High Dynamic Range Macro Style

Hello everyone,

I started this blog to give people information on macro and close-up photography.  The posts began with the basics but now we must move on to discuss more complicated techniques to improve your work.  If you need help with the basics go back to the beginning of my blog and read on…

Click here to start you off with the basics.

Remember… always feel free to make a comment or email me at info@sullivanjphotography.com with any questions, I’ll do my best to help you.

Today’s post will be about HDR (high definition range) photography.

Basically, your camera cannot read dramatic contrasts.  In the future I’m sure there will be a camera with built in technology to be able to produce HDR photographs, but for now, in order to achieve a correct exposure from extreme darks (black) and lights (white), you must work on the photo using your computer.

Today’s lesson is about photographs that are not too complicated to work on.  Later I’ll talk about more difficult photographs.

When we photograph macro we use a tripod to focus on the subject, this makes it easier for you too when processing an HDR.  I always suggest you photograph in RAW, so you can easily change the photograph using software like Photoshop & Lightroom.  When photographing macro you must tell the story of a subject, this is your focus, think about why you want your pic up-close and let everyone know about it.  HDR can give you that extra technique to tell your story!

I will show you two steps that I have used today to correct the following pictures.  I would like you to read the articles by Harold Davis. He’s an excellent writer and will give you more details about this process.

My first example is working with a variety of exposures.  When you work this way keep your ISO and aperture the same… only changing the shutter speed to achieve the variety of exposures needed.

To view the Figures up close click on them…  to go back to the blog use your back arrow key on your browser.

Figure 1

You will need to decide what photographs work the best to merge together.  I decided to start with the best exposure of the petals and then work on the middle of the picture outward.   The photo on the left is the correct exposure for my petals but the middle of the flower has lost some of its clarity because it is underexposed.  Also, you run into noise when you underexpose, which looks really bad, especially if you enlarge your photographs like I do.

Figure 2

Next, move the second photo onto the original photo. Again, I decided to work from the middle of the flower to the outer part of the flower (see Figure 3). I also suggest working with the RAW format pics because it’s a smaller file…unless you have an amazing computer with the latest and greatest everything on it goodies… ☺

Figure 3

Now it’s time to mask…go to Layer>Layer Mask>Hide All.  You will see that the mask is black.  When you mask a photograph everything in black will not show and everything in white will show.  Next, pick a soft brush and paint the area with white to reveal the new photo that you just added to the file.

Figure 4

Figure 5 shows you how I masked the second photo and only revealed the middle of the flower.

Figure 5

I decided to add one more photo to the original to enhance my exposure. Once I completed this I saved it just in case I needed to make changes to the mask later on. Once I am happy with my masking, I merge the layers together (to make a smaller file) and work on it with more detail, removing spots, dust, etc…

Figure 6

Figure 7

This is the final image:

Figure 8

For this next image I used one RAW file to expose certain areas of the photograph to merge them together.  I could process this picture like this because the photo itself wasn’t too under or over exposed.

Figure 9 is exposed for the top part of the red carnation.  I wanted a rich red color…

Figure 9

Figure 10 is exposed for the bottom of the photo… I wanted the stem and the background very light to help POP the red on the picture.

Figure 10

Just like the previous photographs I had both raw files opened, I moved one photo onto the other holding my shift key at the same time.

Figure 11

Just like the previous example, mask your photo by clicking on Layer>Layer Mask>Hide All.

Figure 12

Next I painted in white what I wanted to be revealed in the combined photographs.  If for some reason you paint too much that’s ok you can change to black and paint over or change the opacity/fill.

Figure 13

The ending result is a beautiful photograph of this carnation.

Figure 14

Today, I gave you two examples on how to process your photographs to achieve the dynamic range and beauty the camera cannot capture.   The first example is to photograph a variety of exposures and merge them together.  The second example is to develop one RAW photograph into a variety of exposures to merge together. Both techniques must be masked and painted with white to reveal what you want on your new photograph.

When you photograph up-close use a tripod… this makes this whole process easier.  So have some fun, play with HDR, and tell your macro story!




3 Comments on “High Dynamic Range Macro Style”

  1. […] I showed you how to use Bridge and Photoshop to merge your pictures in HDR.  I showed you how to manually work on HDR in a previous post.  As you can see from the example of Figure 12, it would be tedious to work on […]

  2. […] reading here: High Definition Range Macro Style « Sullivan J Photography Share and […]

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