Before and After Forum; Uniejów Altar in 32bit


Nine exposures before editing.

The Before and After forum is organised by Stacy Fischer, it is a place where amateurs as well as seasoned photographers explain the wow and how about their photo and editing decision.You can read more here about how to take part.

This week for the Before and After forum I am editing a 32 bit image. A 32bit image is created by taking multiple exposures and starting the HDR process, except not taking the image through to the tone mapping phase. The problem in the past creating 32bit images was that there was no way to edit them. Photoshop only allows you to edit 8 or 16 bit images, now though we can edit these 32bit images in Adobe Camera Raw and Lightroom. In essence you are tone mapping the image by hand.

Taking the pictures for this process is the same as shooting frames for HDR images. I set my camera on a tripod and switched it to AV mode. I focused on the altar and then flipped the lens to manual so all shots would have the same focus point. I also had my camera bracketed at 2 stops +/-. With my aperture set to f/16 I took the 0 exposure as well as the two brackets. I wanted to use more than three exposures for this image as there was a lot of shadow detail on the walls and highlight detail in the windows. I set the exposure compensation to -1 and with my +/- 2 stop bracket, I captured -3 -1 and +1 shots. I then moved the exposure compensation to +1 and did the same. This did means that I now had 4 exposures the same but I could drop two of them when it came to processing.

ab-32-bitOnce the images where in Lightroom I selected all the shots and synced noise reduction, lens correction and the camera profile. When synced I right clicked and chose; Edit In – Merge to HDR PRO. Depending on your computer, the files and the number of exposures, this can take some time. You can also use a free Photomatix plugin for this step if you own Photomatix, I just prefer Photoshop to create 32bit images and since there wasn’t much movement between frames it wouldn’t need much ghost reduction.


In HDR Pro I set the white point by moving the point of the histogram to the right. This states where the Highlights will be clipped and will make the image seem darker. I also selected to reduce ghosting just to be on the safe side.When you have finished in HDR Pro you can edit in either; Adobe Camera Raw by using the Raw filter or save them image and edit it in Lightroom. Since I wanted to work in Lightroom I saved the image and it is automatically imported into the catalogue.


Back in Lightroom I made basic adjustments to get a general tone for the image, like making a base exposure in the darkroom.

ab-32-bit5I applied  cropping and fixed the perspective using the Auto feature in Lens corrections. Nine times out of ten this does a good job.

ab-32-bit6I placed a gradient at the bottom of the image to darken and add clarity. This is to help direct the viewer’s eye to the altar. I used a radial adjustment to reduce the highlights, add contrast and add clarity to the altar.

ab-32-bit7I used a lot of adjustment brushes, effectively dodging and burning areas of the image. On the windows I brought back the exposure to reveal the stain glass windows. On the walls I added contrast clarity and saturation to bring out the murals on the walls. I also used a highlight brush and shadow brush to bring out more details in these areas.

ab-32-bit8The image was looking good but I wanted more fine details from the midtone contrast, I exported the image to Viveza by Niksoft and in turn converted the 32bit image to a 16bit image. I added structure reduced the overall saturation, contrast and brighten the image.

Uniejow Altar

In editing in 32bits I was able to take advantage of the huge amount of infomation I captured. Unlike a HDR the image has a natural feeling too it with out a lot of contrast and forced lighting effects. Editing in lightroom is a little bit different as the settings are quite sensitive to the huge dynamic range. Personally I like the image is bright with a nice depth in colour and that I am able to see the fantastic murals on the walls and the bright stained glass windows .

Let me know in the comments what you think?

Please to head over to Stacy’s Blog and check out all the others participating in the forum today.

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8 thoughts on “Before and After Forum; Uniejów Altar in 32bit

    • Churches are always a challenge esp when they have a shortage of artificial light inside, as well as mix of temperatures creating interesting colours. I think that the best church images I have are all multiple exposures and that is the best way to expose the scene.

  1. I just love how Lightroom and Photoshop work together! Once again, I’m impressed with your creativity, Ben. Thanks for explaining this process so clearly, paving the way for others to follow. The natural look you achieved in the final image is natural looking and just beautiful!

    • It is my pleasure Stacy, I am hoping the intergration between the two programs becomes more seamless as they develop them more. One of the big things i really want from Lightroom is for it to allow you to back track on plugins similar to the way you can re-edit smart filters.
      32bit editing has been an eyeopener for my landscape work and I feel my images are stronger because of it.

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