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Author Topic: Opinions on best HDR software for most realistic end product  (Read 11021 times)
RFPhotography
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« Reply #20 on: December 27, 2010, 10:31:04 AM »
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If you can use layers, you can blend manually.  So yes, you can blend manually in PSE.

The issue of overall image contrast isn't so much an issue of global vs. local contrast or tonemapping.  It's more a matter of how aggressively the tonemapping is applied and what other tools are used in combination with the brightness crunching (tonemapping).

Local tonemapping won't address sky vs. foreground contrast issues.  That's a more global issue.  Local contrast works at the pixel level.  Sky vs. foreground (to keep with the same example) is a much broader issue. 

Programs like Photomatix and PS CS5 HDR Pro (as well as others) give the user tools that will address both the brigthness crunching and after that the image contrast concerns.  Tools like Highlights & Shadows adjustments or a Levels/Curves tool will help in this regard in many instances. 

But before all that what's really important is an understanding of how the various tools in the program work, what they do and how they affect an image - both at the global and local level.  In most cases, when you see a photo that's flat and uninteresting it's because the brightness crunching has been applied too aggressively. 

The other aspect of all of this is that the tonemapped LDR image out of the HDR software isn't the end point, but rather a new starting point.  Taking that tonemapped image and then applying other adjustments just as we would a single image out of the camera is the next step in the process. 

The HDR Tutorial on my website discusses much of this.  The tutorial uses Photomatix but the same concepts can be applied to other HDR software, just substitute the tool titles.
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Alan Klein
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« Reply #21 on: December 27, 2010, 11:19:15 AM »
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Bob:  You wrote an excellent tutorial.  I don't have HDR programs but it seems interesting because I like to do landscapes and sky-ground exposures are always issues.  Working with grad ND filters is the traditional approach but I'm interested in eventually trying out HDR software. 


I'm starting to shoot medium format film again.   Anything I should consider when shooting film that would be different than shooting digital shots to be used later with HDR?  Anything I should consider when selecting and using HDR programs on scanned film?  Tks.  ALan.
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BartvanderWolf
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« Reply #22 on: December 27, 2010, 11:50:19 AM »
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Anything I should consider when shooting film that would be different than shooting digital shots to be used later with HDR?

Hi Alan,

Film has a non-linear response to light. That will make it harder to align exposure brackets on the exposure scale. It is therefore even more important than on digital to use a good sized fixed lens hood, or a bellows type of hood that's optimized for the aperture you use.

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Anything I should consider when selecting and using HDR programs on scanned film?

Any kind of noise/grain is going to bite you when you start boosting local contrast. So use low ISO film, and scan at the scanner's native resolution to reduce grain-aliasing. Scanning with a more diffuse lightsource is beneficial. For assembling an HDR file you would need a program that eliminates the toe and shoulder response for intermediate exposures of the range. Therefore, if possible, the program should be able to calculate the tone response curve from the individual scans, not assume some sort of gamma.
Personally I think film is a better candidate for "exposure fusion" than for HDR tonemapping, because of the non-linearity issues mentioned.

What HDR can be used for is extracting more useful DR from a single frame, especially slide material. A scanning application like Vuescan Pro can deliver linear gamma TIFFs at different scanner exposure levels (which should make them easy to promote to a HDR scan file). The output as a TIFF file would have better shadow noise, and Vuescan can transform that into a gamma adjusted TIFF for the type of film used.

Cheers,
Bart
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RFPhotography
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« Reply #23 on: December 27, 2010, 01:14:52 PM »
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Thanks, Alan.  I appreciate the kind words.

As Bart says, HDR with film scans is a bit more difficult.  Ideally, for best results, HDR programs want linear data.  Even if you send gamma encoded TIFF files to an HDR program, the program should read the embedded gamma curve and reverse it to get back to linear data.  Even if you shoot JPEG, while JPEGs aren't linear they only have the gamma encoding of the embedded colour profile to worry about.  With film, you've got the natural tone curve of the film plus the gamma encoding from the scan and embedding of the colour profile. 

