Our step-by-step guide teaches you how to navigate the most popular HDR
programs, including one you may already have at your fingertips.
BETTER LUCK WITH BATCH PROCESSING
We're going to leave Charleston, South Carolina for a few minutes, and visit Anse La Reye, St. Lucia.
I'd originally shot two exposures of the cafe at Ti Kaye Village resort at twilight, exposing the first for the dramatic sunset and the second to capture a muted color palette of the interior of the cafe. My intent was to merge the two exposures together in Photoshop, via layer masks and other layer blending tools, but I thought it would also be a fun test for Photomatix. (See right)
I opened the two images into Photomatix, and used the Generate HDR command under the HDRI menu listing. I then took the combined HDR "neg" into the Tone mapping tool. I played with the sliders and I was quite unhappy with the results. It just wouldn't look like what I'd envisioned. The colors inside were garish, the sunset clouds looked artificial, and just overall, it was a most displeasing result. (See below)
Not being one to give up easily, I decided to test out as many merging options as I possibly could, using the Photomatix Batch Processing function under Automate. In the Batch Processing window, I selected "Average," "Highlights & Shadows - Auto," "Highlights & Shadows - Adjust," and "Highlights and Shadows - Intensive (Light)." I selected my source folder, and used "Same as Source" for the Destination folder. I chose to save as JPEG, Quality 100, and clicked OK.
The computer chugged away for a few moments, updating me on the progress of the processing.
When it was finished, I opened my merged images into Photoshop. None was truly what I was hoping for, but the H&S Intensive-Light was very close. All I needed to do was adjust the levels to darken the sky, and the final image is very much like what I'd pre-visualized months earlier. (See below)
The batch processing feature of Photomatix has its strengths for certain operations. If you want to test several of the LDR methods with Highlights and Shadows, this is the way to do it. Also, it will process your LDR images into an HDR image, to be Tone mapped. I suggest leaving the "Apply Tone Mapping to HDRI" unchecked, since you do not get a preview of what the Tone mapping will do to each HDR image. You can select the number of images to be combined at a time -- and files are selected alphabetically, so make sure you keep each series you wish to automate equal in number of source LDR images, and also choose a naming scheme that will yield you the outputted files you are expecting.
We're going to leave St. Lucia and Photomatix for a few minutes, and look at the High Dynamic Range features of Adobe Photoshop CS2 and Bridge. Afterwards, we'll do a comparison of the strengths and weaknesses of each program, to help you decide, which, if any HDR program is right for you.