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In Photoshop I reduce the noise further, as necessary – most tonemapping introduces noise, because you are combining three images and noise is additive. I personally use Topaz’s noise reduction plugin for this, but any method you like should work. I generally then need to boost the contrast a little, and may need to use Content Aware to remove any dust specks that might not have shown up on one shot, but do now after the image has been tonemapped.
Thank you to all the photographers that shared their best B&W photos in HDR in this photo contest with chances to win a tool bundle to help you improve your photography. From camera bags to light rings and more! . Here are some HDR essentials (high dynamic range):
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A few months ago, DPS published an article I wrote entitled “How to See in Black and White.” That article had a small bonus section at the end, in which I talked about how useful HDR can be to the monochrome photographer – a fact that is initially somewhat counterintuitive, since HDR is stereotypically held to be all about garish, over-done colors and excessive haloing.
There’s no “right” way to apply HDR to a black & white image, it’s all about experimentation and finding a workflow that works for you. For me, I like to see how much detail and contrast i can bring to an image before making my initial conversion to B&W. Once i do my initial conversion, then i start to explore additional edits in B&W!
In fact, as I talked about in that previous article, HDR can be extremely useful in bringing out microtexture, enhancing the effect of light and shadow, and in creatively influencing the overall tone of the image. All of these things lend themselves immediately and powerfully to black and white photographs, making HDR another viable tool in the monochrome photographer’s arsenal.
Any edits you now do, will be applied to your B&W layer safely so the world is your oyster. Ideally you should have a pretty incredible image in B&W already…but it never hurts to keep playing. Whenever i create a B&W image, i like to really push my shadows and contrast to give a real sense of depth to the shot.
First of all, I always shoot RAW. This allows me greater latitude and control of adjustments in post, and, when shooting bracketed shots for HDR, if there was too much movement in the frame I can use a single RAW shot to create a pseudo-HDR (by saving three different JPEGs from the same RAW, each with different exposure values – see the addendum at the end of this article for more).
After playing with the image in Silver Efex Pro 2 (I generally select the “high structure, smooth” preset and then tweak it to my liking), I have my black and white image. I recommend at this point you try one more thing: since you have the black and white image on a duplicate layer, try reducing the opacity of that layer to 70% or so part of the color background layer shows through. This gives you a “desaturated” look that can be incredibly powerful for some shots, so much so that you may actually prefer it to the black and white you were going after.
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HDR is not a tool only for colors. It is incredibly useful for the monochrome photography!
A special thanks to friend and professional photographer Hernan Rodriguez for his collaboration as a guest judge. Hernan Rodriguez, recently named Tamron Image Master, Westcott’s Top Pro Elite, and Moab Image Master, is the recipient of over 30 international photography awards, including a prestigious Black and White Spider Award in the fashion category, as well as Photography Master’s Cup Nominee 2013 in the fashion category.
For this article I’ll be using Oloneo’s new and impressive PhotoEngine v1.0 for all of my HDR rendering. Every example photo in this article was tonemapped using Oloneo PhotoEngine v1.0. However, the same basic workflow steps apply regardless of which HDR software package you are using, be it HDRSoft’s Photomatix, Nik’s HDR Efex Pro, Photoshop’s own Merge to HDR Pro, or any of the many others.
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If you like the black and white, set the layer opacity to 100%, merge down, and save and voila! you now have your black and white HDR image. This workflow required several different software packages and a fair amount of patience. The steps, broken down, are:
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These steps require the use of Photoshop (or GIMP, or their equivalent), an HDR tonemapping package, and, if you follow what I do, software for denoising the image and more software for changing the image to black and white. Basically:
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Addendum: Creating a Black and White HDR from a Single RAW File
Photoshop (for Camera RAW and RAW processing, and cleanup of the HDR image) Oloneo PhotoEngine (for tonemapping and creating the HDR image) Topaz DeNoise (for noise removal) Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 (for black and white conversion)
That section of the article received many comments and questions. In particular, a lot of photographers were wondering about the “right” way to make a black and white HDR, given that there are, in fact, numerous possible paths you can take through the editing process to achieve the end result. With this article I will show you how I do it – my ‘recommended’ way – and also address a few alternative methods. I encourage you to experiment and discover which method works best for you, artistically, creatively, and economically.
