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Lightroom 4 and HDR processing - a challenge

FORUMS Post Processing, Marketing & Presenting Photos HDR Creation
Thread started 27 Feb 2012 (Monday) 14:22   
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colinm85
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Hi all,
I've mentioned a couple of times that I'm liking the ability of the Lightroom 4 Beta version to be able to do some pseudo-hdr processing. Now I'm aware that while it can only work on 1 image at a time, it will never replace true HDR processing, but I think a lot of people, including me, use HDR processing to bring out details in shadows and highlights, and often process our 3 images even although the full dynamic range can be captured in a single image. I believe this is true especially for the people who like 'natural HDR'. So I'm going to try to demonstrate why I think that Lightroom 4 can help, and maybe simplify workflow some. Note that I do not intend to use only Lightroom 4. I have both Photomatix and SNS-HDR, and I fully intend to continue to use all of them. But for many images, I think the Lightroom 4 might be enough. Of course if you want surreal images, the HDR software is probably king.

Anyway, I took some images of a waterfall near where I live. There is some shadow and light in the picture, and I ran it thru both Photomatix and SHS-HDR. I used 3 bracketed images for both, at -2, 0, +2. I also used Lightroom 4 on the 0 copy. Take a look and let me know what you think. Note that I'm looking for feedback on the software and the ability to rended the image, not on the image itself or how I should crop/rotate it (although I'm always happy to hear cc). For fun, without going back to the source, see if you can tell me what software was used for each.

First, the 0 exposure - you can see it needs work

IMAGE: https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-r2ZUklvlk2U/T0vhOn1ebJI/AAAAAAAADlI/_pyTVv2EvRU/s640/HDR%2520Waterfall%2520or.jpg

Now candidate 1
IMAGE: https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-QcX8xo8563Q/T0vhPJBno9I/AAAAAAAADlQ/2KDL13Op6Co/s640/HDR%2520Waterfall%2520pm.jpg
Candidate 2
IMAGE: https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-VhI5WPe85AQ/T0vhRXwkw0I/AAAAAAAADlY/2wOc_N0pi3Q/s640/HDR%2520Waterfall%2520lr.jpg

Candidate 3
IMAGE: https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-Yzdjr09BlE4/T0vhRtY-BfI/AAAAAAAADlc/-KTKvPztObg/s640/HDR%2520Waterfall%2520sn.jpg

Post #1, Feb 27, 2012 14:22:02


Colin
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nbaresejr
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Not sure what exactly i am commenting on with regard to lightroom 4 vs the software but i love candidate 2 and 3. Candidate 1 looks a little over the top to me, the rocks just dont do it for me. #2 and 3 have more natural looking rocks and the sky is amazing

Post #2, Feb 27, 2012 17:11:05


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colinm85
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Well, there has been a lot of discussion about various software packages for HDR processing in this forum. While I agree that for 'true' HDR, you need to combine images, using some of the 'HDR' processing software out there, I believe that many of the images shown here do not need true HDR processing. But until recently, there was no easy way (well you could take multiple images into Photoshop and do a bunch of masking) to materially improve the images using software that was not classified as 'HDR', and particularly using only 1 image. If you have Lightroom 4, I believe that you can improve (i.e. shorten) your workflow in many cases by using that on a single image, rather than needing to take the images into 2 or 3 different software packages. Obviously, if you are looking for some specific effects, you might need some specific software, but for images that only need details captured from shadows and highlights, I think that Lightroom 4 Beta works the majority of the time. Can't seem to get anyone else here to agree though.

Post #3, Feb 27, 2012 21:41:37


Colin
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kirkt
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I think what you are saying is that most images do not require a full HDR workflow because they are not renderings of a scene that contains significantly greater dynamic range than the camera is able to capture in a single shot and that, for these scenes, shooting raw and using a raw converter like LR4 will give you the ability to make such an image.

That is the point of shooting raw.

I'm not sure I understand what you mean in your statement that, until recently, there was no easy way to materially improve the images with software that was not classified as HDR.

There are many raw converters out there and photoshop has been around for a while. What is it exactly about lr4 that you find to be significantly "better" than, say, lr3? Lr4 apparently is able to squeeze some more usable data out of a raw than its predecessor, so is that what you mean? Here are some thoughts on the subject from Christian Bloch over at HDR Labs:

http://www.hdrlabs.com ...hp?id=1276328416487​110799external link

Is the point you are trying to make that shooting raw works for most images that do not require true HDR processing? If so, I'm sure most folks will agree with you. I don't use LR/ACR for raw conversion unless I have some specific reason to do so, so maybe LR does something for you specifically -for example, a lot of people use LR as their primary image editing environment and never leave it- now that lr4 has soft proofing, even more so maybe. If that's the way you prefer to work, instead of going in and out of several different apps, cool. Then LR will be a good tool for you, especially for what we might call LDR to MDR scenes (medium dynamic range). With better highlight reconstruction and better noise reduction, LR may just extend the usable dr to the point where it will fit your imaging style and needs.

