September 13, 2015

Handy Home Made HDR’s

Here we are in mid-September and Fall is almost upon us. Fall is definitely one of my favorite seasons to take photographs of the beautiful autumn foliage with all the rich colors and of course, the cooler weather can be nice also.

1. Under-exposed 1 ¾ stops
I don’t know about you, but every now and then when I get a little free time,  I like to go through past photo shoots on my PC and I’ll compare my photos to see where I’ve made improvements with my camera skills or my editing skills or maybe to see where I still need to make changes. Software is always improving and that means I’m always trying to keep up with the changes of the programs that I use to edit my images.  I know, some of you are saying to yourself, Free time?  Whats that?

2. Under-exposed 1 ¼ stops
Earlier this year, I started a little side business shooting photos of real estate for realtors and homeowners. Some of you might have tried your hand at this type of photography and found out how tough it can be, but I’ll save that story for another post. One of the main problems with this type of photography is trying to expose for the view out the windows while trying to keep detail in the shadow areas inside. You can do this with a bunch of strobes or speedlights which can be time consuming, or another more common method is to combine multiple bracketed shots with some sort of exposure blending, usually an HDR program.    

3. Under-exposed ½ stops
Now we know that there are many programs out there that can do this, but with real estate photography you are trying to get realistic shots and some methods of HDR blending can get a little funky looking. My main tool for interior shots is a plug-in called Lightroom/Enfuse created by Timothy Armes. For my interior photos I usually bracket between 5-7 shots, exposing for highlights and shadows, and this plug-in works great for this. Enfuse uses a program manager and I've got it set up so that after it does its work, it creates a completely separate TIFF file in the same folder. I save them as TIFFs because Adobes’ Camera RAW program can open TIFF files and this makes my work even easier. 

4. Neutral, / As Shot
Well, to make a short story even longer, while going through some of my older photo shoots recently I came across a little get-away trip to NH that I took back in June of 2007. The main focus of my trip was the annual NH Bike Week festivities in Laconia, but fortunately one of my brothers had a cottage in the Lakes Region and I was able to put my Harley on a trailer and spend 3 or 4 days at his place. One of the things New England is known for is its covered bridges and while I was up there, I planned on taking some time and check out some of the area’s covered bridges. I actually shot about 10 or 12 covered bridges in two days!

5. Over exposed ½ stop
Even with some good pre-planning and some detailed maps, I still had to find these bridges. When I finally found them, I still had other obstacles to deal with, like the weather and the sun. I really didn’t know where the sun would be falling on the bridges or how much work it would be to get to a decent look-out for the shots. As much as I wanted to get some decent shots, my main idea was to take notes of the time of day, month of the year, where the sun was falling and how difficult it was finding the bridges so that I could make better plans for a future trip. 

6. Over exposed 1 ¼ stop
Well, that was in 2007 and I still haven’t made that other trip yet, but while going through some of my photos recently, I got the idea to run a couple of them through Lightroom/Enfuse to see what I could get. A couple months ago, in July 2015, I did another post on creating your own HDR shots from a single image and that’s what I did here using Lightroom/Enfuse

The bridge in these photos is the Blair Bridge, located about 15 miles north of Lake Winnipesaukee near Campton NH.  

Unfortunately, I got to this bridge about 1pm and the light wasn’t the best for getting a decent shot straight out of the camera. Plus, I remembered I had a pretty tough time climbing through the woods and briers getting down to water level to a place I could get a decent view that day.  I wasn’t about to lug my tripod and my main DSLR down to the water level, so my photos of this bridge were all single shots taken with a point and shoot camera and were all shot in JPEG mode for some reason?

7.  Merged Copy
Because I didn’t carry my tripod, I didn’t shoot any bracketed shots that day either. In my original photo I was just trying to get some detail under the bridge without blowing out the sky too much. I knew if I didn’t clip too much info,  I could play around with it afterwards. Here are the steps I took to get my final image seen below and a larger version at the top of this post. 

8.  Final Image (also at top of post)
I started out by making 5 copies of my original photo 
( Image # 4 ) and  give them each copy a different name.  If you don’t rename them it will confuse Lightroom. This gives me a total of 6 shots which I then opened up in Camera RAW to start my tweaking. In the first three shots I was trying to get more detail in the clouds and sky. Starting from the top of this post, my first shot ( Image # 1 ) is underexposed 1 ¾ stop. The next was underexposed 1 ¼ ( Image # 2 ) the third was a ½ stop under ( Image # 3 ) the next was my original shot ( Image # 4 ) and the last two are over-exposed by a ½ stop ( Image # 5 ) and 1 ¼ stops ( Image # 6 ).  I then imported them into Lightroom and ran them through Lightroom/Enfuse which gave me a TIFF ( Image # 7 )  As you’ll notice, the merged copy needs a little TLC.   

For my finishing touches, I then take this image into Camera Raw where I boosted my contrast, added a little fill light to the shadows on the trees, popped a little Clarity on it and then sharpened it a little to get the final image (Image # 8) also shown at the top of this post. What do you think?  With some practice this whole process only took about 10 minutes total, not too bad huh? Hopefully this tip might help you sometime in a pinch.

As always, keep shooting and have some fun!
© D. Gould Photography