three top best hdr program: Photoshop’s HDR Pro, Photomatix Pro, and HDR Efex Pro

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When it comes to HDR, only three key ingredients are needed: hardware, software, and post-processing technique. Hardware is simple—there are only a few things you need to set up and shoot an HDR series. Software is vastly improved, making it easier for anyone to create an HDR image. The hard part is the post-processing technique. There are only two options: hours and hours of experimentation or The HDR Book.

Featuring real-world interviews with passionate HDR photographers, The HDR Book, by Rafael “RC” Concepcion, is more than a how-to and different from any other HDR book out there. While other books on HDR tend to lean toward the esoteric or formulaic, this book takes another approach. It’s a complete and total HDR workshop that teaches you the one thing that most other books miss– once you’ve tone mapped your image with HDR software, you’re still not finished.

Within the pages of this book, you’ll find 10 projects shot with everything from a point-and-shoot to a 37-megapixel, medium-format camera. The projects are designed to show you how the subtle differences in each scenario (lighting, subject, environment, etc.) dictate the post-processing needed to achieve one of the many final looks covered. You’ll learn not only the different tone map settings RC used, but you’ll also learn the final steps taken in Photoshop to complete each image. Then, you’ll recreate these looks your self using the exact same RAW files that RC used! Plus, you get four bonus images to play with and create your own look. The end result: a more intrinsic understanding of the nuances of HDR that will help you create the images you’ve always wanted.

Best of all, The HDR Book is written using the three top HDR processing programs in the industry today: Photoshop’s HDR Pro, Photomatix Pro, and HDR Efex Pro. No matter which program you use, you’ll be able to follow along and create your own stunning looks in no time.

About the Author

Rafael “RC” Concepcion is an education and curriculum developer for the National Association of Photoshop Professionals, and the co-host of the D-Town TV videocast for DSLR shooters. An Adobe Certified Instructor in Photoshop, Illustrator, and Lightroom, RC has more than 14 years in the IT and e-commerce industries, and spends his days developing content for all applications in the Adobe Creative Suite at Kelby Media Group. RC also writes columns for Photoshop User magazine and recently became a best-selling author with his debut book, Get Your Photography on the Web.

HDR Book Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Peachpit Press; 1 edition (June 11, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0321776895
  • ISBN-13: 978-0321776891
The HDR Book: Unlocking the Pros’ Hottest Post-Processing TechniquesReviews

This review is from: The HDR Book: Unlocking the Pros’ Hottest Post-Processing Techniques (Paperback)
To understand what is wrong with “The HDR Book” it might help to understand how high dynamic range (HDR) photography works. The human eye discriminates a range of tones about twice that of a digital camera. That means that the human eye can see details in shady or sunny spots in a scene where a standard digital photo would just show black or white. The HDR process combines photographs taken at different exposures so that the light areas are selected from the darkest photos and the dark areas are taken from the lightest photos. The tonalities are then remapped. The blackest tone in the scene still appears as black, but some tonalities that might have appeared as black in a standard photo show as dark grey tonalities, just as a standard photograph’s white tones would also show detail. An HDR photo can show the same amount of detail in dark and bright areas as the human eye sees.

All of this occurs by shifting tonalities in the photograph, either changing all of the tonalities of a certain level, or by changing tonalities based on the ratio of tonalities of adjacent pixels. In order to achieve that, HDR software offers a variety of tools, each represented by a slider, that offer different methods of shifting. As a result of the options offered, the photographer can not only extend the range of light but also change tonalities to achieve what may be considered surrealistic effects, although surrealism is not necessarily inherent in HDR processing.

In “The HDR Book” the author begins by introducing the techniques of capturing images for HDR processing, like bracketing and using a tripod. Next he discusses what subjects are particularly suited to HDR photography, although his emphasis seems to be on subjects that will lend themselves to the surrealistic approach. The third chapter discusses the software to be used in HDR processing, including Photoshop CS5, Photomatix Pro and HDR Efex Pro, with an emphasis on processing in Photoshop after creating the HDR image. (This creation process is known as tone mapping.) He next offers 10 different images that he captured and processed first in HDR, and then in post HDR processing in Photoshop.

My experience is that many photographers are interested in extending the tonality of their images to approximate the human eye without adding any special effects but almost all of Concepcion’s work seems to be of the surrealistic variety. This might have been mitigated if he had offered detailed explanations of how the various sliders in the three pieces of software covered affected tonality and interacted but his advice seems to be to experiment with the sliders. When it comes to the sample images, a single screen capture and a short paragraph are devoted to the sliders that he moved in tone mapping and then several screen captures and paragraphs explain how the pictures were processed after tone mapping. Moreover, the Photoshop adjustments that he covers range from the simplest techniques that even tyros will be familiar with to intricate techniques that only experts might consider. There is little general explanation of these techniques so that to benefit the most, one should be well familiar with Photoshop.

I was disappointed that while discussing the details enhancer process of Photomatix Pro, Concepcion did not mention some of the other HDR processes available in Photomatix, like tone compressor and exposure fusion, especially since these processes may prove useful for individuals not seeking a surrealistic image.

I have no doubt there is a need for learning about post-tone mapping Photoshop cleanup. However, this book does not provide much help in understanding the tone mapping uses of the facilities in the discussed pieces of HDR software.

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