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Thread: Photomatix Blended Exposures

  1. #1
    DougDolde
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    Photomatix Blended Exposures

    I have finally settled on a workflow (not that it won't possibly change of course) for my Aptus 75S, and invariably using a three exposure blend is far superior to a single exposure. I bracket +2, 0, -2 then blend them usually with the default settings.

    First I convert the raw .mos file with Leaf Capture 11 but I don't do any more than run auto exposure on all three files.

    These are not straight out of the Photomatix box. Considerable work was done on both in CS3 to get them to this point.

    The first is the blend, the second is the best I could do with a single exposure.




  2. #2
    Sr. Administrator Jack's Avatar
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    Re: Photomatix Blended Exposures

    What would help me understand is to see all three of the initial images that go into your blend...
    Jack
    home: www.getdpi.com

    "Perfection is not attainable. But if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence."

  3. #3
    DougDolde
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    Re: Photomatix Blended Exposures

    Yea but then I'd have to charge you for a workshop

    Best you try it yourself then you'll understand.

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    Re: Photomatix Blended Exposures

    I'm always very hesitant to comment in threads such as this, but this tends to be a mutually respectful group.

    Before scrolling down and seeing the second image, and before reading any text to understand the amount of processing other than it was a blended image, my initial feeling was that the image shows way too much processing. The clouds were the first thing that hit me – they look quite "bruised". The canyon walls come across as CGI to me.

    Now, I'm one to prefer minimal processing, so I'm probably not the right audience here, but if this treatment was on a layer over the second image I would opt for dialing it back by about 40-50%. And if one could then mask so that more of the sky from the second image, and the canyon walls in the first image came through, the blend would be more successful to m eye. We all have different taste and I'm expressing mine here. If the goal is to produce an image like a frame for Myst, then I think that the process is working. Please understand that I would not make such comments if this was not an image processing section of the forum, and one that is friendly and respectful at that.

    My guess is that the original looks better on your display before downsizing and converting to JPEG for display here, but even so, this image definitely represents a difference in image preferences to me.

    Thanks for posting it and sharing your ideas.
    Last edited by Dale Allyn; 24th June 2008 at 23:09.

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    Re: Photomatix Blended Exposures

    HDR - via Photomatix and their tone mapping tools can be fun. I dont see any tonal issues here..however i have noted a disposition towards very very SHARP landscapes from a number of posters..- I am feeling that his is personal preferences at play.

    hahahah - maybe i shoudl post some soft landscapes - but then again I woudlnt want anyone to call me a softy.

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    Re: Photomatix Blended Exposures

    I think that I'd be called "mushy" then, Peter.

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    Senior Subscriber Member Steen's Avatar
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    Re: Photomatix Blended Exposures

    Quote Originally Posted by DougDolde View Post
    Yea but then I'd have to charge you for a workshop
    Best you try it yourself then you'll understand.
    C'mon Doug, please teach us what you do step by step, after all we are here to share
    I could definitely need some good instructions on this, because everytime I try HDR merging myself I end up trashing my HDR results.
    It's great fun to play with but at the end I'm never really satisfied with my results, they look too artificial for some reason. So I just delete them
    I must be doing something wrong, using bad settings or whatever ?
    I use the Photomatix Pro ver. 2.2.1 software, it's the only one I've got.
    /Steen

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    Subscriber Member TRSmith's Avatar
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    Re: Photomatix Blended Exposures

    The one thing I find most unsettling about the pair of images is the idea that the second image represents "...the best I could do with a single exposure." Maybe I'm misunderstanding but if the second image is what an expensive MF back provides in a well-exposed capture, and the only way to achieve a better image is to blend a set of bracketed exposures, then MF (or maybe this particular back/camera combo) means a lot of extra work. Am I missing something?

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    Sr. Administrator Jack's Avatar
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    Re: Photomatix Blended Exposures

    Quote Originally Posted by DougDolde View Post
    Yea but then I'd have to charge you for a workshop

    Best you try it yourself then you'll understand.
    No offense, but I have used it, and I find I can usually do as well or better blending them manually in CS. Moreover my point is I think you can probably get to the same endpoint you are showing here with a single image. Plus as mentioned above, if the second exposure is the best you could do on a single frame, then perhaps you may want to consider some tutoring in raw processing or CS If you were to share all three exposures, even the small jpegs, it might help us understand what you had to work with to begin with. While I am pretty sure I could replicate your displayed HDR result by working a single frame, I won't know until see all three. Ideally, you'd send me the raws and I'd work from those...

    Cheers,
    Jack
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    "Perfection is not attainable. But if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence."

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    Administrator, Instructor Guy Mancuso's Avatar
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    Re: Photomatix Blended Exposures

    Too me the sky looks posterized for some reason. I also agree looks a little over processed. But i would like to see us explore this also, maybe there is something missing in the overall process that would smooth the look a little. I like what you can do with it though and has great potential as a program.
    Photography is all about experimentation and without it you will never learn art.

