John Santoro's blog

HDR Tip by James Brandon - Prevent Muddy Whites

High Dynamic Range photography is all about taking an image with a range of brightness larger than your display device can handle and taming it to deliver an attractive and believable image. No matter which HDR software package you use it’s inherent in the HDR process that you will have to make critical decisions about how you want to handle pixels that need to be wrestled back into your display’s dynamic range.

Shooting and teaching pro James Brandon gives us a tip on how to tame muddy highlights that can happen by over processing. This is the first in a series of valuable tips on HDR photography James will be providing us each month for our blog and newsletters. Let’s dive in!

TIP: Don't Let Your Whites Get Muddy!

One of the more common mistakes I see in HDR is the loss of correct color in a photograph. This could be from pushing specific channels too far like your reds, or from trying too hard to get a "properly exposed image." One mistake that I've been seeing frequently are the muddy whites caused by forcing an image’s histogram into submission. If you simply didn't capture full range of light in a scene, but still tell a program like HDR Express to get rid of any white clipping, the program will take your whites and turn them muddy to make you happy. Don't fall victim to this processing fail! Here's a screenshot from HDR Express of what I'm talking about.

gray hole

Muddy whites are a dead giveaway to a poor HDR image, so avoid them like the plague. It's ok to have blown highlights sometimes! Sure, it would have been nice to have captured the full range of light, but this isn't a perfect world, and that isn't always going to happen. Instead, pull your Highlights slider back until those white start to look clean again. Mess around with the other sliders a bit and you'll be surprised at how much detail you actually may still be able to pull out.


In this version, I pulled back the highlights slider to make the highlights look cleaner. To see if your highlights are blown, you can either look at the histogram which I pointed to in the top right, or you can click the "H" above the histogram to activate the blown highlights overlay which you can now see in red in the image. If you're still hooked on bringing in the detail, take your darkest RAW file and pull the exposure down to see if you can bring out the details. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn't. Cheers, and happy shooting!


The Good and the Bad of HDR

Here at UCT we're proponents of "natural" HDR. The bizarre, over-saturated and too frequently seen processing that many have called "HDR" drives us crazy. In this article James Brandon who has graced this blog in the past points out what he believes is a collection of HDR images "done right". Click on "Like" if you agree.

photo by Rob Hanson

Often Copied But Rarely Done This Well - Landscape Photography

We just love it when an oft-copied scene is done right. We're also loving the discovery of Landscape Photography Magazine. Check this link to see the equipment and settings used to make the image.

Inside HDR with Pro Photographer Will Austin

Will Austin is an accomplished architecture, industrial and travel photographer based in the Seattle area. His work displays the skill and nuance gained over years of working with different HDR techniques. His refreshingly light-handed use of HDR brings a bright and open look to his images, a look we found compelling. We caught up with Will for a short discussion about his work this weekend.

Tame Those Converging Lines by Julie Eggers

Julie Eggers gives us one of the most valuable tips we've had the pleasure to pass on to you. Whether you do HDR photography or just stick to the basics, commit this tip to memory! Be advised that this tip requires the use of Photoshop CS5, CS6 or CC.

Reed Hoffmann Webinar Posted For Viewing

It's Here....

HDR Photographers We Like

Here's another great example of natural nature photography we found on Flickr. The image is by Sankar Raman who resides in the great northwest. His website is filled with similarly deft images.

HDR Photographers We Like

We are always trekking through the Internet to find great examples of HDR photography. This image is by Alsace, France photographer Jean-Michel Priaux. Spend a few minutes with his work and see if inspiration comes your way.

HDR Travel Photography With Expose 3 And Photoshop

We just returned from a wonderful shooting trip on the island of Nantucket which is thirty miles off the coast of Cape Cod. With its endless beaches, historic old whaling town and cloud formations that billowed up to eternity Nantucket gave us all we needed.

In this image of the Madaket Harbor on the islands western point we relied on HDR Expose 3's keyframe based, ghost reduction to eliminate the movement of the boats in this scene. HDR Expose also gave us a great rendering of the clouds and foreground. After our work in HDR Expose we took the image into Photoshop to add a screen layer that gave a gentle glow to the scene.

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