format) to my drive and then
    picked out the first set for a Merge to HDR in Photoshop CS 2.
    Generally I shot -3, -2, -1, 0 and sometimes +1. It all depended on
    the histogram.

    The results are less than stunning. In fact they kinda look like crap
    and I'm wondering if I'm doing something wrong.

    Everything goes smoothly in Photoshop until I get to a screen where it
    wants me to manually set the ISO, f-stop and aperture. Alternatley, it
    allows me to set an EV. But since the NEF data contains no EXIM data
    (according to Picasa), I have no idea what the correct values are so I
    wind up guessing the EV value. If there are five shots in the series,
    for example, I would tag the EV values at -2 through +2.

    So I'm wondering if that's why the merged HDRs are coming out worse
    than a single shot (guessing the values wrong). When I look at the
    histograms on these images, *clearly* there is clipping on individual
    frames and thus they're legitimate targets of an HDR.

    I'm kinda stumped. Any help would be appreciated.

    Jason
    , Dec 28, 2006
    #1
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  2. Rich Guest

    wrote:
    > I just went out and took some great HDR shots of the coast. Came back
    > home, dumped all the NEF (Nikon's RAW format) to my drive and then
    > picked out the first set for a Merge to HDR in Photoshop CS 2.
    > Generally I shot -3, -2, -1, 0 and sometimes +1. It all depended on
    > the histogram.
    >
    > The results are less than stunning. In fact they kinda look like crap
    > and I'm wondering if I'm doing something wrong.
    >
    > Everything goes smoothly in Photoshop until I get to a screen where it
    > wants me to manually set the ISO, f-stop and aperture. Alternatley, it
    > allows me to set an EV. But since the NEF data contains no EXIM data
    > (according to Picasa), I have no idea what the correct values are so I
    > wind up guessing the EV value. If there are five shots in the series,
    > for example, I would tag the EV values at -2 through +2.
    >
    > So I'm wondering if that's why the merged HDRs are coming out worse
    > than a single shot (guessing the values wrong). When I look at the
    > histograms on these images, *clearly* there is clipping on individual
    > frames and thus they're legitimate targets of an HDR.
    >
    > I'm kinda stumped. Any help would be appreciated.
    >
    > Jason


    There is this article.

    http://www.luminous-landscape.com/tutorials/hdr.shtml
    Rich, Dec 29, 2006
    #2
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  3. Ken Lucke Guest

    In article <>,
    <> wrote:

    > I just went out and took some great HDR shots of the coast. Came back
    > home, dumped all the NEF (Nikon's RAW format) to my drive and then
    > picked out the first set for a Merge to HDR in Photoshop CS 2.
    > Generally I shot -3, -2, -1, 0 and sometimes +1. It all depended on
    > the histogram.
    >
    > The results are less than stunning. In fact they kinda look like crap
    > and I'm wondering if I'm doing something wrong.
    >
    > Everything goes smoothly in Photoshop until I get to a screen where it
    > wants me to manually set the ISO, f-stop and aperture. Alternatley, it
    > allows me to set an EV. But since the NEF data contains no EXIM data
    > (according to Picasa), I have no idea what the correct values are so I
    > wind up guessing the EV value. If there are five shots in the series,
    > for example, I would tag the EV values at -2 through +2.
    >
    > So I'm wondering if that's why the merged HDRs are coming out worse
    > than a single shot (guessing the values wrong). When I look at the
    > histograms on these images, *clearly* there is clipping on individual
    > frames and thus they're legitimate targets of an HDR.
    >
    > I'm kinda stumped. Any help would be appreciated.
    >


    Probably because you are looking at the raw HDR, and not doing a Curves
    adjustment or using the [free] Tone Mapping plugin from Photomatix to
    map all the 32 bit tones back down to the color space/gamut range that
    your monitor (and printer) is capable of. Only special (read: very
    expensive) monitors are capable of displaying HDR images unmapped. For
    everyone else, you need to tone map.

