Dodging, Burning, and HDRing

Article by Blake Rudis

While many of you may know and many of you may be learning, the HDR process is great for opening up the detail in any given scene.  However, that strong dynamic range manipulation comes with some sacrifice in some very important areas in your HDR photographs.  Those areas in particular are your shadows and highlights.

The HDR Tone mapping process opens up your shadows and many times does some odd-unnatural things to your highlights.  It is imperative to address these areas to ensure your photograph does not appear flat.  Think about portrait photography, a beautifully lit face will have clean shadows that help to sculpt the person and make them look 3 dimensional like they should.  Your HDR work should be the same, all too often the shadows are forgotten in post processing leaving many HDR images flat looking.

I learned a great trick from my Printmaking professor years ago.  She told me, “If you are ever curious if your print is flat, take a picture of it in greyscale, if it is predominantly grey, you know you need to do something to rescue it.”  She went on to tell me that a good quality print will have prominent darks and whites with a nice grey transition in between.

This is a valuable trick that I use during all of my HDR post processing.  In Photoshop, go to Image>Mode>Greyscale.

Once I have taken a peep at my HDR photo in the greyscale, I address the areas that need some dodging and burning.  Dodging and burning is slightly different now than it was in the past.  In my darkroom days dodging and burning required the use of cutouts in the shape of the area you wanted to either dodge or burn under the enlarger.  This allowed you to expose your paper for longer in the areas that needed more time (burning) while you moved the cardboard slowly around the areas that were properly exposed to protect them(dodging).

These days Photoshop makes it very easy to Dodge and Burn.  While there are many ways out there that you may know of, here is my super easy automatic Dodge and Burn technique.  I use it quite often the start my dodging and burning process prior to using the manual dodge and burn tools.

 Automatic Dodging and Burning to Rescue Highlights and Shadows:

You heard it right, automated dodging and burning!  I love this one!  It is such a simple way to add subtle changes to the depth in your HDR images.

Automatic Dodge Process:

1  Open your image in Photoshop

2  Go to Select>Color Range

3  Select Highlights

 

4  Press OK

5  You should be seeing the racing ants all over the image.

6  Create a New Layer in the Layers Palette

 

7  With the new layer selected press SHIFT+F5.  The Fill dialog should open.  If it does not, navigate to Edit>Fill

8  Select White and press OK

 

 

9 With the ants still racing around your highlights, create a layer mask on the new highlights layer.

 

10 With the Highlights layer mask selected, click on the Properties tab and select a Feather of 50-75 Pixels.

 

 

11 Select the Highlights layer in the layers palette and change the Opacity from anywhere between 10 and 25%.  It will vary from image to image.  You may also change the blend mode to something like Overlay.  Use your best judgment.

 

 

 Automatic Burn Process:

 

1  Go to Select>Color Range

2  Select Shadows

3  Press OK

4  You should be seeing the racing ants all over the image.

5  Create a New Layer in the Layers Palette

 

6  With the new layer selected press SHIFT+F5.  The Fill dialog should open.  If it does not, navigate to Edit>Fill

7  Select Black and press OK

 

8  With the ants still racing around your Shadows, create a layer mask on the new Shadows layer.

 

9  With the Shadows layer mask selected, click on the Properties tab and select a Feather of 50-75 Pixels.

 

10  Select the Shadows layer in the layers palette and change the Opacity from anywhere between 10 and 25%.  It will vary from image to image.  You may also change the blend mode to something like Overlay.  Use your best judgment.

11  Create a new Curves Adjustment Layer

12 Make a slight S-Curve by pulling down the darks and lifting up the lights.  You can change the Blend Mode on this S-Curve to Luminosity to affect avoid over saturating the colors if necessary.

AFTER

 

AFTER COLOR

 

 

For more information on Dodging and Burning manually, visit these links on EverydayHDR.com.

http://www.everydayhdr.com/grayscale-dodge-and-burn-technique/

http://www.everydayhdr.com/dodging-and-burning-with-a-purpose-photoshop-cs5/

Or see my HDR book – Exploring HDR

  • http://www.outofchicago.com/ Chris Smith

    Thanks, Blake. I really like that idea of creating a grayscale image to check if an image is too flat.

    • Blake Rudis

      No problem Chris. It is an invaluable tool, since she told me that I have used it for every form of art whether it be painting, printmaking, or photography.

  • http://www.facebook.com/SoitenlySantiago Johnny Santiago

    This is pretty cool. I’m gonna try this today.
    I was wondering do have this tutorial in video?

  • Blake Rudis

    Sorry I didn’t get back to you sooner. The lens really isn’t a factor with HDR. Some lenses do create more chromatic aberrations, but those can be easily fixed in post processing. I would use any lens for HDR, because the “magic” behind it comes from the quality of your RAW files rather than the quality of your lens.