Now with digital processing I've finally realized I'm limiting myself as a photographer by not understanding these techniques. However, the endless possibilities and countless ways to go about performing the exact same tasks (even within one program!), understanding the differences has been very frustrating, confusing, and ultimately has taken a big toll on my confidence.
----I just want to know the right way to do it.
I think it isn't worth getting frustrated for not understanding how a particular tool works, but just if it serves you well. After all they are black boxes that only the developers know exactly how operate. You are allowed to try them, master them looking at the results they produce, and use them if you feel they fit your needs. More and more tools and programs will always be, and there is not a right way to do things, there are many.
I will give you my approach in case it is useful to you. It's clear that to tone map the shadows and highlights of a high dynamic range scene we need to do local and global adjustments: global to fit the entire dynamic range of the original scene in a low dynamic range image, and local to enhance contrast locally so that images don't look dull.
To achieve that you can use black boxes (tools made by someone else that give you control through sliders):
- Photoshop HDR Merge
- Photoshop Shadows/Highlights
- LR/ACR Shadow and Highlight recovery
and you can either use tools that allow you to see exactly what you are doing:
- Manual merging layers in PS with 2 different exposure RAW developments
- Local level adjustments with mask layers using the Levels/Curves tool
I chose the second option because even if it could _seem_ that some of the black boxes yield a good and quick result, you never know how it worked. So if one day they produce a bad result you will not know how to fix it.
In particular I start from a single neutral RAW development (MarkDS called that 'linear rendition'), and use curves with optional mask layers to lift the shadows while preserving the highlights. Don't need more that adjustment layers to go from the dull and underexposed original image to the final image without leaving PS:
You can download these 2 images with the appropiate layers from: capasauditorio.tif
. This is just my way, probably not the best, not the only one.