irfan, hussain, thereddotman, the red dot man., HDR, High dynamic range, Nikon L120, Nik HDR EFEX, Alamparai

HDR, using Nik HDR Efex – page 2

You are at page 2 of the HDR tutorial. You can go back to page 1 or move forward to page 3 or just continue reading page 2.


Today, we will be using these images.

From these images, you will notice that the sky and the buildings on the right look good in the first exposure which is taken at -2ev. The train tracks and the floor and those various things of the left side of the image are well exposed in the middle image which is shot at 0ev. And the people and the ceiling of the platform look good in the last image which was shot at 2ev.

We will work on these images and produce this out put.

Though I shoot 5 exposures I do not include the -1ev and +1ev exposure in the HDR merging process. How ever I make it a point to shoot all 5 exposures. You’ll soon know why.


1)  Nik HDR Efex – Part 1 (Mix up the ingredients):

Load your bracketed images in Photoshop. Using bridge, navigate to the photos on your computer and select them. Right click, select Nik software, then click merge to HDR Efex pro.

Now you’ll be taken back to Photoshop where you will see a window that will ask you to make some selections. There are not many wrong decisions that you can make here. Here’s a screen shot showing the settings I made at this point.

Hit ok. Now your Photoshop will mix and churn these images in the HDR Efex plugin and throw out a resultant image.


2)  Nik HDR Efex – Part 2 (Sliders all the way):

The resultant image will still turn out to be flat. As all that you will see at this point is a merge of the best exposed areas of all your bracket images. It will look flat and dull without any shadows or highlights.


From here is what you take control and give your own touch to your HDR image.

There are various sliders that you will see on your right in this screen to personalize your HDR output. I’ll tell you about those that I focus on. There is no right way of using these sliders. Just make sure that your processing doesn’t over cook your image. Over processed and baked images to eyes are what is burnt over cooked food is to taste buds. You don’t want to make HDR pictures that look like a mauled corpse of an image. It’ll make your viewers cry tears of over saturated red. How ever you use these sliders, try to keep the image as closest to reality as possible. Just try to blur the line between reality and fantasy and you will create a surreal effect.

HDR Method: Here you will see two things. A drop down menu that says “natural” and a slider that says “Method Strength”

  • Method Strength: This slider will help you choose the intensity of your HDR processing. Most of my images give a better out put within the range of 40-60% very occasionally I use the extreems, 0 or 100%.
  • Processing Effect Menu: Above method strength you will see a drop down menu that reads “natural” by default. This is the menu where you can customize the kind of effect you want to give to your HDR image. Browse through them to see how they affect your image.

I recommend that you browse through each and every method in the processing effect menu and try the various levels of method strength. Spend enough time on doing this because this is what is going to create the foundation of your HDR image. Every frame is unique. Different frames require different processing effects. Thus take as much time possible at the HDR method menu.

Tone compression: This slider is responsible in making your images give out that psychedelic feel. More the slider to right, more trippy your image gets. Play around with it until you are happy with the output.
Exposure, contrast: Nothing much to talk about them. They work just they way their names suggest. Use them to you liking.
Saturation: This slider can make the colors of your image pop out or just wound it to such an extent that the scars bleed color (as cool as that sounds, I can assure you that no one wants that in their images). Honestly, do not over do this slider, use it just to that extent that the colors are enhanced and yet the image retains its reality or looks surreal.
Structure: This slider will enhance the details such as edges and contours of various objects in the image.
Blacks, Whites: Black slider will help you enhance shadows and the whites slider will enhance the highlights. Kind of the contrast slider, but in contrast slider both the shadows and highlights increase or decrease together. Here you will be able to control them separately.

HDR does not mean eliminate all shadows. It’s more about getting the right amount of exposure to the all the parts of an Image. Shadows and highlights are a vital part of a picture. They are like the ups and downs of a roller coater ride. Without them all you will have is in flat ride and I’m sure no one wants that. Shadows should be there. Highlight should also be there. But it’s up to us that when we make the HDR image we add the right amount of shadows and highlights where ever needed and how much ever needed.

Below I’ve shown a screen shot of how I’ve adjusted the sliders for this shot.


Playing around with the above sliders will help you make global adjustments to the image. That means, your adjustments affect the entire image. In the next step we’ll see how to make adjustments at particular selective points in the image. I’m gonna go get a cup of coffee before we move on. How about you?

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