With respect to the images you posted, the original 0 ev image, with some minor tweaks, is the most pleasing to me. The other images all lose global contrast, although if I had to choose one that was pleasing, it would be 2 for tone or 3 for color. The scene needs the reestablishment of the contrast between the shaded pool area and the bright sky and upper area of the image. Some blend of 2 or 3 and a tweaked version of the 0 ev image would probably be serviceable.

I assume 2 is the SNS output? A lot of people find the out of the box SNS output pleasing over a wide variety of scenes, although it looks like there are some color shifts in 2. Im guessing 3 is the LR output because the sky is not crushed like in the other two renderings, and color seems more natural. I'd tone down the fill light in 3, and maybe ease off the clarity slider a little as well. Photmatix just straight up abused your scene.

Just a guess

Kirk

Post #4, Feb 27, 2012 22:54:10


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colinm85
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kirkt wrote in post #13980773external link
I think what you are saying is that most images do not require a full HDR workflow because they are not renderings of a scene that contains significantly greater dynamic range than the camera is able to capture in a single shot and that, for these scenes, shooting raw and using a raw converter like LR4 will give you the ability to make such an image.

Yes to some degree. I have used LR since v2, and I use it for pretty much all my processing - I do use PS Elements for panoramas and content-aware fill. I have recently bought both SNS-HDR and Photomatix for their ability to easily bring out the details in shadows and highlights. The reason for that is that I did not find that LR3 did a particularly good job of bringing out these details, even with a lot of work. I know that PS can do that, but it also requires a lot of work with masks, etc. which I'm not really up for. I have found that the new capabilities of LR4 to work directly with blacks, shadows, highlights and whites give me a much better, or at least easier, way of bringing out these details. For me, the shorter the workflow, the better, so if I dont need to go to Photomatix or SNS, thats a good thing. We have had many discussions in this forum on the abilities of different software (Photomatix, SNS, Machinery, Oloneo, etc) to render our images. I was just putting my $.02 in that for many of the images that I have seen posted here, LR4 might be enough. I agree that for rendering true HDR or for 'over the top' processing, the HDR software will continue to be necessary, and I will continue to use it as a way of getting different renderings of my images.

I explained a little about the LR4 ability to address the shadows and highlights. Along with that, there is an improved noise reduction capability which helps a lot on the reconstruction of the shadows, so yes, I do find that it makes the usable dr acceptable in many cases.

As for the images, I did take them pretty much 'as-is' out of the software, simply because if I did too much post, I'd be masking my point that LR4 could produce a comparable image to the HDR software. I'd certainly go in and do some more post on all the images.

And as for which is which, 1 is Photomatix, 2 is LR4 and 3 is SNS.

Post #5, Feb 28, 2012 07:06:34


Colin
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Polarized
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#3 is the best!

Post #6, Mar 20, 2012 17:26:12




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androostain
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Candidate 2 is lightroom 4 on a single exposure?! Im pretty impressed with that, thats my favourite of them all. What sort of adjustments (i.e names of sliders etc) are needed to achieve that in LR4?

Post #7, Mar 20, 2012 17:57:55


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kirkt
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Colin - I hope you did not take my comments as flip. I have to say, however, after downloading CS6 beta and actually using ACR7 it is like magic compared to previous Adobe converter offerings. I have never been a fan of ACR/LR raw conversion, it just was not intuitive and the controls were overly complicated and not very conducive to image making. ACR7 has totally changed my opinion - so I totally agree with your original premise now that I have experimented with the converter's ability to extract a much greater amount of the data that I know my 5DII is capturing. The reconfiguration of the tonal adjustment approach is so much more fluid and inconspicuous in terms of battling the interface and the back and forth of using the typical ACR/LR controls.

I think I am becoming a convert to ACR. CS6 also offers a few new tools that promise to really advance image making.

kirk

Post #8, Mar 22, 2012 20:33:16


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colinm85
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Androostain - Unfortunately, I did the adjustment in the Beta copy of LR4, and since I was using it as a Beta myself, I was just experimenting, and didnt keep the catalog when I bought the full version last week. But I took a shot and while I didnt get it exactly right, I got pretty close. Here's an approximation:

I put in a graduated filter from the top of the image to the top of the cliffs with exposure -1.4 and color blue.
Highlights -50
Shadows +95
Clarity +60
Vibrance +20
I dragged the saturation level on the rocks up, resulting in orange +84 and yellow +8
I took it with a Rebel XS, and applied the Camera Standard profile
I believe I sharpened it to the Landscape preset in Lightroom

I think the things that make the most difference over LR3 is the ability to manipulate the shadows and highlights, and the abilty to have a lot more control over the graduated filter and the paintbrush. Hope that helps

Kirk - Didnt think you were being flip at all. I think this forum is all about sharing, and people are going to have different opinions. When I first looked at HDR processing, I was blown away, and wanted to create images like that myself. I have bought Photomatix and SNS-HDR, and I think they both present some excellent options. But I find that many of my images are really tone mapped, since I dont often need true HDR. I love having the options of having the HDR software do the tonemapping for me, but in terms of natural processing, I often find that LR4 is enough. And as you say, pretty simple. I've learned a lot from this forum - nice to be able to share some of my experience also.

Post #9, Mar 23, 2012 06:40:37 as a reply to kirkt's post 10 hours earlier.


Colin
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