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Author Topic: Filters VS HDR  (Read 6449 times)

trevarthan

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Filters VS HDR
« on: July 19, 2014, 03:31:02 pm »

I just bought a set of Lee Filters for my 24mm 1.4g. I'm pretty excited about that, because it will give me new ways to photograph high dynamic range. However, I was thinking about a few shots I've recently taken. This one, for example: https://www.flickr.com/photos/trevarthan/14629342151/

In this photo, shot at f2, because I had a human subject, I waited for the sky brightness to equalize with the foreground. It's pretty close to a blue hour shot.

Is it possible to shoot this scene using filters, or does the bridge breaking the horizon make it impossible?

I know I could shoot something like this during sunset using HDR, but all of my HDRs have turned out looking over processed. I hate that look. Is there a good easy way to generate HDRs that look natural?
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Hans Kruse

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Re: Filters VS HDR
« Reply #1 on: July 19, 2014, 05:02:54 pm »

Both Lightroom and Capture One has very nice tools for post processing for similar effects as a grad filter. No need in my opinion to use either HDR or physical filters as long as we are talking about 1 or 2 stops. More than 2 stops is also possible with modern digital sensors. Even HDR blending can be done without the typical HDR look.

Bart_van_der_Wolf

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Re: Filters VS HDR
« Reply #2 on: July 20, 2014, 05:33:49 am »

I know I could shoot something like this during sunset using HDR, but all of my HDRs have turned out looking over processed.

Hi,

That's because they probably are over-processed. It's all down to tonemapping the huge dynamic range down to a believable looking much smaller dynamic range.

Quote
Is there a good easy way to generate HDRs that look natural?

I personally prefer using SNS-HDR for the natural looking output it can produce, but there are a few other reasonable alternatives. Photoshop/Lightroom allow to process 32-bit HDR TIFFs and make a reasonable looking output with the same familiar controls as one can use for other images. Another interesting one dedicated to HDR is HDR Expose .

Recent versions of Photomatix Pro also allow to use (e.g. Exposure Fusion) settings that produce more realistic looking output.

Cheers,
Bart
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trevarthan

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Re: Filters VS HDR
« Reply #3 on: July 20, 2014, 10:41:10 am »

I think I'm going to try the Lightroom Enfuse plugin: http://www.photographers-toolbox.com/products/lrenfuse.php

I didn't realize there were exposure mapping programs out there for Lightroom. That's great, because I work on a Mac. That SNS HDR thing looks to be windows only. I've got a virtual machine, but I don't want to mess with it for photo editing. I only use it for software development.

Here's an interesting thread on another forum about automated exposure blending VS "Real" HDR, and what the difference is and why exposure blending tends to look better: http://digital-photography-school.com/forum/post-processing-printing/178741-exposure-blending-hdr.html

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Hans Kruse

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Re: Filters VS HDR
« Reply #4 on: July 20, 2014, 12:52:45 pm »

I think I'm going to try the Lightroom Enfuse plugin: http://www.photographers-toolbox.com/products/lrenfuse.php

I didn't realize there were exposure mapping programs out there for Lightroom. That's great, because I work on a Mac. That SNS HDR thing looks to be windows only. I've got a virtual machine, but I don't want to mess with it for photo editing. I only use it for software development.

Here's an interesting thread on another forum about automated exposure blending VS "Real" HDR, and what the difference is and why exposure blending tends to look better: http://digital-photography-school.com/forum/post-processing-printing/178741-exposure-blending-hdr.html



For HDR blending I find the best method to use the Photomatix 32bit plugin for Lightroom http://hdrsoft.com/download/merge_lrplugin.html and then do the final editing (tone mapping) in Lightroom. You can also make 32bit TIFF files in Photoshop. Choose "edit in and choose Merge to HDR PRo in Photoshop" in Lightroom when you have selected the pictures to be used for the HDR blending. Then remember to choose 32bit and not 16 bit and then save and edit the resulting TIFF file in Lightroom.

luxborealis

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Re: Filters VS HDR
« Reply #5 on: July 20, 2014, 02:53:15 pm »

Two advantages of the HDRSoft LR plugin:
1. It works.
2. It's free!

