Workflow Friday: Marcus Taylor

Photoshop Workflows

This week we welcome photographer Marcus Taylor of the blog Invisible Green Photography. This is a really cool series of HDR photos that have a really nice balance between the true-to-life tonal range that HDR provides and the surreal, almost dreamlike nature of some of the artistic applications of HDR without being over-the-top like so many others seem to do.

Take it away, Marcus!


Urban Exploring in HDR

Shooting

For our December meetup, my photography group planned an urban exploring outing in Atlanta. Having never been before I had no idea what to expect, so I set out without much of a plan.  Once we got there, and I saw what we would be shooting I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to try some HDR shots. Nearly everything I shot that day was a sequence of bracketed shots from three stops below to three stops above what my camera was metering.

Of the shotss I got on the trip, this composition would turn out to be my favorite shot of the day. I might have missed it too, because I was pretty much done shooting when I found it. The rest of the group was standing around talking while a couple of guys were still shooting. I stood around for a minute, but then kept walking around, looking for something else. I had already shot just the hook

Marcus Taylor - Invisible Green Photography

 and just the tag on the background wall,

Marcus Taylor - Invisible Green Photography

but while I was walking around I realized the similar shapes would make for an interesting shot. So I setup my tripod, lined up the hook with the tag and fired my bracketed sequence.

When shooting HDR, or any photography for that matter, the most important steps in the workflow are what I’ve desciribed above. You have to find something interesting to shoot and then shoot it in a way that conveys what it was that pulled you to it. For me, this shot was just about the rhythms of the shapes, colors, and textures. The correctly exposed version of the shot is interesting on it’s own without the HDR processing. As was recently said by David Duchemin, HDR is not an “unsuck filter”, if you don’t have a very good image to start with, then no amount of post processing is going to make it good.

Photomatix

Here’s how I post processed this image, or rather these images. First I imported the files to my computer. When shooting for HDR I generally only use the jpegs straight out of camera, so I don’t bother with the RAW files. I haven’t found any noticeable improvement in image quality from using the RAW vs JPG when tone mapping, and it saves a lot of time over processing each RAW file.

I use an image viewer to find the correct sequence of shots and make a note of each number in the sequence. Then I open Photomatix Pro, go to HDR > Generate.

Marcus Taylor - Invisible Green Photography

On the HDR dialog press Browse

Marcus Taylor - Invisible Green Photography

and select all of the images you want to use for your image.

Marcus Taylor - Invisible Green Photography

Click open, then ok. And you will see the Generate HDR dialog.

Marcus Taylor - Invisible Green Photography

Use “Align Source Images” to make sure slight movements between composition don’t cause problems for the image. Use “Attempt to Reduce Ghosting Artifacts” if there was something moving through your images, people or a breeze, etc. And “Take tone curve of color profile”. Then click ok. Depending on how many images you’ve used, or how large they are, this could take several minutes.

When that’s done, you will see an image that doesn’t look very good at all.

Marcus Taylor - Invisible Green Photography

In order to get a presentable image, you’ll need to Tone Map it. Go to HDR > Tonemapping.

Marcus Taylor - Invisible Green Photography

You’ll get a new window with a much better looking image, and a dialog box with many options.

 Marcus Taylor - Invisible Green Photography

For this image, and most HDR images, I used “Details Enhancer” because it allows a lot finer control of the details than the “Tone Compressor” method. I can’t tell you exactly what settings I used for this shot, but my practice with working these settings in Photomatix is the same for most any photo editing program. That is is I push them to an extreme value, then back them down to a point that looks more like what I was going for. The settings in the screen shot are a rough approximation of what I used to tone map this one. It’s rare that I keep the strength at 100% but in this case I think it was warranted. I also use the Micro Tab and bumped the micro contrast to 4 and Micro-smoothing to 5.

After fine tuning the settings to your liking, click “Apply” to apply the tonemapping, then save the image as a tiff.

Photoshop

The final step in the process is to open the image in Photoshop for a little bit of enhancing. When I shot this, I thought the empty beer bottle was an interesting detail. Once I generated the HDR I found the bottle distracting so, I cloned it out.

Marcus Taylor - Invisible Green Photography

Marcus Taylor - Invisible Green Photography

Marcus Taylor - Invisible Green Photography

After cleaning everything up, I used high pass sharpening, to  bring out a little bit more of the texture. To do this you’ll need to create a composite of all the layers, the easiest way to do this is press CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E. Then, with the new stamped layer selected, Go to Filter > Other > High Pass.

Marcus Taylor - Invisible Green Photography

In the dialog that comes up slide the radius slider to the right until you just start to see color in the preview.

Marcus Taylor - Invisible Green Photography

Click ok, then change the blending mode of the layer to Overlay.

Marcus Taylor - Invisible Green Photography

My final step before publishing to my website was to resize, flatten, and save as JPG.

And here’s the end result.

Marcus Taylor - Invisible Green Photography


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Comments:
  • Hi Jason,

    Your blog is absolutely incredible. Thank you for referencing David duChemin in this post.

    I work for Peachpit Press and thought you and your readers would like to know that David has a special podcast series in the works where he gives his own personal feedback on YOUR photos. You can submit them through flickr and, if chosen, he’ll let you know what he thinks! More info can be found here: http://tr.im/m85w

    The premiere episode is now live on Peachpit TV and you can view it here: http://tr.im/mzLy

    May 29, 2009 at 7:59 pm

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