    --
    You need only reflect that one of the best ways to get yourself a
    reputation as a dangerous citizen these days is to go about repeating
    the very phrases which our founding fathers used in the struggle for
    independence.
    -- Charles A. Beard
    Ken Lucke, Dec 29, 2006
    #3
  4. Guest

    Rich wrote:
    >
    > There is this article.
    >
    > http://www.luminous-landscape.com/tutorials/hdr.shtml


    I checked out this tutorial, well written, but I just don't get even
    close to the same results.

    I'm still wondering how I can figure out the *correct* answers to the
    exposure / f-stop / ISO question. When I look at the RAW files in
    Picasa, it says "No EXIF data available." My gut tells me that's where
    my problem lies.

    Any ideas how to determine this without keeping a notebook with me
    (completley out of the question)?

    But thanks for the tutorial anyway. I did learn some stuff.

    Jason
    , Dec 29, 2006
    #4
  5. Mike Russell Guest

    "Ken Lucke" <> wrote in message
    news:281220061817445234%...
    > Only special (read: very
    > expensive) monitors are capable of displaying HDR images unmapped. For
    > everyone else, you need to tone map.


    I would be surprised if there are any monitors at all capable of displaying
    either unmapped HDR images, or even much more than 12 bits of dynamic range
    per channel.

    That said, I have seen one device, at the top of a hill in Greenwich, that
    displays real-time images with no loss of gamut or brightness range, other
    than those associated with the optics.
    --
    Mike Russell
    www.curvemeister.com/forum/
    Mike Russell, Dec 30, 2006
    #5
  6. Joan Guest

    Check for the EXIF in Photoshop.

    --
    Joan
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/joan-in-manly

    <> wrote in message
    news:...
    :
    : I checked out this tutorial, well written, but I just don't get even
    : close to the same results.
    :
    : I'm still wondering how I can figure out the *correct* answers to
    the
    : exposure / f-stop / ISO question. When I look at the RAW files in
    : Picasa, it says "No EXIF data available." My gut tells me that's
    where
    : my problem lies.
    :
    : Any ideas how to determine this without keeping a notebook with me
    : (completley out of the question)?
    :
    : But thanks for the tutorial anyway. I did learn some stuff.
    :
    : Jason
    :
    Joan, Dec 30, 2006
    #6
  7. Mike Russell wrote:
    > "Ken Lucke" <> wrote in message
    > news:281220061817445234%...
    >> Only special (read: very
    >> expensive) monitors are capable of displaying HDR images unmapped. For
    >> everyone else, you need to tone map.

    >
    > I would be surprised if there are any monitors at all capable of displaying
    > either unmapped HDR images, or even much more than 12 bits of dynamic range
    > per channel.
    >
    > That said, I have seen one device, at the top of a hill in Greenwich, that
    > displays real-time images with no loss of gamut or brightness range, other
    > than those associated with the optics.


    Which Greenwich? Can you say more?

    --
    John McWilliams
    John McWilliams, Dec 30, 2006
    #7
  8. Ken Lucke Guest

    In article <96slh.41186$>, Mike
    Russell <-MOVE> wrote:

    > "Ken Lucke" <> wrote in message
    > news:281220061817445234%...
    > > Only special (read: very
    > > expensive) monitors are capable of displaying HDR images unmapped. For
    > > everyone else, you need to tone map.

    >
    > I would be surprised if there are any monitors at all capable of displaying
    > either unmapped HDR images, or even much more than 12 bits of dynamic range
    > per channel.


    http://www.hardwaresecrets.com/article/208
    http://www.brightsidetech.com/

    >
    > That said, I have seen one device, at the top of a hill in Greenwich, that
    > displays real-time images with no loss of gamut or brightness range, other
    > than those associated with the optics.


    --
    You need only reflect that one of the best ways to get yourself a
    reputation as a dangerous citizen these days is to go about repeating
    the very phrases which our founding fathers used in the struggle for
    independence.
    -- Charles A. Beard
    Ken Lucke, Dec 30, 2006
    #8
  9. Mike Russell Guest

    "Ken Lucke" <> wrote in message
    news:301220060928308553%...
    > In article <96slh.41186$>, Mike
    > Russell <-MOVE> wrote:
    >
    >> "Ken Lucke" <> wrote in message
    >> news:281220061817445234%...
    >> > Only special (read: very
    >> > expensive) monitors are capable of displaying HDR images unmapped. For
    >> > everyone else, you need to tone map.