Try it first.

BTW - I am constantly shooting in bright, contrasty conditions around sunrise and sunset with the sun in the image and I rarely, if ever, resort to HDR. Yes, it works, but is rarely necessary. See the attachment.
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trevarthan

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Re: Filters VS HDR
« Reply #6 on: July 20, 2014, 05:04:51 pm »

BTW - I am constantly shooting in bright, contrasty conditions around sunrise and sunset with the sun in the image and I rarely, if ever, resort to HDR. Yes, it works, but is rarely necessary. See the attachment.

I don't understand that statement. Anytime I try to photograph a scene with a sunset, the ground is either underexposed or the sky is overexposed. I've shot jpeg exclusively in the past, so I know I can eek a bit more dynamic range out of RAW, but is it really enough to shoot a scene like that?

What do you do? Expose for the sky and then bring the foreground out of the shadows in Lightroom? Doesn't that yield a lot of noise?
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Hans Kruse

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Re: Filters VS HDR
« Reply #7 on: July 20, 2014, 05:40:00 pm »

I don't understand that statement. Anytime I try to photograph a scene with a sunset, the ground is either underexposed or the sky is overexposed. I've shot jpeg exclusively in the past, so I know I can eek a bit more dynamic range out of RAW, but is it really enough to shoot a scene like that?

What do you do? Expose for the sky and then bring the foreground out of the shadows in Lightroom? Doesn't that yield a lot of noise?

You need to ETTR and choose the optimal exposure in Lightroom. Then use the grad filters in Lightroom to adjust.

Examples:

Shot with Nikon D800E
http://www.hanskrusephotography.com/Landscapes/Selected-Landscape-Gallery/i-PtbqWkR/A


Shot with Canon 5D mkIII
http://www.hanskrusephotography.com/Landscapes/Selected-Landscape-Gallery/i-3xCp3tT/A


Shot with Canon 5D mkIII
http://hanskrusephotography.zenfolio.com/p270162664/h1C77843E#h1c77843e




« Last Edit: July 20, 2014, 05:44:38 pm by Hans Kruse »
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Glenn NK

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Re: Filters VS HDR
« Reply #8 on: July 20, 2014, 05:57:30 pm »

Two advantages of the HDRSoft LR plugin:
1. It works.
2. It's free!

Try it first.

BTW - I am constantly shooting in bright, contrasty conditions around sunrise and sunset with the sun in the image and I rarely, if ever, resort to HDR. Yes, it works, but is rarely necessary. See the attachment.

I Googled HDR Soft LR plugin but found a few confusing possibilities.

http://www.hdrsoft.com/download/merge_lrplugin.html

Which one is it?  (I'm on Win 7 64 bit).

Glenn
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Bart_van_der_Wolf

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Re: Filters VS HDR
« Reply #9 on: July 20, 2014, 06:44:39 pm »

I Googled HDR Soft LR plugin but found a few confusing possibilities.

http://www.hdrsoft.com/download/merge_lrplugin.html

Which one is it?  (I'm on Win 7 64 bit).

Hi Glenn,

Depends if you have a Photomatix Pro licence or not. The page you linked to is for the USD 39.00 Lightroom plugin that requires LR for the tonemapping of the 32-bit TIFF it produces from an exposure bracketed series. On that page is also a link to the version that comes free with Photomatix Pro, and which allows to tonemap in Photomatix, or Lightroom.

Cheers,
Bart
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MrSmith

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Re: Filters VS HDR
« Reply #10 on: July 20, 2014, 07:02:39 pm »

[thread hijack] Is that castelluccio in that pic? I went there on a car shoot out of season in December. What an amazing location, would love to go back. In fact we shot from that road in the R/H of your shot.
If anyone finds themselves in that part of Italy it's worth a detour.

