I’ve recently used the Pentax k-x a bit more to test out the in camera HDR feature. At first I was under whelmed, but like usual, I messed with settings on my own until I got results I’m happy with. Maybe not elated with, but happy/satisfied. First I’ll post a few images, then I’ll explain how I tweaked camera settings to get to a warm, happy place. Again, these shots were not single frame captures, they utilized the Pentax k-x merge to HDR (in camera) feature and then I tweaked them quickly in post. (They were all taken with the Pentax K-x “kit” lens)
I still do not like the results from using the “HDR Strong” which is also HDR 2 under the two in camera HDR settings. ”HDR Standard” which is also HDR 1 under the menu settings is less dramatic and the following workflow is what I used to get the image results above.
If you’ve never tried this k-x setting you need to do a few things to your camera settings…
1. Press the MENU button to go into the Menu settings and change file format to JPEG and press the menu button again to get back to the typical LCD settings.
2. Then press the INFO button which is just above the Menu button. On the top line over to the right four squares is the menu option “HDR OFF“. You can change this option two ways. You can highlight that option and then use the scroll wheel with your thumb moving it to the right to flip to HDR 1, then HDR 2 –OR– you can highlight HDR OFF and press the OK button and then a screen pops up with the three options and just select the one you want and hit OK again. Obviously, the fastest way to do this is the first way I described. Highlight HDR OFF and then use the scroll wheel to change it to HDR 1 or HDR 2. You’ll see shortly why that scroll wheel is the better option.
Each of the images above are a combination of two captures that I brought into photoshop. Those two captures which were shot from the EXACT same location on a tri-pod were taken by….
1. First taking a shot using the “HDR-1″ setting (also called HDR Standard).
2. Press and hold the shutter so that it takes the 3 consecutive shots (it is auto bracketing and will then immediately process the three shots over the next 10-12 seconds).
3. Then hit the INFO button & scroll the wheel to the right once to select “HDR-2″ (also called HDR Strong) and again press/hold the shutter to fire off the second bracket.
Now here’s the key… Before taking each exposure I forced the exposure compensation to at LEAST +1EV for each of the above outside shots and adjusted the interior shots up by almost +2EV. That can be changed by using your right index finger and holding down the button just to the left of the shutter then use your right thumb to scroll the wheel to the right to increase the EV number. Why do this? …
.. because I found if you fire off the camera when in either of the two HDR modes with exposure compensation set at ZERO, the merge to HDR and in camera tonemapping seems to over crush the highlights and you end up with very “dirty” mid tones and darker shadows than you would want ideally.
The camera is of course firing off three images. One under exposed, one middle, one over exposed. It then merges those 3 bracketed shots to HDR in-camera, it then processes and tonemaps the HDR and saves the result as a JPEG. You can’t get anything but a JPEG as a final file (unfortunately).
When I got back from shooting, I would then open the first shot (HDR 1 / HDR Standard) in photoshop. Then FILE>PLACE the second image (HDR 2 / HDR Strong) over top of the first image. I then drop the opacity of the top layer (HDR Strong) to about 30% as a starting point and then change its blend mode in the layers palette to either OVERLAY or SOFT LIGHT. Then I just adjust opacity of that layer up or down to get the feel of the image to a satisfying level. Save and export.
You may find that you like the HDR Strong layer better than the HDR Standard (your call and whatever floats your boat). If so, simply reverse the layers so that the bottom layer is HDR Strong image and with the standard NORMAL blend mode and then have the top level be the HDR Standard image and change its opacity and blend mode as described above.
GOTCHAS – If you moved the camera slightly when you switched the camera menu settings between shots, you may need to use Photoshop’s align feature. You click the bottom layer and shift select the other layer so they are both selected. Then from the file menu EDIT>AUTO ALIGN LAYERS to have photoshop align the pixels.
You don’t need to do any MERGE to HDR and tonemapping because the Pentax k-x HDR Mode is doing that for you.
Fast moving objects make this two pronged approach a challenge and works best with static scenes. You need to use a tri-pod for best results. The time the k-x takes to process each shot can slow you down when shooting like this. You need a program that utilizes blend modes like Photoshop or a free application like GIMP (which is an open source, photoshop “like” app).
by Michael James