Creating High Dynamic Range

Friday, July 26, 2013 6:38 PM By Stephen J Christophers

Creating dynamic image results from a single .jpeg using Photoshop Elements, Photomatix and Topaz adjustments: I often find myself drawn to one or two images out of a series of photographs taken at a particular location or event. They might have a unique subject matter, perspective or tonal quality that shouts otherworldliness. However, my compact camera shoots a basic .jpeg format, not RAW.

In this tutorial I will endeavour to help you understand the process of editing .jpeg images to High Dynamic Range. And, guide you through the process step-by-step.

Step One: Creating three images of differing exposures, by using the Brightness/Contrast setting in Photoshop Elements for bracketing High Dynamic Range in Photomatix.

Opening the “Starting Image” in Photoshop Elements and firstly run: Enhance > Brightness/Contrast. Using the “Brightness” tab; set the exposure level to +30 and save the resulting image. Using software such as Pixlr for example, one should use the Exposure Value (E/V) setting, in this case; +3, 0, -3.

Now reset your “Undo History” tab to “Open”. With your “Starting Image” at default, repeat the process, and save the new image with a brightness level of -30.

Note: Depending on the exposure of your original image, the level of brightness can be varied, such as; -1, 0, +1. Or, more than three images with different brightness levels can be fused to create a deeper tonal quality.

Resulting Images:

Step Two: Loading the resulting bracketed photos into Photomatix in preparation for Tone Mapping and editing in Photoshop Elements with Topaz filter.

During the process of merging bracketed images there are various options available for you to tweak. In this tutorial we will stick with the basic default features by pressing “OK”, until the final image has been merged. When the final image has been merged, select, “Tone Mapping / Fusion” and continue to the default tonal compression tabs. Select a preset option and “Process”. Save the resulting image.

Step Three: Editing your final image using Photoshop Elements and the Topaz DeNoise filter.

In Photoshop Elements open your saved High Dynamic Range and Tone Mapped image from Photomatix. Now go to Filter > Topaz Labs > Topaz DeNoise. For this example we will select the option for .jpeg Strong + Debanding and press “OK”. Wait for the plug-in process to run, and for your image to appear back in the Photoshop work environment.

Check the “Undo History” tab to make sure the process has run. Save your image under a new file name.  

Step Four: Bordering your final image. There are several ways to border your images. Using some creativity, a new layer and the “Blur” options inspired my final image results. Nevertheless, Pixlr, free online editing software allows you to choose from a variety of free border effects.