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trevarthan

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Re: Filters VS HDR
« Reply #11 on: July 20, 2014, 11:18:06 pm »

Huh. I'm surprised ETTR doesn't generate a lot of noise in the shadows. I've been shooting ETTR for years. I guess I just never tried doing ETTR exposed for the sky and bringing out the shadow details in Lightroom. I just didn't think that was possible.
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Glenn NK

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Re: Filters VS HDR
« Reply #12 on: July 20, 2014, 11:24:13 pm »

Hi Glenn,

Depends if you have a Photomatix Pro licence or not. The page you linked to is for the USD 39.00 Lightroom plugin that requires LR for the tonemapping of the 32-bit TIFF it produces from an exposure bracketed series. On that page is also a link to the version that comes free with Photomatix Pro, and which allows to tonemap in Photomatix, or Lightroom.

Cheers,
Bart

Thank you Bart; Terry (Luxborealis) had me all excited when he mentioned FREE.  ;D

I don't have Photomatix.

Glenn
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Glenn NK

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Re: Filters VS HDR
« Reply #13 on: July 20, 2014, 11:31:48 pm »

Huh. I'm surprised ETTR doesn't generate a lot of noise in the shadows. I've been shooting ETTR for years. I guess I just never tried doing ETTR exposed for the sky and bringing out the shadow details in Lightroom. I just didn't think that was possible.

AFAIK, one reason for ETTR is to eliminate some of the noise in the shadows.

Yes, it works (ETTR for the sky).   However, if the sun is in the sky I don't know how to avoid clipping of the sun. nor avoid specular highlights such as sun on water.

I've been quite pleased with the ability of LR5 to lighten the shadows - even to the extent that they don't look natural on some images.

Glenn
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Hans Kruse

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Re: Filters VS HDR
« Reply #14 on: July 21, 2014, 05:56:55 am »

Huh. I'm surprised ETTR doesn't generate a lot of noise in the shadows. I've been shooting ETTR for years. I guess I just never tried doing ETTR exposed for the sky and bringing out the shadow details in Lightroom. I just didn't think that was possible.

ETTR does the exact opposite. It minimizes the noise in the shadows. What I do is very simple. I bracket always when shooting landscapes. Normally 3 shots in a bracket and 1 stop between. The simple rule is: In the bracket sequence there must be at least on shot that is blinking and one that is not. If all blinks then use exposure compensation and move one stop down. If none are blinking then move one stop up using EC. This method also makes the shooting much less camera centric and you can concentrate on the compositions and especially when light is changing fast and there is no time fiddle with histograms etc. I don't need to look at histograms at all using this technique. I look at histograms in Lightroom!

In higher dynamic situations it will be 5 or 7 shots and normally when the sun is in the shot. Most of the time I can choose just one of the shots in Lightroom that has acceptable blown out highlights around the sun and do a perfect rendering of just one RAW file. If this is not possible then HDR blend with the Photomatix 32bit plugin for Lightroom as mentioned before (and it is not free!) and do the final edit in Lightroom. It does happen that I need a round trip to Photoshopt if there is an edit I can't do in Lightroom, but this is seldom. In Lightroom you choose the bracket shot that is exposed the most without burning out essential detail. You can only judge that when you have imported the shot into Lightroom and done editing on it. With Lightroom you can copy the edits to another shot in the bracket sequence and adjust the exposure accordingly and then judge which shot is the best one or if an HDR merge is needed. With this method there is typically no noise to speak of in the shadows judged in 1:1 view in Lightroom without additional noise reduction.

trevarthan

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Re: Filters VS HDR
« Reply #15 on: July 21, 2014, 08:41:26 am »

Hmmm. I just shot a picture of a tree this morning, looking up into a cloudy sky, right at sunrise. My son was actually the photographer this morning. I was helping him get the exposure and tripod setup properly.

Sky wasn't that bright. Enough ambient to see by comfortably. I exposed for the sky (get blinkies, then stop down slowly shoot, repeat, until they go away is my crude technique, but it works.) with a 4 second exposure at f16 and ISO 200 on my D3s.

When we went back inside for editing, we could bring the details of the tree out, but there was far too much noise to be acceptable, IMO. I was shooting and editing RAW NEF in lightroom 3. We tried luminance noise reduction, but it just wasn't good enough.

