Photography Podcast

PhotoNetCast #27 – HDR Photography

Posted in PhotoNetCast Shows on 13-04-2009 | 13 Comments

HDR Photography

HDR imagery has been a popular trend since a few years. We have with us Dave Wilson to help us explore HDR imagery, including his workflow on the technique, from the capture to tone mapping and further processing. We also discuss the value of the technique in today’s imagery and how it can, at some point, be overused and “abused”. For anyone wanting to start using the technique, this is definitely a must-listen discussion. And as always, we also look at how to apply the technique with film.



As always, if you have any questions or comments regarding the show feel free to share them. And if you have any photography related questions that you’d like us to answer on the show just use the contact form or send them to photonetcast _at_

Show Notes

Intro News

HDR Photography

Selected From the Web

The New Segment

We are opening a new segment on PhotoNetCast in which we intend to critique some of our listeners’ photos. Check how you can submit your images for critique.

Comments (13)

I’m listening to your discussion of HDR and wanted to comment on the creation of HDR/pseudo-HDR images from RAW or even JPEG files.

When I first started dabbling with HDR I came to realise that HDR tools are useful for saving images that may not be perfectly exposed but which are otherwise shots you would like to keep. In cases like this I have used HDR techniques to produce acceptable images. Yes, noise is a potential problem that one should be aware of and in some instances better results can be achieved by creating bracketed exposures from the RAW as 16-bit TIFFs, de-noising them with Noiseware or similar software, then merging them, rather than allowing Photomatix to automate the merge from just the RAW file.

I created the HDR from a single RAW group on Flickr, which has attracted many members; many of whom sadly lean towards what I like to call the cartoonish effect that many believe to be what HDR means. There are some members though who are producing very natural-looking images. My images in the pool are probably somewhere in-between, attempting to be as realistic as possible but often tending to have a contrasty look that is not quite true to life.

The group threads have discussions of the relative merits of producing HDR images from a single RAW or from multiple in-camera exposures. My personal feelings on this is that HDR from a single RAW should only be used when the subject is moving or as a processing tool on images that may not have originally been shot with HDR in mind. If your intent is to produce HDR images it is always better to take multiple exposures in-camera.

RE: question @ min 58.
I’m not sure that there is any way to create an HDR look in camera. However, in photoshop with a single jpg, it is easy to create an HDR feel using the sliders in Image>Adjustments>Shadow/Highlight…

It is also possible to create this feel in lightroom with the fill light and recovery sliders.

Hi Steve,

Thanks for your input.
That de-noising step before processing is something that I’ve never tried, but I’m also not a huge HDR photographer. Will keep that in mind when I process HDR images again.
And you have some great photos on your stream. Congrats.

In camera alone it’s really hard I think. As Dave mentioned, HDR is used to salvage a situation in which the normal use of the camera doesn’t cut it. Actually I was just now thinking if by using some filters to increase contrast and some color filters you might be able to achieve it in camera when converted to black and white. Just a wild guess.

Steve, I agree with you 100%. One of the biggest surprised I had after starting to use Photomatix was how incredibly useful it is for minor contrast and tonality adjustments on single images. I have a set on Flickr called “Enhancement” which contains Photomatix-processed single images. Some of these head towards the “overprocessed” look but others are very natural (see this one, for example)

Will, while Shadow/Highlight is a great tool and has saved me hours of masking time on some pictures, I tend to find that it has a habit of introducing really obvious halos around high contrast edges unless you are very careful with the settings. This does look a lot like a tone mapped HDR with very low light smoothing. Personally, this is something I am not keen on but lots of people use these kinds of settings so perhaps this is a look that is synonymous with HDR in many people’s minds.

Hello All,

Just heard the latest podcast and wanted to say thanks for a great discussion on HDR!

You gave me a few things to think about; not least my lazy nomenclature. When I was discussing ‘in camera HDR effects’, I was of course referring to the product of tone-mapping. Looking through some of the links, there are some beautiful sky captures. I guess maybe I was hoping for a magic ‘sky contrast’ filter or something 🙂

I would broadly agree that done well, HDR techniques can indeed produce pleasing images (my most successful ‘HDR’ image looks like a “normal” image), but over-done tone-mapping creates cortoon-like surreal pictures.

I am personally not using any tone-mapping software; I tried Photomatix and a few other free standalone products, but didn’t really enjoy the process, even if some of the results were eye-catching.

However, I do merge multiple exposures in CS2, but tend to apply adjustment layers to each exposure layer to get the effects I am looking for. I use a variation of the process in this link, that maybe your other listeners would be interested in.

Just in finishing, there was some discussion about using a single RAW to create a ‘fake’ HDR image. It was this process I was referring to when asking about ‘rescuing’ images, which I have used with varying degrees of success to pull out some additional foreground detail in sunsets for example. Looking on Dave Wilson’s ‘enhancement’ flickr stream, he seems to have very successfully ‘rescued’ a volcano photo in this way.

Will posted above about the Shadow/Highlight tool, which I had not really used before, and spent some time was playing with last night. For me, this could be the final stage I have been looking for to give the final result an extra bit of punch- Thanks! I have found generally that the shadow slider is more forgiving than the highlight slider, and I have been getting good results with the highlight settings off.

Anyway, a great discussion and my best regards to all involved; It is both pleasing and surprising to get a whole podcast out of an email!

Keep up the good work, and looking forward to the next one 🙂


With regard to rescuing, or simply improving, images; there is another solution besides HDR. Enfusing is the process of merging different exposures together like HDR but without the intermediate HDR step, so no need for tone-mapping. The resulting images have a natural look, without the overly saturated look or haloes of tone-mapped HDR. There are open source enfusing tools available like enfuse.exe, a command line tool that forms part of the Panorama Tools suite and EnfuseGUI a graphical interface for it. Bracketeer is a commercial Mac interface to Enfuse.

This image that I processed last night had a fairly washed out sky and the tree trunk was quite shadowed. In Lightroom I made two virtual copies, underexposing one and overexposing the other, also reducing the blue luminance of the underexposed copy to darken the sky. I then exported the three exposures and merged them with EnfuseGUI. After importing the result back into Lightroom I upped the saturation of orange, yellow and green and did some sharpening.


If you are interested in saturated skies without any post-processing, I recommend you treat yourself to a polarising filter. If using a digital camera, check your manual since some models prefer a circular rather than a linear polariser.


I’ve been playing with Photomatix image blending mode recently and it also does a great job to merge different exposures into one natural looking scene without any HDR-like artifacts. I’ll have to take a look at the tools you mention too – they sound interesting.


You guys said that you have hdr settings that you use as a starting point on the sliders. Could you tell me what these settings are? I am trying to find a good starting point for my sliders.


No problem. I’ll do a post on the site sometime later on HDR but, for now, you can find a tutorial including the base settings I use in Photomatix at Part 5 of the HDR tutorial details my tone mapping settings but you may like to read through the other parts too.


  1. PhotoNetCast #27 - HDR Photography - News and Views from Dave Wilson
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