Re-edit Friday; Workflows

Yesterday i wrote about All Saints Day and shared some pictures. In the comments Stuart Atkin liked the stacking for HDR and wondered what the original images looked like. I thought I would share today my workflow for this image.

Stacking for HDR is something I did before I used  Photomatix and more recently HDR Efex. A HDR image is an image that is made of multiple exposures usually between 3-5 but some people make them with 9. The image maps the tonal details from each exposure to make an image that has more tonal range than the camera can capture.

I started making stacked images because for me it just seemed an extension of dodging and burning an image. I also experimented with using Apply Image but this could be hit and miss.

“HDR stacking” as i call it, is good when you have an image with a high ISO. When using plugins for HDR the higher the ISO means a lot more noise and digital artifacts. Generally i will not go above 200 ISO if i want to create a HDR using a plugin and that is a push.

For this image i used 800 ISO. These images were noisy to begin with. I first put the images into Adobe Camera Raw to remove the noise.

The exposures were taken two stops apart.

Once the noise had been reduced in Camera Raw I went into photoshop.

In Photoshop the stacking command is in the File menu option. File-Scripts-Load Files into a stack. You can choose your files from those already open or you can load them using the browse option. Also in the dialogue box you have the option to automatically align the images.

Once the files have been put into a stack I rearrange and rename the layers. I place the Base exposure at the bottom and name it base, then place the underexposed image above it and name it under and finally have the overexposed image on top and name it over.

With the top two layers, Over and Under, I add a Layer Mask and Hide all. I select a low opacity brush and set the foreground colour to white and began to blend in the the highlights and the shadows from the over and under exposures. The low opacity brush allows you to carefully blend the images together.

What I revealed from the underexposed image using the mask and low opacity brush.

For me i liked the flame of the central candle best in the underexposed image more and so started blending this in first.

What I revealed from the overexposed image using the mask and low opacity brush.

With the light from the other candles i masked in the light detail from the overexposed image.

The final stacked image now had the different elements that i wanted and so i grouped the layers into a smart object to continue editing.I used a smart object so that i could go back at a later date and make changes to the blending. This stacked image is like my negatives squashed together and i don’t want to destroy the information in them which, is what i would do if i just flattened the layers.

Image after lens correction and Noise Ninja Plugin

Next i did some housekeeping to the image. I ran it through lens correction first to correct the perspective of the image and also put the image though Noise Ninja just to clean the image a little bit more of its noise.

Next i did a bit more toning with a small amount of dodging and burning. Dodging to lighten the image and burning to darken the image.

The next step i reduced the saturation of the colours but raised the vibrance. The difference between vibrance and saturation is that saturation changes the saturation of all colours in line with each other. This means that red can become over saturated while the blues are just saturated. Whereas Vibrance raises the saturation separately for each colour so that the colours all have a similar saturation level. This means that as in my previous example, if blue is less saturated than red, raising the saturation slider would mean at first blue would be raised more than red but red would be raised as well.

Saturation and vibrance adjusted and colour cast added

I reduced the saturation to lower the reds primarily and then raised the vibrance to get a better overall saturation of the image.

I then created a colour cast just to give an added feeling to the colours  I chose the most prominent colour that was a pinkish red and created a solid colour layer. I set the blending mode for the layer to overlay and reduced the opacity to 13% .

My final adjustments was to sharpen the image and give it a small curves adjustment.

The image took about 90 mins to edit with most of the time taken up with blending the exposures together. I really like the overall feel of this image it is warm and light at the same time keeping the meaning of the day in mind. Lighting candles in respect of those no longer with us.

Please use the comment box below and let me know what you think; Do you like the stacking process, do you have a question about it or do you think it doesn’t. work.

Until next friday have fun editing your pictures.

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