HDR Tutorial – Vertorama

Article By Michiel Buijse

The Basilica of Oudenbosch, The Netherlands

The Oudenbosch Basilica is a Roman Catholic basilica in the Dutch village of Oudenbosch. It was built under the initiative of father Willem Hellemons who was parish priest between 1842 and 1884. Its nave and interior were modeled after St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome; while the facade is a replica of the Basilica of St. John Lateran also in Rome. The Basilica was designed by architect Dr. P. Cuijpers. Construction began in 1865 but was not fully completed until 1982. The basilica is unique in the region in that it is quite large with classical Italian appearance that is atypical for most of northern Europe, let alone a small village in North Brabant.

Camera –NIKON D5100

Lens – 18-55mm kitlens

HDR Software – Photomatix

ISO -100

Aperture – f/8

Number of exposures – 3 for each image -2EV, 0EV, +2EV (total of 12 images)

Tripod/handheld –Tripod

Jimmy asked me to write an article about my workflow. Nothing too fancy, but plain and simple so everyone could understand it. As I was just finished  with my photomerge of the Basilica of Oudenbosch, I thought this would be a great article to write about.

As I walked into the church I was overwhelmed by its beauty and light. There were so many thing to see in there and I wanted to capture them all. So I set up my camera right in front of the altar. As you can see above, I work with the Nikon D5100 and with the kit-lens. It’s nothing fancy and some of you might have a similar camera. After panning the camera, I had a good look of the overall picture and decided to stretch the photo over 3 images wide and 4 images tall. Auto-bracketing was set to 3 exposures (-2, 0 and +2EV) with an f/8 aperture and ISO 100.  This would result in the longest exposure time of 20 seconds. Even with times like 20 seconds, you don’t want light to enter the camera via the viewfinder, so make sure that you close the viewfinder. Read your camera manual for how to do that.

After shooting all my 36 brackets It was time to process them in photomatix. I will not go in depth about how to tone map your images, as this is different for every image you process in photomatix or any other software you use. I never touch the presets and always start with the default values. There is one thing I always have a sharp look at, and that is the histogram in photomatix. I always want to make sure that all my data is within the whole spectrum of the histogram, so that the highlights are not blown out and the blacks are not completely black. My tonemapped images always look kinda flat, but that is going to be fixed in the post processing with photoshop and lightroom.

Here you can see my 12 tonemapped images:

All these images are then merged together with photomerge in photoshop. You can find a lot of tutorials of how to use the merge on youtube.

Here is the vertorama after the merge:


The dome doesn’t look round at all and the benches are out of perspective so we have to correct that. I didn’t want it to look natural in a perspective way, but this just looks ridiculous. Time to play with the wide angle correction in photoshop and straighten out those benches and crop the overall image.

Yeah, this looks more like it!! Now that we have our image to work with, it’s time for some magic post processing.

The first thing I do is sharpening the photo using LAB color. I think some of the NIK plugins also use this kind of sharpening. So if you don’t have those plugins you can use this method.

In Photoshop, go to “image”, “mode” and choose LAB color. Next to your layers tab, you will see another tab called “channels”. Click on this tab and you will see 4 channels called: Lab, Lightness, a and b. Click on the Lightness channel to select and go to filters, sharpen, unsharp mask.

A popup window will appear with a preview window and three sliders (amount, radius and threshold). My settings are: amount between 120 and 200, radius 0.7, threshold 0 and press OK.

Now that I have sharpened the image, I will save it as a TIFF and open it in Lightroom 4. Here I always put the highlights slider at -100 and the shadows slider at +100. Once that is done, I hold down the Alt key (Option on Mac) and click the whites slider. The screen will turn black and while you are sliding you can see some pixels appear where the white pixels are. Just when they start appearing, that’s my setting. I will do the same with the blacks slider. It’s ok to have some black pixels in the image, this will add to the contrast in the image. Now that the lighting is correct for the image, it’s time to play with the other sliders. Correct the clarity, vibrance and saturation to your likings.

I use the adjustment brush a lot in Lightroom. For this image, I used 10 control  points  to adjust the brightness, shadows and some over saturated areas. You can see the difference in the following pictures.



The last step is to do some post crop vignetting to draw the viewers eye in to the photo.

The final image is slightly different then my original down here as I processed this image from scratch again.


I hope you enjoyed it. The best way to learn this is just by trying all the settings in Lightroom. You can always go back a step with the history panel and try again. I learned this way of processing by watching the tutorials of Serge Ramelli on youtube.

You can find more of Michiel’s work here:

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