Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Matt Create "Break the Rules" HDR Tutorial, Part 1.

~ Improving photography one HDR at a time. ~

☞   “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” - Pablo Picasso   ☜

Why another HDR Tutorial?  Is this method different then others?

Yes, this method is different.  Some may argue that because of these differences, it's not true HDR.  Let them believe what they want.  On a good many photos, you can indeed use the "Break the Rules" HDR method and get a final result that is nearly or totally indistinguishable from other, more difficult to learn HDR processes. 

INTRO:  OK, so what exactly is this HDR of which you speak?

Simply put, it’s a method of turning the photo on the left or on the top into the photo on the right or on the bottom.  But since a picture is worth 1000 words, just take a look yourself at the magic of HDR! 


Can you do this on scanned film?  Well, yes indeedy, you can!  

So, let me guess, you want to do this too!  Well then, just follow along! 

Just be aware that each of the above before and afters have some advanced techniques applied.  Advanced techniques are covered in part three of the tutorial.   

Step 1: Stepping into the HDR World! 

☞   A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step - Lao-tzu   ☜

Taking your first HDR step. 

What you need:  Hardware

  • A computer.  But you’ve got one of these already, don’t you?  Any computer will do, though throughout this tutorial, all the screenshots were created on a Mac. But don’t fret Kemosabe, the steps that follow apply no matter what your hardware! 

What you need:  HDR Software

  • Photomatix Pro – This is my preferred HDR software.  Though if you already own a recent version of Photoshop, you have HDR software built into that, for those on a budget.  Download it at the Photomatix website. There is a free version you can use to try it out, but be warned that it leaves a watermark.  Ughh!   
Some free software options for HDR are Luminance HDR and HDRtist.  The concepts behind these are the same, though the methods and terminology used and the final output may vary slightly. 

Nice to have software. (More details in part two):

There’s other software that comes in real handy when doing HDR.  I’ll give more details in part two of the tutorial, but for now, if you have Photoshop or Photoshop Elements, or Pixelmator (Mac only), Adobe Lightroom, and at least one of these (Nik Collection, OnOne Collection, or the Topaz Bundle), then you’re ahead of the game and are in a good position to become a super HDR ninja! 

OK, so you want to break some rules, do you? Where to start?

  • First, I’m going to assume you already have a camera and have spent some time doing photography.  It’s rare indeed that someone without a camera decides to pick up a HDR tutorial and states “I want to learn this.”
  • Next, you start with a photo.  Any photo.  Yes, and just one.  That’s one of the big rules we break.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  There certainly are times where using 3 or 5 bracketed photos will give you a far superior result.  (If you don’t understand the previous sentence, just skip it).  But many times, numerous times, a large majority of the time, bracketing is not necessary.  I repeat.  A large majority of the time, bracketing is not necessary.  One photo is sufficient to do HDR.  
  • Wherever possible, you want to work with a RAW file.  Will a jpg do?  It is possible to get good results with a jpg file.  But remember this.  When your camera creates a jpg, it makes some decisions about what information stays and what information goes.  And some of that information that goes could be useful later, but if it’s not there, you can’t get it back.   
  • You can work along with your photo of your choosing, or you can use one of mine.  
    Download my photos here

But first, if you're going to use your photo, let's discuss some minimal requirements that photo should meet.  

  • Is it generally a good photo already?  
  • Is it well focused, with decent exposure? 
  • Is it interesting, even if only to you.  It doesn’t matter if anyone else thinks so. 
  • Is the main subject of the photo NOT a person?  
  • If you answered no to any of the above, go pick another photo.  HDR cannot take a bad photo and correct the focus, the exposure, or the boring factor. 
  • Are there extremely bright AND extremely dark areas in the chosen photo?  If so, this technique will still work, but not as well as bracketed in-camera photos will.  
  • In addition, I’ve found that low ISO photos work better than high ISO ones.  

  ~~~~  End of Part One - Break the Rules HDR Tutorial  ~~~~

Continue to Part 2.

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