A shot like that would clearly benefit from your bracketing technique and exposure blending. So, 3 shot bracket, 1EV change, one blinking, one not. I can do that. I'm just going to have to try some different exposure blending software.
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Hans Kruse

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Re: Filters VS HDR
« Reply #16 on: July 21, 2014, 09:07:25 am »

There are limits and if the dynamic range is too big then you need to blend the exposures. The other thing is, of course, how much you want to brighten up the shadows. As I mentioned, if the dynamic range is huge 3 exposures 1 stop apart is not enough, then go to 5 or 7 and then select the ones you need in Lightroom. For blending you basically need the exposures from not blown out highlight down to the shadows properly exposed without editing. You will also find that there are shots you thought would need HDR does not need it as long as you choose the maximum exposure that does not have blown out essential highlight. Try it.

Btw. Lightroom 3 is a disaster! You should definitely upgrade to Lightroom 5 and use the new tone mapping controls.
« Last Edit: July 21, 2014, 10:11:23 am by Hans Kruse »
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luxborealis

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Re: Filters VS HDR
« Reply #17 on: July 21, 2014, 10:08:45 am »

Hmmm. I just shot a picture of a tree this morning, looking up into a cloudy sky, right at sunrise. My son was actually the photographer this morning. I was helping him get the exposure and tripod setup properly.

Sky wasn't that bright. Enough ambient to see by comfortably. I exposed for the sky (get blinkies, then stop down slowly shoot, repeat, until they go away is my crude technique, but it works.) with a 4 second exposure at f16 and ISO 200 on my D3s.

When we went back inside for editing, we could bring the details of the tree out, but there was far too much noise to be acceptable, IMO. I was shooting and editing RAW NEF in lightroom 3. We tried luminance noise reduction, but it just wasn't good enough.

A shot like that would clearly benefit from your bracketing technique and exposure blending. So, 3 shot bracket, 1EV change, one blinking, one not. I can do that. I'm just going to have to try some different exposure blending software.

Given what you've described, there are four possible ways of improving the situation:

1. The exposure that will result in the greatest dynamic range will still have some blinking highlights. I have found with my D800E, that when making 14-bit NEF raw files, I can overexposed the highlights by ⅔ stop (= a final exposure of 2/3 stop higher the highest exposure with no blinking highlights) and pull them back to usable highlights in LR. This can even be extended to a full stop with lower contrast highlights. The same is possible with many cameras shooting raw; I'm sure the D3s is similar.

2. If the sun is in your photo, it can be pure white and still work, especially if it is a small part of the photo. Also, specular highlights can often be blown out and still work.

3. Upgrade to LR 5! Process 2012 is far superior for pulling details out of shadows and with far less noise than with Process 2010 in LR 3.

4. According to DxOMark.com, the D3s has a DR of 12 EVs whereas the D800E has a DR of 14.3 EVs. That, in itself, is significant.
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trevarthan

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Re: Filters VS HDR
« Reply #18 on: July 21, 2014, 10:21:16 am »

Awesome info, thanks! I'll add LR5 to my purchase list. I've already got a D810 on order. Should arrive Wednesday according to Amazon. I'm totally pumped about the 3x greater resolution, better dynamic range, and equal low light performance. I don't shoot weddings anymore (just not my thing), so I think the D810 is my ideal camera right now.
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Hans Kruse

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Re: Filters VS HDR
« Reply #19 on: July 21, 2014, 10:43:03 am »

Awesome info, thanks! I'll add LR5 to my purchase list. I've already got a D810 on order. Should arrive Wednesday according to Amazon. I'm totally pumped about the 3x greater resolution, better dynamic range, and equal low light performance. I don't shoot weddings anymore (just not my thing), so I think the D810 is my ideal camera right now.

I should add that all I said about post processing was referring to either Lightroom 4 or 5. The 32bit TIFF support came in LR 4.1. Even though the Canon 5D mkIII does not have the 14 stop DR I can almost all my landscape shots without HDR blending using the ETTR technique and bracketing I described with LR 5. So you can also do this with the D3S. The D810 is clearly better in this respect.
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