    >>
    >> I would be surprised if there are any monitors at all capable of
    >> displaying
    >> either unmapped HDR images, or even much more than 12 bits of dynamic
    >> range
    >> per channel.

    >
    > http://www.hardwaresecrets.com/article/208
    > http://www.brightsidetech.com/


    Although this described a high dynamic range display, this is not HDR in the
    sense that Photoshop uses it. It does say in the detailed specs that "LEDs
    are driven such that the brightness is controllable in equal increments and
    driven by a linear 8-bit value".
    http://www.brightsidetech.com/products/info/dr37p_specs.pdf
    --

    Mike Russell
    www.curvemeister.com/forum/
    Mike Russell, Dec 30, 2006
    #9
  10. Well if you only did negative exposures that is you problem. It doesn't make
    a flying flip what your histogram on the camera is telling you. You need -1
    0 +1. You need at least the same number of + images as you have negative.
    The whole point of HDR is to get the most dynamic range possible and you
    can't do that with 3 or 4 - exposures one right on and one + exposure when
    you think about.

    True doing it right. Though you will still likely end up with crappy images.
    HDR isn't all that it is cracked up to be.

    ljc


    <> wrote in message
    news:...
    >I just went out and took some great HDR shots of the coast. Came back
    > home, dumped all the NEF (Nikon's RAW format) to my drive and then
    > picked out the first set for a Merge to HDR in Photoshop CS 2.
    > Generally I shot -3, -2, -1, 0 and sometimes +1. It all depended on
    > the histogram.
    >
    > The results are less than stunning. In fact they kinda look like crap
    > and I'm wondering if I'm doing something wrong.
    >
    > Everything goes smoothly in Photoshop until I get to a screen where it
    > wants me to manually set the ISO, f-stop and aperture. Alternatley, it
    > allows me to set an EV. But since the NEF data contains no EXIM data
    > (according to Picasa), I have no idea what the correct values are so I
    > wind up guessing the EV value. If there are five shots in the series,
    > for example, I would tag the EV values at -2 through +2.
    >
    > So I'm wondering if that's why the merged HDRs are coming out worse
    > than a single shot (guessing the values wrong). When I look at the
    > histograms on these images, *clearly* there is clipping on individual
    > frames and thus they're legitimate targets of an HDR.
    >
    > I'm kinda stumped. Any help would be appreciated.
    >
    > Jason
    >
    Little Juice Coupe, Dec 31, 2006
    #10
  11. Clyde Guest

    wrote:
    > I just went out and took some great HDR shots of the coast. Came back
    > home, dumped all the NEF (Nikon's RAW format) to my drive and then
    > picked out the first set for a Merge to HDR in Photoshop CS 2.
    > Generally I shot -3, -2, -1, 0 and sometimes +1. It all depended on
    > the histogram.
    >
    > The results are less than stunning. In fact they kinda look like crap
    > and I'm wondering if I'm doing something wrong.
    >
    > Everything goes smoothly in Photoshop until I get to a screen where it
    > wants me to manually set the ISO, f-stop and aperture. Alternatley, it
    > allows me to set an EV. But since the NEF data contains no EXIM data
    > (according to Picasa), I have no idea what the correct values are so I
    > wind up guessing the EV value. If there are five shots in the series,
    > for example, I would tag the EV values at -2 through +2.
    >
    > So I'm wondering if that's why the merged HDRs are coming out worse
    > than a single shot (guessing the values wrong). When I look at the
    > histograms on these images, *clearly* there is clipping on individual
    > frames and thus they're legitimate targets of an HDR.
    >
    > I'm kinda stumped. Any help would be appreciated.
    >
    > Jason
    >


    You have made a few conceptual mistakes about HDR that will usually
    screw up HDR photography. The first is using Photoshop's Merge to HDR.
    It isn't very good or very easy to learn with. You will do much better
    if you spend the money on Photomatix Pro and learn on it. It does much
    more too.

