Tuesday, 18 November 2008

tone mapping for the lazy photographer

I don't mind the look of HDRI, but then it is often a look not something which seems natural (although that depends on the artist). HDRI properly needs at least 2 spaced exposures of the same scene. This can be a problem, as it requires a tripod to best ensure that the camera doesn't move between shots and even then the subject can move between shots (like clouds) introducing annoying artifacts.

But those issues aside tone mapping tools which come with products like photomatix are very handy tools for the lazy Photoshop photographer, expecially because you only need one exposure. Think of it as a quick version of the sort of "dodge and burn" that a professional dark room worker would have done for your negative in the past.

So for example on a trip to India I (fortunatly) took most the images using RAW capture on my camera, I did this thinking that RAW is my negative and as processing software improves I'll be able to benefit from these advances and process my images better (than if I'd only kept JPG). Take this image:

A quick run through tone mapping improves the look well beyond what I could do without some hours of fiddling in a photo editor like Photoshop. At first glance it seems like its just been brightened, but it goes beyond that ... the clouds are no brighter and look at the shadow details in the area under the trees to the right, and the colours it can pull out in the crowd up on the left near the Taj itself.

Its stunning isn't it! So, if you didn't already have enough reasons to set your camera on RAW, then here's just one more :-)

I'll put another example below just to leave you with the idea. But try it, it'll help you pull more out of some of your RAW images with less effort.


200ok said...

Have you compared these results with using "shadow/highlight" in recent versions of Photoshop? Probably the same thing with a different name I guess :)

obakesan said...

sadly no I don't (cos I have not got access to recent versions of PS), but I wonder if there is a difference in operations on the RAW file (which photomatix does) and operations after it has been then demosiaced and had a photographic gamma applied to it?

It is not always that I find photomatix to give me a better result, but it is often enough to warrant a quick look at it. Grab an evaluation version and see how you go.