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    Re: Photomatix Blended Exposures

    I know it's fun to work with different approaches, and to experiment with different looks, but even the second image carefully handled in Photoshop can come up a lot without the use of additional tools. I'm not suggesting that one shouldn't use other tools or methods, but wanted to mention that the second image can be adjusted to come rather close to the first without blending.

    It's great that there are options to achieve what is envisioned by the photographer.

  12. #12
    DougDolde
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    Re: Photomatix Blended Exposures

    OK I give up. Find your own path then guys.

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    Re: Photomatix Blended Exposures

    Doug:

    On an image like that with such an obvious transition from bright sky to the land, couldn't you just use a ND grad on the lens to make achieve the same thing?

  14. #14
    DougDolde
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    Re: Photomatix Blended Exposures


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    Re: Photomatix Blended Exposures

    Quote Originally Posted by DougDolde View Post
    Doug:

    It says "If you don't have access to ND filters" I have some and I am sure you must have some from your film days. I guess what I am saying is you could have done better with your single exposure if you used a ND filter.

    Where I find ND filters don't work is where the transition is not so even, such as a valley between two mountains. HDR would be a better option there.

    Robert
    Last edited by robsteve; 25th June 2008 at 19:36.

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    Re: Photomatix Blended Exposures

    In the absence of ND filters I have taken two frames, one exposed for the sky and one exposed for the "terra firma", and blended them by overlaying the layers and painting in. (I'm a great one for lightening my bag and then regretting it when I get into the field.) It works well for shots when the scene geometry allows.

    HDR is definitely a tool to keep in the bag. Some folks like to push it hard to create some wild stuff, and some use it just to create harmonious blends (and there are lots of examples of everything in between).

    It's nice of Doug to post a shot where he used the technique and opened a dialogue. I found that his second image also responds pretty well to PS work, so I image that much more could be done with the original in comparison to the JPEG which was uploaded.

    I'd not like for an exchange of ideas regarding styles and techniques to be misunderstood as disapproval or non-constructive discussion.

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    Administrator, Instructor Guy Mancuso's Avatar
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    Re: Photomatix Blended Exposures

    I'd not like for an exchange of ideas regarding styles and techniques to be misunderstood as disapproval or non-constructive discussion.

    Thanks Dale this is what this forum is about folks. We are here to learn and share . Please let's keep this in mind.
    Photography is all about experimentation and without it you will never learn art.

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    Re: Photomatix Blended Exposures

    Doug,

    chill man - we are all old enough to know that everything is a mater of taste!

    The forum will evolve to include more threads like this abotu photos rather than the never ending gear head discussions - I appreciate your posting and I am sure so do others.

    Pete

  19. #19
    DougDolde
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    Re: Photomatix Blended Exposures

    My last comment on this thread. Look I was just presenting MY findings. If you don't agree that's fine, it works for me. I find Jack's attempt to disprove my findinngs by asking for my raw files both rude and arrogant. Perhaps he didn't mean it that way.

    I have no interest, time or patience for arguing about or trying to convince anyone that blended exposures are the only solution.

    Yes I own a good set of Singh Ray grads. I find blended exposures superior in almost every case. If you have a perfectly straight horizon, a hard grad is still a good solution.

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    Sr. Administrator Jack's Avatar
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    Re: Photomatix Blended Exposures

    Quote Originally Posted by DougDolde View Post
    I find Jack's attempt to disprove my findinngs by asking for my raw files both rude and arrogant. Perhaps he didn't mean it that way.
    Huh??? How can asking to see original files to help clarify the work involved in the final image be construed to become rude, arrogant, and me trying to disprove you?

    Jack
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    Sr. Administrator Jack's Avatar
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    Re: Photomatix Blended Exposures

    Just for thread posterity, I found this recent article on Uwe Steinmueller's DOP site. Uwe is a friend of mine and somewhat of a pioneer in the digital blending field and teaches workshops on this technique. I have had this same discussion with him and we don't agree either, so perhaps it is me -- I'll post his images here and let you decide

    Here are the three example images he used in photomatix for a final blend. To be perfectly frank, I do not see a significant enough improvement over the lone proper exposure in the blend trio -- at least not a difference I think couldn't be had from working the single proper frame a bit more -- other than lower exposure and perhaps some increased saturation the mid-tones. Moreover, I don't see where the over-exposed frame added any data to the blend... But maybe folks find this easier than working on a single image. Anyway, I thought it was a good example of the process including the images that get to the final product, and I'll let you be the judge of the overall benefit for your needs.

