Basic Photography Article - #13 HDR Photography Part 6 Finishing Touches in Photoshop
After I've created my HDR image, I will adjust exposure, white and black points, contrast, vibrance and color in Lightroom as in past articles, or in ACR if I'm already in Photoshop.
There are two things that I almost always do and occasionally I'll add a couple of other touches. The first thing that every HDR gets is some pretty strong sharpening. For this I use the high pass sharpening technique. It's pretty easy if you follow the steps, and since it's so useful, you may want to create an action for it which allows you to run the process with a single click. Here is how to create an action in Photoshop.
The first step is to duplicate our base layer. The shortcut is ctrl (cmd)-J.
Next select filter/other/high pass.
Select a radius of 5 and hit OK.
High Pass radius
That looks pretty strange, but we're about to fix that. Select the high pass layer and change its blend mode to soft light. You'll see a lot of sharpening, and it seems to lighten and open up the mid tones.
soft light blend
Merge the two layers with the shortcut ctrl (cmd)-e. If you want more intense sharpening there are several options. You can select hard light as the blend mode, or increase the radius. Or you can repeat the steps at the original radius and blend mode. I have made actions for both 5 and 10 pixel radius settings.
Now that we have our sharpening done, I almost always run NIK's Color Efex (Part of the NIK Plug-ins suite, and remember it's free) and select the tonal contrast preset.
The tonal contrast filter will create a new layer and apply the effect to this new layer. That also allows us to vary the effect by changing the opacity of the layer and even by using masks to block the effect from parts of the image. I usually accept the plug-in's defaults and hit OK.
Then select the tonal contrast layer and merge the two layers with the shortcut ctrl (cmd)-e.
Those are the two things I do for almost every image. If I want something a little more extreme, I often run Topaz Adjust with the Spicify filter. You can purchase Topaz adjust or download a trial here.
Before running Topaz adjust, I create a duplicate layer with the shortcut ctrl (cmd)-j. That way I can vary the effect by changing the opacity of the layer, using a mask to block the effect in parts of the image, or I can just delete the layer if I don't like the effect at all.
There is no limit to the effects you can add, but I hope these articles have given you some of the basics. There are also several other programs for creating HDR images such as Aurora, Easy HDR and HDR Projects 4.
And remember there is no one way, no right or wrong way, only the way that suits your vision for the image. As you do more and more HDR images, you will find your own style starts to emerge.
So, now go out, shoot some brackets and start experimenting. So you can see how some of the images from the earlier articles look, here are some examples.