No Tricks just Treats; How to add Halloween Wow to your HDR photo!

Hi all! My name is Kim Zier. Jimmy Mcintyre came to me and asked if I would write for the magazine. What a great honor! Just a little bit about myself before I get started. I began taking pictures 5 years ago and never stopped. I am new to the HDR One magazine. I stumbled upon it back in August and so glad I did. I am among so many amazing photographers. I am inspired everyday by all of you. I am new to HDR photography, been experimenting with it for about 6 months and know I still have so much more to learn, but I plan to try to, hopefully. share with you something useful, interesting and fun.

This is my first tutorial, so please bare with me. The image I am going to share was taken in Furlong, Pa of abandoned rail cars. The day I had planned to go out ended up being a dreary dull overcast day, awful day to do HDR or any photography for that matter. So with this tutorial I plan to show you through Photomatix Pro 2 and Photoshop how I give an image that “wow” factor when it is not there from the start. I also sometimes like to add extras to my images to create a story. So in the spirit of Halloween…I am going to add a little macabre for effect.

Here we go…

I started by processing 6 images through Photomatix Pro 2 (you can get a 15% discount by using the StrangeLands code) and made my adjustments to my liking. The images were shot in raw @ f/16 on Aperture Priority ISO 100 on a tripod.


Then I bring the image into Photoshop CS6 for post-processing.


Now I find the perfect clouds to add to the image to give it a dark atmosphere for the Halloween theme I am going for. I have collected stock cloud images over the years, because in my opinion, every landscape need some clouds and when I’m out on a day where there are none…I just add them in Photoshop. Here is what I chose and I basically dragged, dropped the clouds from my pictures to Photoshop.

I position the clouds to where I think they should be with the “Move Tool”  and change the blending mode to “Multiply” like so

Then I create a layer mask and with my Brush tool, set to black, begin erasing what I don’t want in the picture. I also adjust the opacity a little lighter to make them more believable. 3 images below to demonstrate

Now to give the clouds a little more depth I duplicate the layer with clouds and change the blending mode to Hard light and re-adjust  the opacity on that layer to my liking. I also had to tweak this layer and removed some unwanted clouds that were over the trees. I did this with the Brush tool set to black.

I have my clouds set…not so boring anymore. I flatten the image demonstrated below. It’s now time for spooky fun. I just recently purchased stock lightning images and they were worth the investment. The ones I have taken from the internet did not always work out well. I drag and drop my lightning image onto the background, which creates a new layer. With my move tool I place the lightning where I want it and adjust the size accordingly.  Then I set the blending mode to “Lighten” and slightly adjust the opacity.

Lightning is now established and looking pretty cool. Of course for my first tutorial I couldn’t keep it simple, I am going to attempt to add a crow on the steps of the train, and hopefully make it not look too cheesy. Now I have to take the image of the crow and open it up in Photoshop. This one is a little trickier because you can’t just drag, drop and change the blending mode. So what I did was, with the “Quick Selection Tool” I dragged it over the crow to get my selection. Then I click on refine to adjust and smooth out the edges. Click Ok and now I duplicate the layer and with the “Move Tool” drag it over to the main image I have open in another window. Then I re-sized and placed the bird where I want him to be. I also had to do some re-fining around the edges of the bird with the brush tool by creating a layer mask and setting the brush tool to black. I just painted around the edges of the bird to make him fit better into the background. Which will hopefully be showed below for a better understanding.


Oh dear, this is quite involved, I hope I am not boring you yet. I am now satisfied with my bird. I am now going to add ghostly ghoul for shit’s and giggles. Oops…I hope I can curse. 😉 Ok much of the same here drag, drop and blend mode set to screen and erase with the brush tool(set to black) what I don’t want. Some images below to demonstrate.

Ok I swear I am almost finished. Hopefully you will find it worth the wait. So now I wanted to add in some birds flying in the air just because…Again drag, drop and erase what I didn’t want in the image and this time I changed the blending mode to multiply and kept the opacity at 100%.

Now I am ready to bring it into my favorite software program, OnOne Photo tools, through Photoshop for editing that really give the image that “wow” factor I love. Here are some pictures to demonstrate the finished product. Really this is where creativity and personal preference comes into play. I hope you like it!


Thanks and Happy Halloween!!!

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