    Here is the trio of originals for the blend:



    Here is his final color result:



    Interestingly, he ended up converting the color final to B&W anyway, which seems to me an even stronger argument for having just stuck with one image to begin with:



    For those wanting more detail, Uwe's full article can be found on his site here:

    http://www.usa.canon.com/dlc/control...articleID=1646

    Offered FWIW,
    Jack
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    "Perfection is not attainable. But if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence."

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    Re: Photomatix Blended Exposures

    I agree with you, Jack. I really do not see that much more in his final than he has in the first (0EV) shot. Maybe a bit more in the shadows for the window details, for example, but he could have just as easily burned that in a bit more.

    Getting a good balanced exposure on a shot from a sensor that provides a fair bit of latitude, such as MF and the big Canons, will provide you with almost everything you need to enhance it to look HDR without the multiple exposures and stuff. For cameras not able to provide as much DR, then maybe HDR is a useful tool.

    LJ

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    Administrator Bob's Avatar
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    Re: Photomatix Blended Exposures

    The kind of shot that I find good for this sort of blending is something with a LOT more DR.
    Think of something like an internal shot of a Cathedral with sun lit stained-glass windows AND all you have for interior light is the typical dim church lighting.
    In those kinds of shots, you are essentially stuck with choosing to expose for the interior or to expose for the stained glass. Under circumstances such as this, I have found HDR techniques to be useful to avoid the totally blown out stained glass when the interior gets reasonable exposure for a good amount of detail.
    Although I like tools that do the right thing, I have usually resorted to CS3 and layers to do my HDR work. Maybe Photomatrix can help out here, but you can get by pretty well in PS. Exterior landscapes, except for sunrises, sunsets, and harsh noon-day sun, just doesn't have the DR usually to push me into HDR when I have exposed well.
    On the other hand, this thread has me thinking that I should give Photomatrix another try just to satisfy my curiosity.
    -bob

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    Re: Photomatix Blended Exposures

    Bob,
    I can appreciate the setting you describe, and where more than one exposure may be required to capture things optimally. Like you, I think layers in PS are pretty effective, as are some of the newer plug-ins like Nik Software Viveza, where you can do some pretty detailed local adjustments in a layer. However, if the detail is not there, you cannot enhance it into existence, as is the case with blown stuff.

    LJ

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    Re: Photomatix Blended Exposures

    Yup, can't create information.
    -bob

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    Subscriber Member TRSmith's Avatar
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    Re: Photomatix Blended Exposures

    I own a copy of Photomatix (received a hefty discount) and have tried it a few times. I think it probably does a fine job and certainly saves time as opposed to manually adjusting/blending layers in PS. However, I've dabbled a little bit with HDR but find the look distinctive in a way I'm not comfortable with.

    I can't help but think that HDR is probably more useful for the smaller sensor cameras than it is for the larger ones. Certainly in a situation such as Bob describes.

    Bottom line for me is I think it's a useful tool to have laying around should you A: find yourself shooting something beyond the normal DR of your camera and shoot with the software (or HDR) in mind; or B: Attempt to doctor up an exposure that has some problems by using two or three curve-adjusted exposures from the same RAW.

    Of course if you really like the HDR look, you might actually seek out appropriate subject matter for it and for those folks, Photomatix can do a fine job. Especially when combining a bracket larger than 3 exposures. 5 or 6 exposures will get you closer to something that makes the whole process worthwhile.

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    Sr. Administrator Jack's Avatar
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    Re: Photomatix Blended Exposures

    Agree with all of you. It seems to be there is a sort of a movement to use HRD at all times. It's a new tool and maybe just like a new hammer, everything looks like a nail to the folks who have it
    Jack
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    Re: Photomatix Blended Exposures

    If a photo does not have Black in it ..or White in it. then it isnt a nice photo.

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    Re: Photomatix Blended Exposures

    Jack and Peter,

    Have to agree with both of you wholeheartedly.

    Some tools do get overused, just to use them. It happens with new lenses, new tripods, new PDAs, new GPSs, etc.

    I've seen many HDR landscapes from noted, high-end fine art photographers that lack something. They look more like paintings than photographs, with no black and no white. They have no contrast and the gobs of midtones do nothing to fix that. Peronally, I love contrast. I like rich dark tones and snappy highlights. I want images that pop.

    That's just me and everyone is, of course, entitled to his or her own tastes. That is one of the great things about photography. It is both and art and a science (and a business). We all approach things a bit differently and that is a good thing.

    David
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    Sr. Administrator Jack's Avatar
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    Re: Photomatix Blended Exposures

    For the most part I agree with you both: I want a few crisp "whites," speculars are good, but not full blown paper whites -- would rather have them peak at around 250, so usually add an output curve to my files -- and some true, deep blacks, as dark as the medium will print. Don't need a lot of either in an image, but generally prefer to see some at each end
    Jack
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    "Perfection is not attainable. But if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence."

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