Movement in HDR – Manually Deghosting

For the past four years I’ve been practicing the HDR technique and of all the problems I’ve had in the learning process, one stands out from the beginning. Movement.

You can of course tone map a single RAW or JPG to obtain a certain “HDR look”, but in most cases to achieve true high dynamic range pictures, you have no other choice but to merge numerous pictures with different exposure values. You can change the value manually or with the auto-exposure bracketing of your camera. That’s no secret.

But in each cases by doing so, most of the time certain objects like cars or people move between each shot. And that may just be the biggest problem in HDR photography.

Of course if you are lucky, nothing moves. You can always choose certain scenes or subjects that are lifeless. But aren’t you limiting yourself by doing so? Or taking out spontaneity of a picture by telling everyone to stand still for a couple of pictures like if it was the 1920’s.

Nowadays HDR pictures attract a lot of attention especially those with people in it. Mainly because you don’t see many of them very often.

Of course in most cases if light is pretty even in shadows, midtones and highlights, in order to avoid the movement issue you can do an HDR from a single RAW picture.

But a single RAW HDR is not considered a true HDR picture. Mainly for the absence of exposure fusion. They may have the tone mapping look but single RAW HDR pictures are not more dynamic than a normal single picture would be.

It’s also very unfair because a single RAW picture taken with a Canon 5DMarkIII will offer a better dynamic range than a single RAW picture taken with a Canon 1ti or Canon G12. The better the camera the better your single RAW HDR pictures. That’s a fact. Bigger sensors always equals better quality.

So. What do we have to do to obtain true HDR pictures when things are in movement?

In the old days we would do some montage by blending a true HDR photo and single raw HDR photos or rely mostly on options in Photomatix and other softwares like “reduce ghosting artifacts” and so by selecting “normal” or “high”.

This option does the job for leaves in trees on a windy day or objects that moved a centimeter. But only for that.

Of course the speed of your memory card is really important with HDR photography. You can’t be serious about HDR photography if you have to wait 10 seconds between each RAW picture. The movement of clouds or people will be enormous and so impossible to blend afterwards. Taking JPG photos instead of RAW is not the solution either. But that’s a story for another article.

I don’t fully know each HDR software there is. I’ve tested a lot of them and I always came back to Photomatix. So i’ll be talking only about Photomatix. Especially since Photomatix 4 came out because it finally includes the best solution for the movement issue in the world of HDR photography.

Here are the original pictures for the example I’ll be talking about. All CR2 RAW pictures

After selecting the bracketed photos you need (in order to obtain your HDR picture), this first screen appears.

You have to select “Remove ghosts with Selective Deghosting tool”

Then this second screen will pop up.

 

You have to drag your mouse over the image to select a ghosted region. Once selected you have to control-click or right-click inside the selection to mark it as ghosted.

 

You can also choose the exposure in the specific region which Photomatix will use to blend the region with the rest of the image with no movement. Then click ok.

Something like this came out:

But it’s not over.. I never publish a picture straight out of Photomatix. I always do a little Photoshop, like I would with any photo. HDR or not.

I think it’s not only about obtaining an HDR tone mapped look but about giving your colors to every picture.

Here is the final result:

 

It’s as simple as that.

This article was written by Philippe Bleau. You can see more of his HDR work at – http://www.flickr.com/photos/29238259@N06