Some scanning software can output linear 'RAW' scans.  VueScan can, as Bart notes as can Silverfast (not sure about any others).  This will eliminate the colour profile gamma encoding but not the natural tone curve of the film.  Photomatix has a process that will attempt to reverse-engineer a tone curve that they suggest using for film scans.  It's only available in Batch mode; however.  Which is OK, you can use Batch mode on a single set of files.

Unlike digital where multiple processing of a single RAW file into 3 output files at different exposure settings won't have any benefit for HDR merging, with film it is possible to delve deeper into shadows and possibly recover some highlights by adjusting the scan exposure (at the time of scanning, not afteward).  Not quite as good as having 3 separate film scans but still some benefit compared to digital RAW files. 

I've tried the multiple scan method for HDR on some old film images with mixed results.  None that I've been really pleased with but I haven't tried it in several years either so improvements in scanning software, HDR software and my own knowledge set may mean I could get better results today.  Bracketing for HDR with film can get pretty expensive too.  A scanner/software combination with multi-scan functionality that can do multiple scans of the same film frame at different exposure levels will help pull a bit more shadow detail than sometimes a straight, single scan can. 

If the goal is simply expanded brightness range and GND filters aren't possible or aren't sufficient, then exposure fusion/exposure blending (either automated or manual) is the better approach, I think.  Photomatix does have an exposure fusion utility.  SNS-HDR, while having tonemapping ability, is an exposure fusion tool.  There're also Enfuse & TuFuse which are good quality fusion programs.
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Alan Klein
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« Reply #24 on: December 27, 2010, 02:21:52 PM »
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Currently, I bracket my landscape shots one stop above and below calculated exposure even on those scenes when no Grad ND filters are being used.  I usually bracket with shutter speed to keep my DOF a priority.  I shoot on a tripod.  Obviously I've been bracketing until now in case I screw up the calculated exposure not for HDR.


 If I decide to try the HDR route without filters, what bracketing do you recommend?  I could bracket two above and two below; one stop, half stops?  Five shots would give me two scenes per roll of 120 film.   Does it matter whether you bracket with shutter or aperture?  I think negative film is better from a scanning standpoint with the Epson V600 flat bed scanner I use.  What HDR program works better with film?
« Last Edit: December 27, 2010, 02:25:08 PM by Alan Klein » Logged
BartvanderWolf
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« Reply #25 on: December 27, 2010, 05:40:01 PM »
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If I decide to try the HDR route without filters, what bracketing do you recommend?  I could bracket two above and two below; one stop, half stops?  Five shots would give me two scenes per roll of 120 film.

I wouldn't bracket wider than 1 stop between images with film for true HDR. Exposure Fusion/blending can tolerate more, but with larger increments the results will lack 'smoothness' in gradients. The number of stops will be determined by the scene dynamic range. Do note that negative film already has a huge scene DR capability.

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Does it matter whether you bracket with shutter or aperture?

Always shutter. You don't want DOF variations between shots.

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I think negative film is better from a scanning standpoint with the Epson V600 flat bed scanner I use.  What HDR program works better with film?

Yes, negative film is overall easier to scan, provided that the workflow is good (mask removal by channel exposure), since the film dynamic range (D-max minus D-min) is limited, and the film curves are better aligned at higher densities (slide film loses color accuracy at D-max due to different D-max per channel).

I think Photomatix is an overall good choice for HDR assembly, but Photoshop (CS5) seems to get better (fewer crashes, ghost removal) at assembly as well. The benefit of Photomatix is that it also has a decent Exposure Fusion/blending, so you'll get both HDR tonemapping and Exposure Fusion capability. I haven't tried it with huge scan files though.

Cheers,
Bart
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bill t.
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« Reply #26 on: December 27, 2010, 08:51:56 PM »
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What HDR program works better with film?

Used to be Diafine!  I was just now google-amazed to discover you can still get that wonderful two-step brew!  A little grainy, but gorgeous tonality and lotsa headroom...IIRC.
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usathyan
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« Reply #27 on: December 28, 2010, 08:16:12 AM »
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Ask a question and you shall receive a 1000 answers! Smiley

I am sure the original poster is just as confused as when he started.

