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Items that move
in an HDR

I have a love hate relationship with Photomatix, it can do some cool stuff. Things I can't duplicate easily without other pluggins. Using Photomatix allows me to see detail and highlight micro shadows I could never do by hand. However it also creates deep noise, and ghosts anything that moves. This tutorial will cover moving objects that were created using 3 RAW images processed in Photomatix. This program has another flaw however, While you can process a RAW file, and it can align it petty well, but kills all the data in the RAW file. It tends to push shadows into a noise, and burns the highlights. But more so, it doesn't sharpen it very well, and there is plenty of noise.

I'm going to show you a comparison of  what the processed HDR looks like straight out of Photomatix. Then redo that HDR in Photomatix after processing the individual files in Photoshop first. They will be stacked, aligned, and cropped. We will see the differences between editing the images first before running it through Photomatix.

I shot the image below freehand, using available light, mostly on ISO3200. If you've been to Vegas, you'll know that available light means there is enough light to read a new paper in the middle of the night. It's real bright.
Here is what we will be making:

Las Vegas, NV - The Venetian at Night - by Mike Savad
Vegas - The Venetian at Night - Print by Mike Savad
Can be purchased as a print or a gift


Vegas - Paris - The outdoor cafe - Print - by Mike Savad Vegas - O'Sheas Casino - Print - by Mike Savad Vegas - Cesar's - Lunch in Italy - Print - by Mike Savad Vegas - Venetian - Entrance - Print - by Mike Savad Vegas - NY - The New York Hotel - Print - by Mike Savad Vegas - Paris - The chef's at the Eiffel Tower - Print - by Mike Savad

Before Images
unedited raw, shoved into photomatix - HDR Tutorial by Mike Savad
Let's start with the before images. These were taken with a 5d MKii, Tamron 28-300VC lens, at dusk, it was actually pretty dark. Taken in Las Vegas, The Venetian has these gondolas.

After Raw processing
processed raw, need to be aligned. - HDR Tutorial by Mike Savad
This is after I edited them in Camera Raw, after processing

Photomatix - Unprocessed Raw
Dark raw hdr - settings - HDR Tutorial by Mike Savad
These are the original  RAW's, I left the settings for those that are interested. However I didn't like these settings, I redid it using smoothing set to low.

Preparing images for Photomatix
After editing your files in Photoshop, place the images into one file, then align them. Save this file as your main file. Then make 3 copies of this file, in file 1 - erase 2 layers, keep the shadow. File 2, erase the shadow and highlight keeping the middle version, and so forth. You can save these as a TIFF or PSD, this newer version of Photomatix doesn't seem to mind PSD's now. Just be sure that they really are aligned, use difference on the top layer and move each layer underneath it until it's flat looking see my other tutorials on that. Put the layer back to normal when done. When inserting these processed files into Photomatix, it will ask you what the EV is. You'll have to guess at this one, often I let it decide.

The lamps in this image were a bit blown out, I like seeing some of the detail in the lamps, I chose the darkest layer, and processed it just for those parts, this will be inserted later on while editing.

Editing these files prior to processing in Photomatix, is purely optional, however you will be using this files anyway. You need it to correct noise and movement. But at the very least you should align them and process the basic files in Photoshop (or your favorite raw processor). Just a note - processing this as a regular HDR (above), is not a needed step I made it only for this tutorial, You should take the time to process the files in Photoshop first, You'll thank yourself for it later.

Photomatix - Processed Raw
hdr processed - HDR Tutorial by Mike Savad
This is what it looks like with the processed files from photoshop, Using 4 layers, and new settings.(the 4th layer being that bulb image)

You can see a huge difference between the photos, the one above the red box shows what it would have looked like with about the same settings as this one. If I dropped the original raw files into Photomatix. This shot is the same, only I pre-adjusted thecolors, noise, and sharpness.

Compare the Difference
compare the difference - HDR Tutorial by Mike Savad
Compare the difference, RAW straight on the left, Processed and aligned raw on the right.

Compare the clarity
close up comparison - HDR Tutorial by Mike Savad
The greenish one is the RAW, the Orange one is the processed.

