DPP Home Technique (R)evolution Sharpening With HDR Software

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Sharpening With HDR Software

Enhance detail by boosting the differences between neighboring tones

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Photoshop's HDR dialog box
While Nik Software's HDR Efex Pro presets are rich and wonderful for visually exploring tone-mapping variations, for detail enhancement you really only need to focus on two features:

1 The method, which sets the base effect: Natural, Clean, Crisp, Halo Reduction, Subtle, Sharp, etc.

2 The Structure slider, which functions very similarly to Viveza's Structure. Structure accentuates texture somewhat, which can enhance noise as well as detail, but not as much as Unsharp Mask. When Structure is applied, luminosity contrast increases, more so in shadows than in highlights, where very high values stop just short of compromising shadow detail. Unlike Viveza's Structure, the effects on shadows and highlights can be modified with HDR Efex Pro's Blacks and Whites sliders. Think of Structure as occupying the visual territory that lies between Unsharp Mask and High Pass. HDR Efex Pro's interface is simple, yet more versatile, which means you'll spend a little more time exploring the many options it offers.

Nik Software's HDR Efex Pro Method choices
HDRsoft's Photomatix is an excellent tool for tone mapping, but it's difficult to separate contour and texture from tonal enhancement, making it challenging for sharpening.

If sharpening is your goal, resist the temptation to use the other sliders in each interface; they won't enhance detail, only contrast. That said, much like Photoshop's simpler TMO Shadows/Highlights, they can be used to render shadow and highlight detail more clearly.

Once images are sharpened with HDR software, the rendered effect can be layered with an unsharpened version of an image, providing more control. Use the Blend mode Luminosity to affect only the light and dark values. Use the Opacity slider to reduce the effect. Knowing you can only reduce the effect, you'll favor applying the HDR software a little aggressively. Use the Blend If sliders to remove the effect from either highlights (halos) or shadows (lines), or both. Mask the layer to apply the effect to selected regions. You even may decide to use two or more different layers with different HDR treatments to customize effects for specific image regions.

Nik Software's HDR Efex Pro Structure slider
And, of course, sharpening with HDR software can be used in combination with any other sharpening technique, like Unsharp Mask or High Pass filtration.

The options you have for controlling the look and feel of detail in your images are simply unprecedented in the history of the medium. Every digital artist will benefit from exploring these options. differently. People who view your images certainly will.

John Paul Caponigro, author of
Adobe Photoshop Master Class and the DVD series R/Evolution, is an internationally renowned fine artist, an authority on digital printing, and a respected lecturer and workshop leader. Get over 100 lessons with his free enews Insights at www.johnpaulcaponigro.com.


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