You can be surprised that you can create "realistic" results from any of the software...including Photoshop itself. It just depends on your skill and amount of time you spend tweaking it...

I use them all - and sometimes, a different one suits the image better....sometimes I don't have the luxury of time to play with. I use Enfuse for Architecture/Interiors, SNS for most realistic scenes (anything really - but specifically for monuments, architecture etc), Photomatix for landscapes (I like them a little edgy) - and PTGui Pro for HDR Panos.
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« Reply #28 on: December 28, 2010, 04:26:05 PM »
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IMO specially Photomatic is highly overrated when it comes to realistic /natural pictures,major problem with it is HALO'S who are difficult or impossible to eliminate.
If you like fancy graphics then get it,there is no software that beat Photomatic this way.

As to learning the software in and outs to get a reasonable outcome,i will say you there others out there where the focus is on creating normal/realistic images.

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sniper
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« Reply #29 on: December 28, 2010, 05:26:21 PM »
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IMO specially Photomatic is highly overrated when it comes to realistic /natural pictures,major problem with it is HALO'S who are difficult or impossible to eliminate.
If you like fancy graphics then get it,there is no software that beat Photomatic this way.

As to learning the software in and outs to get a reasonable outcome,i will say you there others out there where the focus is on creating normal/realistic images.


So what would you recomend?
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Alan Klein
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« Reply #30 on: December 28, 2010, 05:33:05 PM »
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I wouldn't bracket wider than 1 stop between images with film for true HDR. Exposure Fusion/blending can tolerate more, but with larger increments the results will lack 'smoothness' in gradients. The number of stops will be determined by the scene dynamic range. Do note that negative film already has a huge scene DR capability.
Cheers,
Bart

Should I take +1 and -1 and initial stting?  Or +1 +2 -1 -2 plus initial setting?

Alan
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BartvanderWolf
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« Reply #31 on: December 28, 2010, 06:37:11 PM »
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Should I take +1 and -1 and initial stting?  Or +1 +2 -1 -2 plus initial setting?

Hi Alan,

Depends on the negative film used. If it has a rather straight H&D curve (e.g. a Portra 160 type of emulsion, exposed as ISO 125 for the base exposure), try +/- 2, but make sure you have a good lens hood (to reduce the effects of lens glare). This is only needed for high contrast subject matter + high contrast lighting. For lower contrast scenarios a +/- 1 scenario (or no bracketing) might suffice.
For slide film, I'd add more (at 1 EV intervals) intermediate exposures.

For digital, I often use 1.33 EV intervals, and as many exposures as needed to cover the scene+lighting contrast, but sometimes no more than 2/3rd EV intervals for optimal results. It depends on whether I want to assemble HDR files (more small interval files may help), or do an exposure blending (upto 1.33 stop intervals may be enough, with 7 exposures).

Cheers,
Bart
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huupi
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« Reply #32 on: December 29, 2010, 06:11:58 AM »
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 Where most HDR app. fail is to having smooth gradations throughout the available color/luminance data

 That is if you are after natural looking images while with most app. shadows are clogged up or noisy and    high contrast highlights show annoying halo's its quite disappointing.
 After trialling quite a few including the BIG names i settled for a not wellknown HDR app. from Everimaging,
 guys from Zwitserland, and i have to admit that their software come very close to my ideal in having natural looking images.              http://www.hdrdarkroom.com/

I'm amazed as to how it control the halo effect,basically halo free images with smooth gradations from shadows to highlights.
As i said earlier not wellknown but very mature !
 
 
 

 
 

« Last Edit: December 29, 2010, 06:42:37 AM by huupi » Logged
RFPhotography
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« Reply #33 on: December 29, 2010, 07:54:45 AM »
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Huupi, the problems you describe are typically the result of (a) over aggressive application of tonemapping operators, (b) improper/insufficient bracketing with the input images, (c) a less than extensive knowledge of HDR and tonemapping, or (d) some combination of the preceding. 