The processed one is a little more noisy, I'll admit that, and the contrast is a little flatter, but that's mostly settings. Look at the lamp, In Photomatix, I set alignment and ghosts on. The pre-processed image is much sharper than the non.

Photoshop is still open, the file you saved still has those original aligned files in it, insert your new Processed HDR as the top layer, followed by the dark, middle, light, and bulb layer.You'll have to re-align everything in your image - everything must line up as closely as possible. The brightest of these images, I shot with f10 - 0.80 seconds, ISO3200 - there will be some shaking, and there will always be movement of people and such.

All layers stacked
stacked and ready - HDR Tutorial by Mike Savad
This is what it should look like in Photoshop, HDR on top, the rest underneath.

The first layer, there are only a few things I want:

A few people on the bridge, and hopefully some of that boat and gondola man. Choose mask, use a brush something that isn't round. I use a Shading brush. Each layer will have something you want from it. In this case I want a single guy standing still, or at least a piece of one.

Ghosts are Scary
ahh! Ghosts - HDR Tutorial by Mike Savad
This is typical HDR, Ghosts. ... Scary

It's impossible to avoid, as they move.

Noisy, but useable
a bit better - HDR Tutorial by Mike Savad
The idea is to keep flipping between the HDR and what's underneath and deciding which version you want. Unfortunally since it was do dark out the clearest of the images is also very noisy, to the point of not being usable. When you push detail from shadow, it will create noise. And often there is so much noise it totally obscures the people.  The decision is, do I keep it and color it in? Or do I remove it on another layer which may not match the current layer tone wise.

It's no winner, but he is standing still, there aren't any ghosts, but it's very noisy with much loss in detail.

The downside is, the layer underneath isn't colorful, it's dark, and noisy, but it's better than what it looked like before. At least now there's a chance of cloning something in from the layer underneath, or just coloring it in layer on with a brush. Note the dark spot on the upper left where he used to be, We will remove that in the next step. For now continue looking for ghosts and fix them. People on the bridge, the bus moving around - stuff like that.

Non HDR Layer
the next layer - HDR Tutorial by Mike Savad
This is the next layer without HDR.

The next layer is cleaner, but the boat is moving, but it's brighter and looks better at the front. The guy is soft, I'm not sure if that's ok or if I care. I will first attempt to copy much of the boat, or at least the front and a part of the person. Painting it still might be an option.Other parts will be touched up as well, more people will be removed or added. I'll balance out the darkness and noise in the bridge as well.

Be sure to save often, this step takes a long time. With a combination of the noise and things that move - you wouldn't believe everything that moves in this. Trees, bushes, people, flags, cars, etc. All of these things need to be addressed. My camera shoots at 21mp bill board sized pictures. It's huge and it takes a long time to process. This is why it's best not to shoot things that move. But this image would be impossible to do if it wasn't HDR.

2 more layers to go
2 more layers to go - HDR Tutorial by Mike Savad
Getting there, 2 more layers to go.

I removed quite a few people and cleaned some up. The boat above is a bit shorter, I kept the front, and a bit of the rear. The guy is still there as is the people. I liked the gold rim, and kept the very end mostly because it was still sharper than the other version. The middle part is still a little noisy, but I don't think he's in that frame. However If I were to re-shoot this again, I would get the 3 shots I got, wait for the boat to be further on, then shoot another 3 just to cover spots where the gondola was. Anyway, in either case looks like some painting will be involved.

Everything is now one. Compressed into one image
ready for the next step - HDR Tutorial by Mike Savad
Next, I want to focus on the noise in the water everywhere. Brighten where it's dark, add the streaky bus lights because I think it adds to the color better. And see what else I can clean up. This layer is a bit softer than the others, so I can't do to much edge detail, but it's ok to do the center as long as there isn't a lot of detail. I went back and copied over a few other versions of the RAW files, some darker some lighter to maximize the amount of detail.

I left the buses as they are  (streaking buy) because this is Vegas, everything is colorful and always moving. I could probably leave some ghosts on the bridge, but that may distracting. Unfortunately the most important the main subject the gondola is still too dark. So I should work on that first. Painting on a new layer and just paint layer on layer, adding  soft light to add new color.

Getting there
some paint - HDR Tutorial by Mike Savad
Getting there. Her  dress is purple now, the reds are more defined, the shirt has color now.