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“_DSC3036_7_8 Hardangerfjord Skrikjo Waterfall BW” by SteveCorcoran
Go ahead, and try monochrome HDR on your photos. If you don’t have Aurora HDR yet, visit the home page to download the free trial. Enjoy.
Create a new layer, and go to the COLOR tool on your side bar, select the SATURATION slider and pull it ALL the way down to -100! now we’ve got an incredible pure black & white starting point. That’s all you need to do to that layer…label it accordingly, and then create another new layer! This is where things get real.
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Another alternative workflow is a tweak on my ‘recommended’ workflow. In this version, you skip processing the RAW files in Camera RAW; the remaining steps are the same. So:
Import each RAW into your HDR software Tonemap (in color) as you prefer and save as JPEG Pull the new JPEG into Photoshop, denoise and clean up, save the color JPEG Create an adjustment layer Run your favorite color to black and white conversion method Save off a black and white JPEG
Onoleo in particular makes this very easy, with a couple preset black and white options to choose from and then tweak. And the results are not bad at all. I personally prefer the sharper, clearer look and greater flexibility I get using my ‘recommended’ workflow, and the central drawback of this simpler workflow is you do not get a separate color version to play with (without processing again with a different preset, of course), nor can you easily create that interesting desaturated look I described above.
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Alternative Methods for Creating a Black and White HDR Image
Once the image is tonemapped, I save it as a new JPEG. Some people prefer TIFF, for lossless quality, but after many back-to-back trials I personally can’t see any difference between a 100% quality JPEG and a TIFF file, and the JPEGs are much smaller files to work with. I then pull that JPEG into Photoshop.
Import the RAW file into Camera RAW and use your preset; save as JPEG 1 Import the RAW file again, set the exposure to -2.00; save as JPEG 2 Import the RAW file a third time, set the exposure to +2.00; save as JPEG 3 Pull each JPEG into your HDR rendering software; manually set the correct exposure values if the software asks for them (because the JPEG data for each image will show the same exposure) Tonemap, then save as a new JPEG Pull the new JPEG into Photoshop, denoise and clean up, save the color JPEG Create an adjustment layer Run your favorite color to black and white conversion method Save off a black and white JPEG Read more from our Post Production category
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At this point, if I know for sure I want to eventually end up with a black and white shot, I will tweak the tonemapping to enhance the textures, lighting, and depth of shadow. Essentially, I’m aiming for a color version that will work well in black and white. This will take practice and experimentation to get used to, but you can refer to my previous article on “How to See in Black and White” for more on this concept.
As you can see from these samples and their Color counterparts…HDR isn’t just for color…if you’re a monochrome photographer like myself, HDR is an incredible weapon in your arsenal for creating breathtaking images.
I want to emphasize again, before we begin, that this is the workflow I currently use and recommend to others, but it isn’t necessarily the right way, or even the way some experts (including those who develop the HDR products I’ll talk about) recommend.
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Many people feel that HDR photography and Black & White are mutually exclusive…as in… separate entities that should never cross paths. Well I would argue that HDR can be incredibly useful to the monochrome photographer! Especially since you can take an image that has had it’s details pushed beyond the normal range of belief in color…but then convert to B&W editor to create a stunningly detailed piece of fine art! Just do a quick search on Google for Black & White HDR and you’ll see there’s no end to amazing examples.
When I have my three RAW files, taken via bracketed exposure (usually +/- 2 or 3 EV), I run each RAW through Photoshop’s Camera RAW, using a preset so each exposure receives identical treatment. I boost the clarity, contrast, sharpness (masked), and reduce noise, but I don’t alter the color, white balance, or exposure at this point. I then save off JPEGs from each RAW, usually just calling them 1, 2, and 3.
Import each RAW into Camera RAW and use a preset on each, then save as separate JPEGs Pull each JPEG into your HDR rendering software, tonemap, then save as a new JPEG Pull the new JPEG into Photoshop, denoise and clean up, save the color JPEG Create an adjustment layer Run your favorite color to black and white conversion method Save off the black and white JPEG
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At this point I save the color JPEG. Then I create a duplicate layer and fire up Nik’s Silver Efex Pro 2. This plugin is my favorite method of converting a color image into black and white – it simply provides an enormous range of options and precise levels of control, and really lets you achieve, artistically, what you have set out to achieve. That being said, you can use the Black and White adjustment layer in Photoshop, or Topaz’s black and white plugin, or just about any other color to black and white conversion method you prefer.
