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Pseudo HDR?

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Using just one RAW image, is it possible to achieve acceptable results by combining 3 images produced by adjusting exposure in RAW to give  +2 /  Normal /  -2  for instance?  I'm not looking for obvious HDR results - just a good natural looking range of exposure.


If any of you have already tried this method or similar, it could save me a lot of wasted time if it doesn't work.




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Ancient technique - here's a Jeff Schewe tutorial from the old dim days of CS2 about double dipping for highlights.




I use it on occasion in both stock and commercial work but it's time consuming as Phil has said. The masking involved can be fairly lengthy. Shooting multiple images for HDR is actually a much quicker route. You can make an image a lot more natural just by how you use HDR software, by turning down the method strength and tone compression. Also the more images in the sequence, the better the colour/tone.

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Whilst I agree with Geoff that multiple exposures are the best way to go (I always bracket every shot), I do tend to use the single shot method much more. If you're hand-holding and shooting a street scene (or anything with moving objects), it's much easier to blend the differently processed exposures because they're all from the same raw file. The quality of images you can get from ACR in CS6 and CC when pushing and pulling by even a couple of stops is really quite amazing.


Ian D

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Yes. You can do it. It's not time consuming at all once set up as an action. You do it not by masking but by making selections:


1: To make your light area selection from your dark exposure:

copy > new alpha channel 100% opacity > paste onto alpha channel > select/load selection > delete alpha channel > copy


2: To make your dark area selection form your light exposure:

copy > new alpha channel 100% opacity > paste onto alpha channel > select/load selection [invert] > delete alpha channel > copy    (note the INVERT)


Each time you make a copy paste it onto a neutral background to see how it works (create with CNTRL/N)




Say you name the three exposures exp1, exp2, exp3 and place in a file called 'myHDR' then: make a new action called 'makeHDR' and start recording.


Open up exp2. 


Open up exp1 and do 2.  Copy onto exp2


delete exp 1


Open up exp 3 and do 1.  Copy onto exp2


End action and adjust opacity of two layers as required


Next time just name the exposures and place in folder as above

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Feel free to take what I say with a grain of salt, as I'm very new to Photoshop. In my Digital Imaging class at university I had to do a presentation on an Adjustment, which was HDR Toning. Image > Adjustments > HDR Toning Not one I cared to do, but really learned how it can at times help within the edit process. Like most adjustments a little goes a long way and this one is no different. Plus I'd not recommend using it solely, but to help out where needed in PP.

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I also use this method, more so when I was into Canon's DPP which would happily open several versions of the same file in PS without actually saving any TIFFs to disc.


I find that with LR, you have to save and rename each version in PS, which is time consuming. Maybe I'm doing something wrong here? I do have incompatible versions of LR(4)  and PS ( CS4), that might have something to do with it.

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Forgot to mention:


After pasting onto the alpha channel you can use curves etc to modify the selection. 


I have a set of of actions for this method, some with many more than three layers.


I haven't used HDR software for a while.  That might work better for some images.  I prefer this method.

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If you a Canon user there is an HDR process within Canons' DPP software. All you need to do is place three images +2/0/-2 exposure in to it and click. The program does it automatically.



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I get an HDR that does not look like an HDR using only one raw file using the following method.
Canon 5D11 set at ISO 100 and a high quality prime lens with very little flare.
Expose histogram to the right just short of blowing the highlights and raising the shadows off the left margin of the histogram.
Take overexposed file into Adobe Camera Raw latest version 8.3.
Use the sliders as necessary in Basic menu up to + or - 100% if necessary.
Go to the adjustment brush tool and further brush adjustments into shadow and highlights as necessary, including noise control.
You should be able to get a technically perfect image that is HDR but does not look like HDR.
The older versions of lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw will not work. The software has much improved in the later versions.
Example of deep shadows looking into bright sun. white rocks black rocks etc. No halos. I allowed the sun to go 255 and deepest shadow around 10. You need some whites and deep blacks even in an HDR, otherwise it looks fake.
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