Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Combining two images in Photoshop CS3 using HDR Part 2- Orchid

Image copyright 2009 Byron O'Neal

So, today we are revisiting the possibilities of using the HDR Automation in Photoshop this time using three macro shots of the same orchid. 

Let's start with the image capture first. I was using the 105mm Nikkor Macro lens for all three pictures on a tripod. Set to Aperture priority, the first image was taken at f/4 focusing on the petals of the primary flower in order to minimize depth of field and reduce background clutter. The second was taken at F/14 to bring into focus the rest of the primary flower and to add some out of focus background detail. The third shot I dipped into the photographer's toolkit of the past and added a cheap UV filter, lightly coated with Vaseline to render the whole image soft and blurry. I've heard the argument that you can get this same effect in Photoshop by adding a Gaussian Blur layer. I like doing it in capture myself. My advice, try both and see what you like. Be aware that you will have to be rather quick if you are shooting outside as wind can create problems. Visualize what you want to do before shooting it.

In Photoshop CS3, I clicked on File/Automate/Merge to HDR and selected the three RAW images. Leaving the Auto Align Option ON, I hit OK and waited a bit for PS to combine the layers. I changed the bit depth to 16-bit/channel. I'm no Photoshop guru but if you leave it in 32-bit/channel you will loose the ability to make a few changes in the HDR processor. Don't forget to adjust the White Point Preview slider before you hit OK. Equalize Histogram and Highlight Compression won't do anything in the HDR processor here, I manipulated Local Adaptation and Exposure/Gamma to the way I liked the composite image the best. After hitting OK, at this point you're done with the HDR processor and back to normal old Photoshop. I duplicated three layers from the original and changed the first duplicated layer to Multiply. I turned the top two duplicated layers off so I could see what I was doing and moved the opacity slider back to about 20% on the Multiply layer. Make sure if you are following along here to rename the layers as you make adjustments so you won't get confused. I learned that one the hard way. The second duplicated layer I changed to Overlay, again adjusting the slider back to around 20%. Don't forget to turn the third layer off so you can see what you are doing. The third and topmost layer, I set to Soft Light and adjusted the slider back to around 20% again. These are totally up to you as to how much opacity you leave with each layer, beware blowing the gamut if you leave the slider too high. Click View/Gamut warning and leave it on. If you are seeing grey dots onscreen, you've gone too far. I added a Layers, Curves, Brightness/Contrast, Hue, and Saturation layer as well to round out the final image. 

Again, I'm no Photoshop expert but I hope seeing my workflow might help shed some light into how thing come together for this image. I like the end result of the image with its dreamy feel. Play around and see what you get.
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