I'll be the first to admit I really can't draw all that well, but I think it is getting there, it's getting somewhere anyway. Once the shading is in, it will blend better. Mostly I want the colors to pop more than they were before. I don't like the hair on the person near the guys hand.

New Clothes done
goog enough on people - HDR Tutorial by Mike Savad
Good enough on the people, I'm not looking for super detail, just some color and dimension. note the new wig, and some reflections on the boat near ner.

I found a few people in another boat taken earlier that night and took the hair from one, the reflection, and back of a chair from another. I just started shading the rest of the scene with paint. Things like the poles and such.

I decided I didn't like the TV in the background, while it speaks Vegas, I want to remove that feature since it kills the class and theme of the shot. I chose a brick wall texture, white, with small bricks. Then squashed it down and matched the perspective. Next I'll use an ALT mask to blend it into the sign to get some of the dark and light colors to get it to hopefully match better. If I cropped the TV out, I would lose the cute Light Poles..

Here we are so far
here we are so far - HDR Tutorial by Mike Savad
So far everything is painted, Some highlights and shadow were added, I still have to do a little more with the TV space on the right, I don't really like it. But before I shade spots, I need to enhance the color in spots. I will use Selective Color. I like using Selective Color because it allows me to tweak each color very carefully. You get the whole spectrum of color RGB CYMK, White, Neutral,  Black. And you can add just a touch of color in each shade.

For example, if I wanted the reds to be more red, I would slide the black slider to the right a little bit to make it darker. Then move the red slider to the left to add more red, the yellow would warm it up a bit, and since the whole scene sides on red,  Moving magenta over a little bit to the left added a little bit of green which helped balance this out. I will use this on all the colors including the white and maybe mids. I usually avoid black unless I need rich contrast, or converted it from a CYMK. Playing with Neutral will help remove color cast, especially the stubborn ones.

Adjusting Highlights
after color - HDR Tutorial by Mike Savad
There's a little bit of difference, it's a bit smoother now, I made some colors darker actually to help blend it more naturally together. Next will be the highlights using the Lighter HDR overlay action, and highlight parts of this using the overlay layer, add a little bit of shadow under the arches, and highlight glints with Vivid light.

Add some glow around lights
done with lighting - HDR Tutorial by Mike Savad
Ok, so I now touched up the image with a little more light. Added a little bit of softlight glow around the lights, Hard light glow at those lamps in the background, and touched up some metal objects with vivid light. Next I need to do something about the noise and that block that I made where the TV used to be on the upper right.

Blending some noise
add some blur - HDR Tutorial by Mike Savad
I'll admit it's not perfect, I'll have touch up the color or something in spots, I'm using a layer that a Gaussian blur was applied too. A very light blur, about 1.8 or so, just enough to blend it all together. Then applied as a mask in certain spots to to merge it together. Don't worry if some of it is soft because this is a "painting".

Now you can see all the steps and time it takes to make these. Some people actually think they come out this way as if a filter had something to do with it. When I post, I call these hand-edited - You can see they are, you need to do much of it by hand. Some people actually think that in order to call it hand edited - you physically have to touch the medium with your hands.So there it is, all done. I tweaked the lightness layer, adjusted curves a little bit, push the saturation in a few small spots, added some extra glow around the lights, and that's about it. Something like this takes a long time, and you have to be committed to do it. Or committed for doing it. Sometimes it's worth the price, sometimes not. Typically I try not to shoot things that move, and when they do they are either way to small to see, or very large.


Vegas Gifts - NY - Broadway Burger - by Mike Savad Vegas - The Entrance - invitations - by Mike Savad Vegas - Venetian - Life at the Palazzo - cards - by Mike Savad Vegas - Paris - Vins Detable - shirt - by Mike Savad Vegas Gifts - Paris - The paris hotel - mouse - by Mike Savad Vegas Gifts - Paris - Eiffel tower restaurant - tie by Mike Savad

Las Vegas, NV - The Venetian at Night - by Mike Savad
Vegas - The Venetian at Night - Print by Mike Savad
Can be purchased as a print or a gift

Copyright - Suburban Scenes by Mike Savad 2012

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