After Before Forum; Renaissance Granary

The After and Before 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.

Lightroom has been updated with a new HDR merge function. Two weeks ago I combined this with the panorama to create a HDR Panoramic and previous to that I had given it a whirl with an old picture. This week while writing my Digital Darkroom post about refining selections and mask, I found one of my favourite pictures from a few years ago; The Renaissance Granary in Torun.

Benjamin Rowe After Before Forum wk 50 BeforeThe Renaissance Granary is one of the more interesting buildings in Torun. The Granary was built in the first half of the seventeenth century, designed in the Dutch Style. It has eight floors, and the window frames are modelled like sacks of grain. It is adjacent to the Gothic granary built in the fourteenth century. Thanks to its decoration it looked grander than some middle-class houses in the area.
Huge profits encouraged the citizens of Torun not only to take care of these warehouses, but also converted some residential buildings in spacious barns. Some of these buildings have now been converted into hotels, museums or offices, reversing the renovations a few hundred years ago; showing that the citizens of Torun are always ready to adapt.

While looking at the picture I wondered what the difference would be between my original HDR version and one that I could create now in Lightroom. What better place to see that the after before forum.


I created the HDR using three exposures. I adjusted the perspective first, I used the auto option first and then tweaked it a bit more manually.


The sky needed to be darkened; I used the gradient tool to reduce the exposure and then used the new brush feature to remove the gradient form the building.


I wanted the building to really stand out so I added a brush adjustment to brighten the building as well as increase the contrast and saturation.


The light falling in the foreground was also quite bright; so I used the brush tool to reduce the exposure and increase the clarity.


The colours were a bit flat for a HDR and I punched them up. First I increased the saturation for the reds and oranges and adjusted the luminance of the blues and reds mainly to make them a bit richer.


The final adjustments were really to create a slight s curve in the curves and sharpen the image.


I quite like the final image, there isn’t as much texture as you think there would be for a hdr but there is not realy haloing which can be a problem with buildings and bright skies. The colours are really nice a punchy after editing and the granary really does stand out.

There are things I like about both pictures; in the Niksoft version I like the colour of the bricks and the removal of the warmth from the foreground I do like the texture in the bricks . I don’t really like the haloing in the sky and the darkness covering the top of the building (which I think is due to a gradient being used for the sky). In the lightroom version everything is pleasant but it is missing the grittiness that I kind of like in the Niksoft edit.

I went back to my Lightroom edit and adjusted the hue of the red to make it less orange and played with the perspective a bit more. I also increased the clarity a bit to get some more texture out of the bricks.

Renaissance granary



I would love to know your thoughts on this image be it positive or negative.

Also please head over to Stacy’s blog to see the other participant’s entries into this weeks forum

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24 thoughts on “After Before Forum; Renaissance Granary

  1. What an amazing building! Certainly your HDR is an improvement on the original picture, it has brought out some beautiful colours. I like the Niksoft edit, although I get what you are saying about the shadow at the top of the building and the detail in the sky. The Lightroom HDR is an improvement, but seems to just lack a bit of something, so I was really pleased to see that you had gone a step further. By reducing the orange colour and increasing the clarity it has created far more texture and interest and the two different sections of bricks now come together way more coherently.The final image is stunning! Great work!

    • I only notices the orange tone when I compared it to my older edit. I am find that the Lightroom HDR is more exposure fusion less tone mapping with the grit and micro contrast that people sometimes say looks over processed.
      I am glad you like the final image.

      • Not sure I understand all that you are saying here, but I do agree that the LR HDR looks more natural and less over processed. It is amazing the process that goes into creating HDR images and it looks like it is improving significantly, what does seem really good is that it still leaves you with lots of information in the highlights/shadows so you can “tweak” the image after merging. Thanks for sharing your processes here with us, its always good to see how you do this.

  2. Ben, this was a wonderful exercise to share on ABF! I’ve heard many say LRs merge to HDR function pales in comparison to Photomatix, but I’ve never seen a side-by-side. As you say, there are good points and lesser good points to each. The halting and dark gradient of the first are aspects I don’t like of the original image, but do like the grittiness. The more gentle HDR look of the LR edit, however appeals to those who have seen way too many over-processed, unrealistic HDR images. I’m in the latter camp. I really do like the LR edit, and while I think it could stand a bit more grit, it is a marvelous shot and great result with LR.

    Thanks so much for sharing this!

    • Hi Stacy, I think that Lightroom ‘s HDR is not the same as photomatix or nik soft. To me it seems that Lightroom is more of a exposure fusion using the different exposures to just expand the dynamic range. Photomatix and nik soft really are tone mapping software that let’s you also to expand the dyadic range but also using micro contrast add a textual look to the image. I like Lightroom ‘s HDR because 9t let’s me really play with the tones and I think with 5 exposures lightroom HDR will shine (will have to experiment). Although I do wish I could have some micro contrast adjustment to add some grit

      • Thanks for the clarification, Ben. Never having used either program, it’s good to know the difference in how they go about combining the images. I see another post in your future – with those 5 images 🙂

  3. Ok first, I love that building. I think your second edited version is the better of the two. The colors seem more realistic to me, and more vibrant. I haven’t played with the HDR yet in LR. I need to though.

    • Hi Mary, I also like the realistic colours as well. I am not really a fan of the surreal colours, although I did used to. I would give HDR a go in lightroom as it can really help some images.

  4. What a great building! It almost looks like a miniature model because it’s so perfect. I like your edits. The Lightroom edit does eliminate the halo effect which can be slightly distracting but I didn’t notice it at first glance until I read through the post. Great job:)

    • Hi, I think the halo isn’t noticeable at first because we are so used to seeing HDR images with this in the sky. I have never been a fan of it as I like to have smooth tones where smooth tones exist. I like the idea of it being a miniature I will have to see if One day I can get a higher perspective and create a miniature style image.

      • A higher perspective would be very interesting indeed. Look forward to seeing it one day. (Got a helicopter? Or is there a higher building across the street? Or maybe some repelling? I know us photographers will stop at no extreme for a great shot, lol. )

  5. A great idea to go back and re-edit your image with new knowledge, skills, and software. I’m glad you compared the two and then made a few more tweaks. I like that you went back and added some more texture to the bricks. I like the sky in this version. Great job. 🙂

    • Thanks Nic, if I could do anything extra it would be to take the building from the niksoft image without the gradient and then add in the sky from lightroom’s hdr version. I have also been thinking of experimenting with Niksoft visualise with Lightroom’s HDR images to add grit to the image with structure. All is still a work in progress to get the right workflow.

      • Yeah, I was wondering if you could add some kind of grit or grunge filter after you did the new LR-HDR to give it some of that detail we are used to seeing from HDRs.

  6. Great post, Ben. It’s very helpful to see the details in the various steps, especially your inclusion of the reasons behind the choices you made. Thanks also for the history of the building. I find that knowing the background of a subject makes the image much more interesting. I think I’m in agreement with most of the comments. The halo effects in the sky and the dark areas on the upper building seem to be artifacts of the process rather than an effect that was intentional. The final image was excellent. For a higher perspective shot, I wonder if those small drones are allowed in Torun? It would be nice if there was a smilarly high building (with a window) facing the granary but I suspect that may not be the case.

  7. It’s interesting to see what you did in the past and how you interpret the same image today. I like both. The one from 2013 looks like you added highlights and/or shadows. But I like the color of the brick building better this go-round!

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