    A High Dynamic Range picture is one that has values outside the
    capabilities of most digital hardware and software. It takes 32 bit
    pictures to be able to save these. i.e. They have highlights and shadows
    that your camera, monitor, printer or 16 bit files will never be able to
    represent. For most practical uses, these are useless the way they are;
    you can't display them anywhere.

    The reason for HDR software is to squeeze the dynamic range of that
    scene down into a 16 or 8 bit format that you can actually use. The two
    most common ways to do that are to blend a bunch of exposures together
    to get averages of all of them OR to use Tone Mapping to figure out the
    best parts to use to make into values inside the range you want. OK,
    that is very simplified, but hopefully you get the idea.

    The number one problem that most HDR beginners have with HDR photography
    is that they are trying to work with scenes that don't need HDR. They
    take pictures of scenes that can fully or successfully be captured in
    their cameras in one exposure. Then they run them through HDR to flatten
    them out into very flat and very ugly pictures.

    There are fewer scenes out there that need HDR than you think. A dark,
    dense forest with a bright shaft of sunlight coming down inside would be
    one. The sun stabbing through the dark clouds of a heavy storm would be
    another. Interior shots where you need to properly expose the lights
    inside, the shadows inside, and the view outside the bright daylight
    windows would be another. (Inside a church works for this.) Daylight
    inside a canyon with your view including outside the canyon is almost
    always an HDR scene.

    I very much doubt that a typical daylight coastal scene would need HDR
    at all. You may have bright sun reflecting off water, but you probably
    don't have any large sections of dark shadows that need detail in them.
    You probably really don't need any detail off the specular reflection
    from the sun either. So, don't try to capture detail where you don't
    need it.

    The next biggest mistake to not bracket widely enough. A one stop
    bracketing is almost never enough. Your camera's natural dynamic range
    is much wider than that. You need to bracket enough to properly expose
    everything in the scene. An exposure that is at the meter's setting will
    probably capture 4 to 6 stops of the scene on most digital cameras. One
    stop of bracketing will be well inside this range and a waste of your
    time at the camera and at the computer. Start experimenting with 2 to 3
    stops apart for bracketing.

    The next most common mistake is using the HDR software to squeeze the
    dynamic range down too much. Remember what makes most pictures good -
    you want as much dynamic range as possible. (There are plenty of
    exceptions to this, of course.) You don't want the picture as flat as
    possible. You want the picture squeezed down just to the point that the
    highlights and shadows just fit inside the range that your equipment can
    handle. sRGB at 8 bit is a good standard to work from as most equipment
    can work well with that in a color managed system. Still that leaves a
    pretty white highlight and a pretty dark shadow.

    If you do the above correctly, you have the principles in line for
    figuring out the software. You WILL have to do a lot of experimenting
    with the software. None of it is intuitive and there is precious little
    written in the form of tutorials that is useful. Frankly, I have never
    got a good output from Photoshop's HDR. I don't know anyone who has.
    That's why I and many people have bought Photomatix Pro. It still takes
    a lot of experimenting, but it's a bit more logical - after awhile. It
    also has more flexibility and tells you more useful information
    throughout the process.

    A few other notes I've learned from doing way too much HDR photography...

    * Blending is more "realistic" than Tone Mapping, but tends to make
    flat, dull interior pictures. Blending has worked best for me for
    exterior pictures, but not always.

    * Tone Mapping has usually worked best for me on interior photos.

    * Tone Mapping can shift colors a bit though. This is particularly true
    if you have different colored lighting throughout the scene. (Which you
    probably will if there is daylight outside the windows.)

    * Use Tone Mapping as lightly as possible or many scenes get a very
    surreal look to them. (Well, unless you like that look.)

    * Expose 2 or 3 stops apart from the darkest part of the scene to the
    lightest. For me that was usually 4 to 7 exposures. Judge this from the
    screen and not the viewfinder or histogram.

    * Shoot in manual mode and change the speed; so you don't affect the DoF
    and focus.

    * Use a good tripod.

    If you need HDR and you've spent the time to learn it, it is a great
    tool. Have fun!

    Clyde
    Clyde, Jan 6, 2007
    #11
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