Running Ronin

Single Shot Tonemapping Step by Step - San Fran Bikes

Last time I was in San Francisco working I used my lunch break to walk around the Moscone convention center and nab some pictures. As I was in a but of a hurt for time, I didnt take my tripod with me, so while I tried to take 3 bracketed shots I could then merge in Photomatix, this mostly resulted in some sort of blurryness here or there in the images I took.

Hence I decided to use Photomatix to tonemap from a single raw, picking the middle exposure photo from my bracketed shots. The top shot is the result of just such process.

For those who don't have Photomatix, but want to do HDR photos, please buy it now - then come back to this post. It only costs $99!!!

For those smart enough to listen to the world famous Trey, let's have a look at what I did (or just got to Trey's website as it is the best resource online for HDR photography).

Step 0: Make sure your camera shoots in RAW format - also make sure it is set to SAVE in RAW format. I normally set my Nikon d90 to save each photo I shoot in both .jpeg and RAW.

Photomatix can tonemap a single RAW file (named .NEF if you use Nikons like me), but not a single .jpeg.

Step 1: In Photomatix, at the top left - go under: File > Open > then select the RAW photo you want to tonemap. Photomatix can tonemap a single RAW file (named .NEF if you use Nikons like me), but not a single .jpeg.

Your PC (or Mac if you like to be a stickler) will roll D20s for some time, but then the photo will show up like below.

Step 2: Hit the big "Tone Mapping" button to the left.

Step 3: Know your Sliders
The tonemapping environment will open and you will face a menu with a bunch of values and sliders on the far left.
At the beginning I normally default to the following presets, looking from top left to bottom:
  • Top Values:
    • Strength: 100
    • Color Saturation: 60
    • Luminosity: 6.2
    • Microcontrast: 2.0
    • Smoothing: 3.2
On the top I normally only screw around with Luminosity (to remove halo effects) and Smoothing. Smoothing can dramatically alter your photo, and it's a fine line between something the eye will totally disbelieve, and something it will love.
  • Tone Settings:
    • White Point: 0.595%
    • Black Point: 0.595%
    • Gamma: 1.38
You need to play with these values till you have hopefully a gaussian curve on the histogram you can see on the right. Ideally, you should see a full mountain in that histrogram, but then again - I just suggest you leave Black Point where it is, then play with White and Gamma till you have the photo. If the histogram is a nice mountain curve, great. If not, bullocks.
  •  Color Settings: should be all left right in the middle. Yes all.
    • Temperature: 0
    • Saturation Highlights: 0
    • Saturation Shadows: 0
You can have some fun with the last toggle area:
  • Miscellaneous Settings:
    • Micro Smoothing: 3.0
    • Highlight Smoothness: 0
    • Shadow Smoothness: 0
    • Shadow Clipping: 0
Did I say you could have fun? I lied, you should only play with Micro Smoothing.As for the rest, you should leave them at 0.
Below you can see the difference between moving Micro Smoothing to its max effect (slider all left) to its lowest (slider all right).

The photo was finalized with Micro Smoothing at 3.

Step 4: Bonuz for Topaz Adjust owners.

For those lucky enough to have Topaz, I then did a bit a playing around in Topaz Adjust.
In Topaz Adjust I simply used the "Mild Details" preset. I then used Topaz Denoise, to remove excess granularity and obtained the below photo.

Finally I did a noob move and decided to reopen Topaz Adjust - something I think is a big NO NO after you denoise your photo.  But there it is, I used Topaz's preset "Exposure Correction" then cropped the photo to the details I liked most (I also played a bit more with the sliders for some fine tuning).

Don't get me wrong, I like both the uncropped and cropped version. But which one do you prefer? If I had to hand this on a wall, I think I would go with the cropped one :)


PS: Please "like" my page :)
I just implemented the button and don't know if it works. So if you like my pictures at all and are on Facebook, click the "like" link to the right...

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