Before and After Forum; Sun House.

This is the first time that I am participating in the before and after forum. This forum is organised by Stacy Fischer, it is a place where amateurs and seasoned photographers explain the wow and how about their photo and editing decision. You can read more here about how to take part.

My picture is of a Sun House in a park near Łowicz. The building was originally a greenhouse but it was partially destroyed and when rebuilt turned into a Sun House, where you can go sunbathe. I was really drawn to the deck chairs and the pebbles on the ground, which reminded me of the pictures you see of the tropical beaches.

Before-Sun House

When taking the shot I really wanted to have the brightness of the room along with the landscape outside. This mean I would need to bracket the exposures and blend them together. The easiest way to do this is via HDR.
When taking a HDR you need three exposures usually one being the correct exposure with the other too being over and underexposed. Using a plugin or program like HDR Efex or Photomatix as well as in Photoshop itself you can combine the exposures widening the dynamic range of the image. When taking this means that you need to use a tripod to make sure there is no movement between exposures but you can work around this with fast shutter speeds and a steady hand from time to time.
In this park tripods are banned (to my surprise) so I had to take the picture handheld. There were some steps in the Sun House and I sat there with my elbows tight to my body breathed in and took my shots.

In Lightroom I applied basic lens corrections and noise reduction but didn’t sharpen the image. I exported the exposures to Photomatix and created my HDR image. When I got my image back into Lightroom I made some more adjustments to the overall tone, fine tuning the HDR image. I noticed that there was a strange colourization around the windows, which was really distracting. To fix this I had to go to Photoshop.

HDR with issues

I exported the HDR image to Photoshop and then chose the exposure with the best window colour and detail, then exported this exposure to Photoshop. Once in Photoshop both images were placed in layers. I auto aligned the layers and arranged them so that the HDR was on the bottom and the single exposure on top. I added a layer mask to the single exposure and slowly masked in the window detail.
Once I had masked in the window frame, I made some minor adjustments to the layer to make sure the colour and contrast matched. I did this by converting the layer to a smart object and used camera raw as a filter. When all was done I sent the file back to Lightroom for some final sharpening and localised tonal adjustments.

The whole process took about an hour mainly due to masking the windows which is quite intricate. With a lot of HDR images, I think people sometimes use it as a one click filter. I feel that the HDR processing is the first coat of paint on the canvas and you need to build and correct parts of the image. In my landscapes I do this a lot with the sky as there are sometimes some surreal effects after processing as a HDR.

After Sun House

If you have any questions about my process, please ask via the comment box below. Also you can let me know what you think of the image, be it positive or negative via the comment box below.

If you wish to get notifications when I post on my blog, you can follow me on Twitter@apertureF64, on or alternatively be emailed by subscribing below. All images are the Copyright of Benjamin Rowe , ALL RIGHTS Reserved unless credited to another photographer. For more information please read my Copyright Statement

15 thoughts on “Before and After Forum; Sun House.

  1. It is so interesting, hearing about the process. And, what a process. The final image is gorgeous, every aspect of what you were going for is there. I think you did a great job on the windows and the colors are fresh.

    • Thanks Carrie, I am glad you like the process and the final image. I still think I can improve the windows some more and may go back and see.
      I hope to see you around again.

  2. Good morning, Ben. When I saw the first photo, I liked it a lot. Then I saw the final photo, I liked it a lot too. I kept moving back and forth, and discovered that I really like both. Each brings me to a different mood.

      • Hi Helen, I used to write regular post like this that I called Editing friday about a year ago, in these posts I would go step by step through the process. I stopped righting them becuase they took a long time to write and as my scheduale got filled up I ran out of time for them.
        I’m glad you have found this post useful and hope to have more like this I the future.

    • Hi Sue, it was strange that they didn’t allow tripods, my wide and I argued to take it in my the security were adamant. There are some tricks to not using a tripod. Shooting faster than the length of your lens, tucking you elbows in and having a firm stance with your legs as well as using a flat surface to rest your camera on. At some point I jave done all of the above.

  3. Ben, thanks so much for participating in ABFriday! I know next to nothing about HDR photography, so I read with great interest the steps you took to process your original image. As I was reading, I was wondering how long this took you and was pleasantly surprised to find you thought to answer that in your post. Not only did you put a lot of effort into the processing, you also did the same with your post. Thanks for all the wonderful detail. It’s a great roadmap for those needing direction 🙂 Wonderful before and after photos! Hope to see some more of your images in ABFriday. (PS Back on line and your post is now directly linked.)

    • Hi Stacey, thabks for letting me take part. When I write and read about an editing process I like to say and know how long it took. I know it’s not a complete guide to HDR but I am happy you took something away from it. Now looking towards next week.

  4. Excellent how-to post Ben, and beautiful picture. Though I’n not so fond to HDR and its pictorial effect, I had to agree you did a great job getting the detailed landscape out of the window. Congrats!

    • Hi Jaime, I’m not a fan of HDR that has been aggressively processed but I do think that when it is processed with a balanced approach then it can work. Of course not all images need to be a HDR shot.
      It took a lot of work to get the window right but it was well worth it.
      Thanks for taking the time to comment and hope to see you back again.

  5. I really like what you did here. I’ve only been using Lightroom. Photoshop seems a little intimidating!

    • Thanks Emilio, Photoshop can be daunting but I found by reading a following tutorials online you can quickly build up confidence and learn how to make it work for you.

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