However, this method is much faster, which can be very important when you are processing a large number of shots on a tight schedule. It is also cheaper, since you could get away with only one piece of purchased software (your HDR rendering package). And if you wanted to do simple clean up or global edits, you could forego Photoshop or Lightroom in favor of open-source (and free) GIMP.
I recommend shooting and editing in RAW whenever you can, this will give you so much more data and light/shadow recovery to work with. It’ll be a little more work on your computer, but worth it in the end!
I then pull these three JPEGs into Oloneo PhotoEngine, and start the tonemapping process. With Oloneo, as with Photomatix and the others, I can create presets that are roughly setup according to my general preference (I like a more natural look to my HDR images, rather than overdone or excessively haloed). Oloneo allows for rapid tweaking with immediate feedback at a very detailed level, and I will often tweak whichever preset I chose to get the right look and feel.
Clearly, the big drawback here as well is you have no option to save a color tonemapped version of the image. For me that’s a deal breaker, but it’s worth trying this workflow to at least see if you end up preferring the end result.
Import each RAW into Camera RAW and use a preset on each, then save as JPEG Convert each JPEG into a black and white using your preferred method of conversion – just make sure to use a preset and apply the same settings to each exposure Pull each JPEG into your HDR rendering software, tonemap, then save as a new JPEG Pull the new JPEG into Photoshop, denoise and clean up, save the black and white JPEG
Some people do not consider this “real” HDR, since you aren’t using truly different exposures; however, even if it’s just “fake” HDR, it can be extremely useful when you have a shot with a lot of movement in the frame and yet the lighting/shadows/etc would benefit from HDR. An example might be a dramatically lit crowd scene, where people are chanting and moving and therefore bracketed shots would be impossible to align. And, even when there isn’t movement to worry about, the end results of this “fake” HDR technique are often indistinguishable from a “real” HDR shot – I’ve tested this myself a couple times.
Merge your brackets (3-14 steps) to get the HDR base point you need. From here, start editing your image as if you were processing in color and make it look as incredible as you like. For me, I’ll edit my Tone mapping on layer 1, then use a Luminosity mask to really push my HDR edits safely. The next layer will be a DENOISE layer to smooth out my details. Then I’ll add another layer to re-punch up some details and colors to make it incredibly vibrant. Once you have an image that’s tone-mapped as you like (layers included) save your file! This is where it gets fun.
Always use a tripod and we highly recommend the assistance of a cable release or self-timer to avoid any shakes. Always use the same f/stop for all photos. Make sure to lock down the focus. You must set white balance instead of using AWB. Do not use camera auto enhancements. Avoid jpg shots as in RAW mode you’ll get the most dynamic range. Choose a software to create a tone mapped image which is a combination of the HDR shots.Then work on the final details, have fun and you are all set for the next HDR Photo Contest!
Whatever method you end up choosing, the most important single factor is your happiness, creatively and artistically, with the fruits of all your labor. Experiment, try each way with the same set of bracketed shots, and figure out what you are most comfortable with. There are still other workflows possible, so try things out and have fun, and make it your own.
HDR can bring out microtextures in your image, making the details of the light & Shadows that much more enhanced and thus, altering the tone of your image! While using these techniques may be over the top and brash to the eyes when viewed in color…it’s a beautiful flare in black & white images.
An advantage of shooting in RAW is that you can, in post, manually alter the exposure value of the shot. This means you can save off three different JPEGs from the same shot that have different exposures, and then combine those in an HDR rendering package to tonemap and turn into an HDR shot.
Most HDR software packages, including Onoleo’s PhotoEngine, accept RAW files for processing bracketed shots and most have presets built in that will create black and white images for you right off the bat – no importing into Photoshop or another external black and white conversion plugin needed.
This method saves time by not making you run through Camera RAW, and still lets you save off a separate color and/or desaturated version of the shot. It is also the method some of the developers of HDR software recommend using, since the RAW files contain the most information for the HDR rendering software to use. I have found, however, that Camera RAW (and other RAW processing software packages) have some of the best sharpening and denoising algorithms available, and as such I like using them from the start to get those clear, sharp results.
There is yet another workflow possible. In this one, you convert to black and white before you bring the images into your HDR software. This is doable but I don’t recommend it, because you are throwing away too much useful data too early in the workflow process. It’s my contention that you’re better off working in color, getting the most out of that color, and only converting to black and white at the end. But your mileage may vary.