Alan, personally, I'd use 1 1/2 or 2 stop brackets for neg. film and 1 to 1 1/2 stop brackets for slide film.  Neg. film has so much latitude that a 1 stop change often is barely discernable which isn't a great deal of benefit when merging in HDR software. 
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huupi
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« Reply #34 on: December 29, 2010, 08:49:53 AM »
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Bob Fisher, It maybe all true what you said but for me it was a relief after painfull fiddling with other software i stumbled upon this program and got it just right with defaults after the first tonemapping.

I need tools that has to be good,fast and easy to use because my clients (architects,real estate,interior builders) demand fast delivery of the results.
These people are looking for a realistic display of their properties and not some artistic interpretation !
« Last Edit: December 29, 2010, 08:52:56 AM by huupi » Logged
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« Reply #35 on: December 29, 2010, 11:21:08 AM »
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Where most HDR app. fail is to having smooth gradations throughout the available color/luminance data

That is if you are after natural looking images while with most app. shadows are clogged up or noisy and    high contrast highlights show annoying halo's its quite disappointing.
After trialling quite a few including the BIG names i settled for a not wellknown HDR app. from Everimaging,
guys from Zwitserland, and i have to admit that their software come very close to my ideal in having natural looking images.              http://www.hdrdarkroom.com/

I'm amazed as to how it control the halo effect,basically halo free images with smooth gradations from shadows to highlights.
As i said earlier not wellknown but very mature !

While some of the HDR samples posted look otherwise quite natural, every single one of them has prominent halos.
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Kirk Gittings
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« Reply #36 on: December 29, 2010, 11:49:28 AM »
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While some of the HDR samples posted look otherwise quite natural, every single one of them has prominent halos.

I agree. I found that only a couple of these looked very natural and many had quite obvious halos.

For my purposes I have gotten the best results from LR/Enfuse, BUT I can really only produce a natural looking image if I am trying to compress the tonal range in a scene that is maybe two stops beyond the native dynamic range of my sensor. Beyond that I can produce images that may be functionally ok, but aesthetically pretty wanky looking.
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Kirk

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« Reply #37 on: December 29, 2010, 03:24:29 PM »
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What are halos and how do you see them in the picture link? 

Would the pictures look more natural if you try to combine shots with only 1 stop rather than 2 or does the unnatural look come from the process?  My point is that let's say you expose one shot for the highlight (the sky).  Instead of the other shot exposing the ground for full open look, leav a little in shadow.  DOn't try to bring the sahdow area up to full "correct" exposure if you were shooting it by itself.  Leave the difference .

Can that be done?
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RFPhotography
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« Reply #38 on: December 29, 2010, 04:04:21 PM »
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Alan, you know the halos you can get around the edges of objects if you're too aggressive with Unsharp Mask?  Very much a similar thing can happen if you're too aggressive with HDR tonemapping.  It's primarily the result of trying to enhance local (pixel level) contrast too much (basically what USM does).  The bracketing, 1 stop or 2 stops, really doesn't make a difference.  It's the processing that causes it.  Bracketing too narrowly and trying to force the HDR app. to 'create' information where it doesn't exist in any of the bracketed images can also exacerbate the halo effect. 

The method you describe would work as long as you didn't push the tonemap processing too far.  That method would also work well for exposure fusion/blending rather than HDR.
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Alan Klein
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« Reply #39 on: December 29, 2010, 05:02:33 PM »
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If the goal is simply expanded brightness range and GND filters aren't possible or aren't sufficient, then exposure fusion/exposure blending (either automated or manual) is the better approach, I think.  Photomatix does have an exposure fusion utility.  SNS-HDR, while having tonemapping ability, is an exposure fusion tool.  There're also Enfuse & TuFuse which are good quality fusion programs.

Bob  I read you tutorial on Blended Exposures http://rf-photography.ca/2010/09/blended-exposures-tutorial/  The more natural effect it shows is what I'm looking for, not the equally looking exposed and low contrast HDR that most people are discussing.    Do you know if I can do this with Elements 8 (PSE8) which is the only PP program I use right now?  I can use ACR with PSE8 for my Olympus M4/3 raws but obviously can only scan in film pictures.    Would you recommend one of the others above first depending the original capture (digital or film)?  Thanks again Alan.
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