Creating HDR Photos with Zoner Photo Studio

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Features Used:

  • HDR via Exposure Blending
  • HDR via Tone Mapping

 

The human eye is still a bit ahead of cameras’ light sensors. Above all, our eyes can handle a broader dynamic range. This is a problem, and there’s a trick you can use to fight it: HDR.
It stands for High Dynamic Range.

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HDR becomes attractive the moment you have a scene with both very light and very dark areas, and you want a photo expressing details in both these areas. For example, a beach on a sunny day, shot from the shade of a beach bar. Normally you can’t take a shot of this scene that keeps full detail in both the light of the beach and the shadows of the bar. Thus you can choose between a discernible bar interior with a white spot (the beach) in the middle, or details on the beach and a completely blacked-out bar.

HDR lets you give your final picture more dynamic range—more contrast—than the camera sensor lets you capture. It’s this trait that makes HDR so eye-pleasing.

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There are two basic roads to HDR in Zoner Photo Studio. For one of them, you need 2-3 shots of the scene at various exposure levels. For the other, you can use one shot or a hundred.

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To take multiple shots that differ “only” in exposure, use a tripod. Although Zoner offers to automatically align pictures for you, a small change of perspective is still enough to ruin the HDR process and leave you without the great picture you aimed for.

Turn on the camera’s Bracketing function while taking the shots, so the camera will automatically take several shots in a row at various exposure values. But check on-camera before you leave the scene. Even with a tripod and bracketing, moving people, clouds, etc. can still ruin a shot by leaving “ghosts.”

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Now take these source shots, and use Exposure Blending HDR in Zoner to join them together. Essentially the program examines each shot, finds the parts of it with a good level of detail, and joins these parts of the different exposures into one picture. Naturally this means that for Exposure Blending HDR, you need at least two source pictures. And it’s better to use three. One with the “correct” exposure, one slightly underexposed, and one slightly overexposed.

In the Manager’s Create menu, use Exposure Blending HDR…, and then select your source photos.

The HDR via Exposure Blending menu item

Then Zoner inspects the pictures’ EXIF data to confirm which shot is underexposed, overexposed, and in the middle. If the photos have bad or missing EXIF data, you can also choose by hand. Then you align the photos. This brings us to the HDR settings step of the window.

Use the first three sliders to the “feel” of the HDR, and the last to set its intensity, that is, “strength.” Here are some good basic starting values: 100, 50, 50, and intensity to taste. Use these settings for both lights and shadows. Spend time playing with the sliders early, to get a feel for how they “work.” Be careful to avoid the notorious beginner’s mistake of getting carried away by HDR and using too strong an effect, getting a final result that belongs in a coloring book, not a photo album.
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In HDR photography, there’s a thin line between creating unbelievable results and creating results that are just plain not believable. For a quick look at the latter, start an HDR job and turn the Intensity up to 100.

Once you’re satisfied with your results, open the picture in the Editor for further edits, or save it directly.

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The other road to pictures with high dynamic range is tone mapping. This is also in the Create menu, under HDR via Tone Mapping…. Unlike exposure blending, this lets you work with an unlimited number of input photographs (from one to infinity). However, they must have EXIF exposure data.

For this technique a much wider range of settings is available, and above all, two methods, based on Brightness and Contrast. To simplify here: the first three settings set the effect’s strength; the rest set the picture’s tint. Each picture needs different settings, and here too it’s good to play with the sliders once before getting serious.

Tone Mapping bears an even greater risk than Exposure Blending of crossing the line from believable to “coloring book.”

The article is from www.zoner.com  Don’t forget to use the zoner photo studio coupon code HDRIT  to save 20% if interested.

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