Faux HDR

Currently the HDR effect is extremely popular not only in landscapes but in portraiture. True HDR portraits require combining frames of different exposures into a single portrait. Because people move, this is simply not practical, and there isn't readily available technology to create true HDR portraiture (although it may be coming soon).

Instead, I suggest a number of faux HDR techniques. The resulting picture will have the aesthetic appearance of HDR without actually being HDR.

Note

HDR in photography means high-dynamic range. As mentioned previously in this book, this means you have both detail in extreme highlights and detail in extreme shadows, creating a wide tonal range. Typically, you achieve this by combining images of multiple exposure values into a single frame. Because all images must be 100% identical, achieving this effect with moving subjects such as people and portraits is extremely difficult.

You have to get the lighting right. Faux HDR looks most realistic if you have many highlights. In Chapter 9, "Studio Light: Complete Control," you can find an example of an HDR lighting setup in Figure 9.8. Put highlights on the hair, either side of the face, and other places.

You do not want to light in a way that creates extremely deep shadows. If the shadows are too deep, you will not be able to fill them in enough to fake HDR.

A true HDR image has detail in the shadow and highlight areas of the image and a much greater range of tones than would typically be possible.

You can achieve much of te HDR effect right in Adobe Camera RAW (ACR). This example uses the steam punk-inspired portrait from earlier in the book.

Once the RAW photo is brought into ACR or Lightroom/Aperture, you need to make a few adjustments.

Take a look at Figure 12.25. These are the default settings for this image in ACR. It looks nothing like an HDR image.

After a few changes in ACR, you can achieve the HDR appearance you see in Figure 12.26. Observe the sliders to see the changes I have made.

First, you want to add a lot of fill light and recovery to your image. This starts the HDR feel by returning detail to the shadows and highlights area. By doing this, however, your image now appears flat. To remedy this, you need to increase contrast in the image. I like to increase the exposure and adjust the black point. By giving myself distinct black points and white points within the image, I remove the muddy appearance.

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The original image does not innately have an HDR look; instead, you must work in ACR to help the image take on wider tonal ranges.

Figure 12.26

You can see the adjustments done in ACR to achieve a faux HDR effect, including adjustments to fill light, recovery, black point, clarity, and vibrance.

Next, I adjust the saturation and vibrance levels. I want to decrease these values so that I have more muted images with more subtle tones. (It helps pick up on grittier detail.) You will decrease the vibrance, making the tones look a bit more dull or metallic. You may need to add some additional contrast to the image (using levels or curves) to make the existing image pop. You can do this step in Photoshop, but I often like the results better when I adjust them in ACR.

Before leaving ACR, I often increase the clarity in the image. Typically, you do not want to add clarity in a portrait because it emphasizes blemishes and pores. However, HDR portraits typically are more grungy, so emphasizing textures in skin and location is desirable.

After adjusting the preceding settings, you are much closer to achieving the HDR effect. The image is still a bit flat and needs some selective contrast, but you have achieved the general look.

Note

Clarity is a way to add contrast to the midtones. It helps make your image pop and improves apparent sharpness.

Now open the image in Photoshop. At this point you need to determine if you've achieved the HDR look. If you do not feel that the look has gone far enough, play with the Shadow Highlights tool.

To apply this effect, go to Image, Adjustments, Shadow/Highlights, as seen in Figure 12.27. From there, you can adjust both the Shadows and Highlights sliders (Figure 12.28) to achieve the desired effect.

Note

The Shadows and Highlights tool allows you to pull detail out of the shadows and restore detail in the highlights. Before fill light in HDR, this was one of the main ways of filling in shadow areas.

By playing around with shadows and highlights, you will be able to fill in the shadows and recover the highlights. This will allow you to go even further with the HDR look. If you utilize this tool, use it sparingly. Apply a layer mask, and only use the effect in the darker shadows or areas on the image you've selected. It is easy to overdo this effect, so use it with caution.

Figure 12.28

To bring detail out of the shadows, you will primarily adjust the Shadows slider. The values for adjustment vary for each image.

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To bring out detail in the highlights and shadows of an image, you may utilize the Shadows and Highlights adjustment effect.

Figure 12.27

To bring out detail in the highlights and shadows of an image, you may utilize the Shadows and Highlights adjustment effect.

Figure 12.28

To bring detail out of the shadows, you will primarily adjust the Shadows slider. The values for adjustment vary for each image.

Remember that you can selectively apply shadows and highlights by using layer masks. Apply shadow and highlight effects, and then only have them show through on the exact areas where the effect is required to achieve the desired effect.

In this image in particular, I used shadows and highlights to bring back some detail in the shadow areas of the skin and jacket, as seen in Figures 12.29 and 12.30.

Figures 12.29 and 12.30 show the results of the shadows and highlight effect. If I wanted more detail in the shadows on the jacket, I could use Shadows and Highlights to extract this detail (Figure 12.30).

Figure 12.29

The detail in the jacket is listed in the original image.

Figure 12.29

The detail in the jacket is listed in the original image.

Figure 12.30

By applying shadows and highlights, you can pull detail out of the shadows and give the jacket more defined textures.

Figure 12.30

By applying shadows and highlights, you can pull detail out of the shadows and give the jacket more defined textures.

If you need to make any other adjustments to retouching, you can do so at this point on duplicate layers. You may want to remove major blemishes or reduce some more extreme skin textures that may have been revealed through this effect. A skin softener (used in a small amount) may help take the roughness down a notch and make the skin a bit more appealing.

For the sample image, my other main adjustments were in playing with shadows and highlights and then adding selective areas of increased contrast. I had nearly a half dozen levels and curves layers that adjust the exposure and contrast in specific areas of the image. I was able to bring out detail in shadows but then re-add contrast to look believable. I added contrast into the beard to make the texture of the hair more visible. I also added a vignette (using levels and a layer mask) around the image to help focus the eye.

The final image is shown in Figure 12.31. A majority of the special effects were achieved in ACR.

Hdr Fashion

Figure 12.31

Although I've applied many additional layers to this final image, I achieved most of the faux HDR effect by making ACR adjustments.

Figure 12.31

Although I've applied many additional layers to this final image, I achieved most of the faux HDR effect by making ACR adjustments.

Here are the points you need to remember from this section:

■ Increase fill light and recovery.

■ Increase contrast by adjusting contrast and exposure.

■ Add texture and depth using clarity for increased sharpness.

■ Adjust vibrance and saturation to give a muted, metallic look.

Each image varies drastically on the exact values and changes required, but this is a template to start with.

Note

Because HDR is grungy and edgy, you might consider adding a texture at this point. You can use this effect on men or women, but it is most successful in tough male portraits.

Hdr Fashion Photography
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