Michael Breitung Photography


Dynamic Range Increase – Part 4

Here’s the final Part of my little DRI tutorial. In the past three parts I showed how we go from multiple exposures to a high dynamic range image which to be honest still looks very flat. That’s ok because now I’ll give you some tips on how to add a little punch to this picture. So to sum up we created a very good start image for postprocessing in Lightroom, Photoshop or any other graphics program. Much better than what we would have if we had just taken one exposure, either the sky would have been to bright or the rocks in the foreground to dark. Only If we had used a graduated neutral density filter we might have achieved to capture a similar dynamic range as we got now. If you have such a filter handy use it! The less postprocessing needed the better.

Final blend with enfuse gui

Ok back to work. In the folowing part I will describe some steps you can take in Lightroom to improve above image. I wont go into the details of where the buttons are and asume you are a bit familiar with Lightroom. First I show the final image as a contrast to above.

Sunset on the island Hönö in Sweden

In this little preview some parts might look a little dark but in the uncompressed image all detail is still there. The aim of the processing was besides getting some more color into the picture also getting more contrast. It’s for you to decide how much of both you want for your image but I like contrast 🙂 Some might argue that there’s some dynamic range lost in those final steps here but now we can decide where we can do with a little less and where not. Now we have all the freedom we wouldn’t have had with one single exposure out of our start images.

  • We can start with the Basic settings and increase Clarity, Vibrance and Saturation to values around 30. Just do make the settings which look best for you. The result is more color and through the Clarity setting more local contrast. Always remember not to push it too far to keep a natural look. In other images values around 30 are mostly to much.
  • Next we can add some global contrast in the Tone Curve setting through an S-Curve – pulling the Shadows and Darks to the left and the Lights and Highlights to the right. Experiment!
  • Directly under the Histogram above the Basic settings you will find the Graduated Filter which now comes in handy to further darken the sky like would a real graduated neutral density filter during the shoot. Pull in the filter by starting a good part above the horizon and pull it down below the horizon. How large you make the transition depends on the image. In some cases a shorter transition might work in others a more soft transition. Then you can move the Brightness slider to the left do darken the sky. In addition you can give the sky a little warmer tint by adding a warm color (e.g. orange) but with just little saturation so it doesn’t look to obvious. Especially this Graduated Filter setting only works so good now because of all our previous efforts in creating the DRI image! This filter helps nearly nothing for a blown out sky since there the information is already lost.
  • You can use the Adjustment Brush next to the Graduated Filter in a similar way to adjust specific areas. For example to brighten some parts like a dodge tool. Increase the Brighness and paint to areas you want to accentuate a bit.
  • My favourite settings are the HSL settings. There you can adjust distinct colors and change their brighness, saturation and hue. There’s no specific setting you can use for every image. Here for example I made the Orange and Yellow a bit warmer by moving the Hue sliders a bit to the left. I adjusted all the other colors a bit too, but it would go to far to tell the details here because as I said for every image you might need slightly different settings. But one advice here again. Don’t push it to far else you will increase noise in the image and also might get unwanted transitions between the colors.
  • We already sharpened each initial Image in Part 1 but you might want to do some additional sharpening of the image now in the Detail settings. Increase the Amount and also the Masking setting to keep the sharpening to the edges. Hold down the Alt key while moving the Masking slider and you will see the sharpened parts as white lines. Usually I use a Radius around 1 but this depends on the resolution of you image.

Ok here ends Part 4 of my DRI tutorial. I hope somebody even read it and got some valuable information out of it. Feel free to comment and make suggestions about additional steps or just ask if something isn’t clear.

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