DPP Home Software Image Processing DPP Solutions: Get The Hyperreal Look

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

DPP Solutions: Get The Hyperreal Look

The most powerful software that you haven’t heard of just might be Lucis Pro 6.0

One of the hottest looks going right now is the HDR look. Sometimes it’s called hyperreal, tone-mapped or just gritty. The trend has been growing for the past few years, and right now it’s at a fever-pitch—it seems like just about everyone is making images with some degree of this look. Part of the appeal, to be sure, is because HDR lets you have it all in a single image—detail in both highlights and shadows. Of course, the distinctive look is more than just highlight and shadow detail. There’s an almost comic-book-like appearance that tends to have pronounced grain and muted colors. Overall, contrast is lower across the image, but to many proponents of HDR, the images have more of a “moment in time” feel. Everything looks sharp and perfectly frozen (most HDR shots don’t have any motion blur because they’re made from composites of several images). This is part of the hyperreal description.

A lot of professional photographers have their own recipes for creating their particular look. Some claim not to use HDR techniques at all while others have complex solutions for merging images with elaborate Photoshop processes. For photographers using specially designed HDR software, the standard has been Photomatix. Made by the German company HDRsoft, Photomatix has become the standard, and it offers you a number of options for compositing and controlling the effect.

The HDR look relies on having multiple images taken in rapid succession at varied exposures. Essentially, it’s bracketing. You make exposures that show detail in the shadows, the highlights and the midtones, then combine parts of each exposure to create the final image, which takes the best from each individual exposure. (This is oversimplifying to make the point without digressing into too much minutiae.) If you have a DSLR with autobracketing, making the series of exposures is dead easy. Just set up the camera to shoot a series of three or five shots, ranging from -1 or -2 to +1 or +2 stops, and you’ll have your starting images.

But what happens if you didn’t plan to create an HDR look when you were shooting, or for any number of reasons, you just don’t have three or five distinct exposures to work with? You can work in Photoshop with a single image and create a similar look like some of the photographers we wrote about earlier. This certainly is doable, and you can search the Internet for help although a lot of pros are reluctant to share their specific “formulas.” You can use the single-shot, tone-mapping feature in Photomatix. We’ve tried this feature with varying results, but it’s certainly an option.

For sometime, there has been a “secret weapon” for a number of pros who want to create the HDR look. Lucis Pro software has become increasingly popular, yet we continue to be surprised by how many photographers have never heard of it. At a pro photography seminar recently, a presenter was showing some of his Lucis Pro-enhanced photography and he was interrupted by so many questions about the look that he stopped his presentation to locate the company’s website on his iPhone so he could spell it out for the audience who furiously scribbled it down (we noticed several individuals in the audience placing orders immediately).


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