Editing Friday; HDR Reflection

When I first started working with HDR photography I actually didn’t use any software to tone my image, it was back in the days of Photoshop CS2/3 and to be honest Adobes own HDR filter was and still is not the best. At the time I tone my images manually, by masking in areas of highlight and shadows.

I then moved onto Photomatix. This really was where I stayed for a while creating tiffs and then editing them in Photoshop. What I did notice was that my images from Photomatix looked like HDR images, high contrast and saturation and slightly unnatural  This really wasn’t the type of images that I wanted to create all the time. I actually like HDR images that are not over processed ( not too much of the in your face details). The one thing I did like about Photomatix was I could batch process, very useful when creating a HDR Panoramas.

Recently  I started using HDR Efex  and have found this a lot smoother for my nondestructive workflow due to the fact that images can be exported as a smart objects.

Today I decided to re-edit a HDR image in HDR Efex. The image is a reflection of a Wroclaw street using a glass building.


There are some cosmetic things I don’t like about the image. It is not straight and has a distortion in the perspective, I mush have been poinitng the camera up at an angle. This will need to be fixed. The toning doesn’t seem to bad but it could be improved with some subtle tweaking. There is a bit of noise and the image is not really sharp.

First took my exposures into Adobe Camera Raw to reduce the noise and correct and lens distortions.


The image is perfect for a HDR because the base exposure is mainly midtone detail, so there is limited tonal range in the highlights and the shadows. This limitation can be expanded with the two other bracketed shots.

Next I  opened the images in HDR Efex


Due to the quite wide tones available in the exposures, I was able to set a stong HDR method without creating a muddy image. I also upped the contrast quite far to stretch the tones further, using the exposure to guide the midtones and structure to create contrast in the midtones.


I raised the saturation of the image slightly to bring out the colours of the buildings and the tint in the glass. I corrected the colour temperature carefully to remove the coldness of the image, It was shot early in the morning so the light was a cool blue tone. There was also a magenta tint that I corrected by adding green to the image.
I used a control point to edit the top left corner of the image to bring this highlight hotspot in line with the rest of the image, I lowered the exposure and corrected the tint here. I finally added a shallow S curve to give the image a bit more contrast.

The image was now imported into Photoshop.


I used Lens correction filter to fix the perspective.  The street light at the bottom was used as  a guide to tell me what was straight.


I used the Shadow and highlight adjustment to bring back some detail lost in the glass and buildings.


The colours are still muted and need to be boosted, I did this using the vibrance adjustment layer.


There is still a magenta cast in the top left corner, using a hue and saturation adjustment layer and editing just the magenta tones, I adjusted the hue and then lowered the saturation slightly. I then reversed the layer mask and painted in the adjustment.

Using Noise Ninja I carefully reduced and noise that had been caused by the HDR Process. This is a point where i have to be careful not to make the image too painterly by being over aggressive. Since I reduced the noise at the beginning of the workflow the noise is not too bad.


The image need a bit more contrast but I really was not happy the image was becoming muddy so I readjusted the Vibrance layer to create a cleaner image.


I sharpened the image using unsharp mask.
I really didn’t like it so I went back and scaled the image back in the Lens Correction Filter on the Smart Object. I also adjusted the vibrance again because the image looks flat.
My only problem now was the sky was a very saturated cyan blue. Adding a new hue and saturation layer I utilise the eye dropper slider to lower the saturation of only the colours in the sky.


I am really happy now. The lens flare in the top left I think is what was missing as well as that boost in contrast, though with out adjusting the sky’s reflection it wouldn’t look as good.

Final Image


Compared to the original iamge my re-edit is more defined, it is sharper as well as clarity in the colours. I like that is is not too saturated, I do like the that I corrected the perspective but I think there is something nice to having the distortion in the original image.

Over to You

Which image do you prefer, the original or the re-edit? What do you use to create your HDR images? Are you a fan of really contrasted HDR or a more subtle effect?
Let me know in the comment box below.

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