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Imitating HDR with 1 photo in Photoshop

davidburleson Plus
11 3.0k 3 United Kingdom
17 Aug 2010 9:17AM
Hi Everyone,

Has anyone tried imitating HDR in photoshop when you only have 1 exposure? If you have successfully, could you provide a sample photo along with steps of how you managed to achieve the end result?


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ade_mcfade 14 15.2k 216 England
17 Aug 2010 9:35AM
have you got Nik Colour EFX?

Use teh "Local Contrast" setting on that and you'll get that familiar look
JohnParminter 11 1.3k 14 England
17 Aug 2010 10:04AM
Hi David, I don't like HDR so imitating it is even worse......Grin

Sorry, couldn't help that.

I used to process a few images in Photomatix using the tone mapping program to get a certain feel and depth to an image using one source file.

Here is an example.

What I did:

Take one correctly exposed file, save as 3 separate -1EV, 0EV and +1EV TIFFs.
Bung these in Photomatix, tone map carefully.

Result hopefully is a 3D kind of effect especially in the clouds, a bit richer saturation and contrasts. I don't do this process to expand the dynamic range as this is correctly set in the original file using ND grad filters and good metering.

I haven't used Photochop to do this but I think the principals could be the same especially the use of 3 TIFFs from one file.

RockArea 11 18 3 United Kingdom
17 Aug 2010 10:09AM
It's something I've used quite a lot in the past although I find other methods such as CS5's 'HDR Toning' make it less necessary these days. What I do is process 1 RAW file three times at exposures 1 stop apart and then process the Jpegs in Photomatix.



cameracat 14 8.6k 61 Norfolk Island
17 Aug 2010 10:54AM
Here is a quick sample of the one Ade mentioned .......Smile

Its one single image, Quite scary too, The look is quite amusing, This particular image was shot at ISO 3200 and is a fairly big crop out of the original file, The light at the time was almost non existent ( Hence the cats pupils are not slits ) Its from some experimental work I was trying out, As regards the Nik filter, Does a nice job if you just want the look, Without all that multiple image stuff, And lets face it some subjects ( cats in particular ) Are almost impossible to get multiple frames of, Unless they are asleep, Or Unconcious..Sad mental-moggie.jpg

I should add, That the effect of the filter has been toned down by about 40 to 50%, Basically your filter produces a layer on the original, So here all I did was to lower the " Opacity " of the filter layer, The full strength version was to much, Even for me to bare.....Wink
cameracat 14 8.6k 61 Norfolk Island
17 Aug 2010 4:19PM
LOL I thought this image would scare the hell out of everyone......Smile

Comes from a skit along the lines of " The Owl and the Pussy cat went to sea, In a beautiful pea green boat " ....Smile

Well this is the offspring of that particular voyage.....!

Never cross an Owl with a Cat.....Wink
Niknut Plus
8 1.8k 76 United Kingdom
17 Aug 2010 4:30PM
'Never cross an Owl with a Cat'.......hilarious !...just the thought of it made me LOL !!!Grin
NEWMANP 10 1.6k 574 United Kingdom
17 Aug 2010 4:35PM
there is also the possibility of loading one raw file direct to photomatix which then creates a pseudo HDR for you, it can work well if the exposure is pretty good to start with. the secret is in the subtlty of the tone mapping. (assuming you dont want a cartoon effect)
Eviscera 11 1.1k 149 United Kingdom
17 Aug 2010 7:02PM
Hi David ,

Joined the group , but found this query as a forum question , bit confused there lol.

John Parminter suggests a good workflow.

For a "falsie" just make sure the single exposure has no clipped highlights.

Dont be to accurate on the ev of three conversions , drop the original so the shadows , are almost black, up the original so the whites are almost blown.

How many interim exposures you do is up to you , I find four work well.

Usually call them darkest, mid dark, med, mid light and lightest.

Take a note of the -/+ spacings you decided (might not be -1, 0, +1) and load those settings into Photomatix when prompted for the spacings.

The result will be easier to tone map, go easy on the luminosity slider , it can make or break the conversion.
doctorsid 15 12 United States
17 Aug 2010 7:08PM
Eviscera's comments are what I use as well... You will not be able to tell the difference than if you actually captured three different exposures. And by using RAW and opening the image three times with different values, you can actually control the shadows vs highlights issue that makes or breaks a good HDR image. Plus there is so much variance on what would really be HDR. Some folks like a lot of "light smoothing" and some don't.

And actually I don't consider making three RAW images any different than shooting three exposures any sort "false" HDR. The HDR is the range of shadows, highlights, color and so forth. So it is not a "False" HDR if you didnt originally shoot 3 exposures. Although by taking the same image and just altering the brightness or contrast is not quite so "Dynamic" in the end result. And would be borderline HDR to me.
SueEley 12 279 96 Wales
19 Aug 2010 9:04PM
CS5 has an adjustment available called 'hdr toning' which has a mass of sliders (image/adjustments/hdr toning). It is obviously not producing an hdr image (though highlight and shadow does actually seem to increase the visible range of an image, so maybe in some sense it is?) Anyhow, it is seems to be quite whizzy, so I will probably have a play.... A friend of mine uses 3 conversions to make hdr of steam trains. Like Eviscera, he is careful with highlights. I was tempted last week when I had a set of three with blowing foliage, but I just dropped in the foliage that looked right from one of the images over the hdr composite in the end.

Hope I am not sidetracking, but have finally managed to do some hdr I quite like - using Photoshop 5 (where it is now called hdr Pro). Never bought in to Photomatix as the results I got when I trialled it weren't what I wanted, but the new PS version seems good to me and easy to use. This also coincided with a broken camera meaning I went away with a manual film camera and a compact that auto brackets +/- 1 stop. The poor compact has limited dynamic range, but was ideal fro producing hdr fodder, I found.

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