HDR (High Dynamic Range) is something I discussed in a previous post, and there are lots of great references online, including Trey Ratcliff's website http://www.stuckincustoms.com/. What I want to show you in this post is how I "work" an image when I didn't necessarily set out to take photo's with HDR in mind. What this really should be called is fake HDR. I can get an HDR like effect without having to take multiple images and run them through an HDR program, then process the output of that further in Photoshop. My process allows me to get a similar, and hopefully pleasing effect.
Let's start off with a .jpg file as it came straight out of the camera. Other than resizing for this post, this is how the photo looked as I made the image with my Sony NEX3:
This is a P-40 sitting on the tarmac at the Chino Airport during the last Planes of Fame Air Show. Overall, this isn't a bad image, but I'd think it could be better.
In this second image, I applied a filter from a Photoshop plug-in called Nik Color Efex. There are many different types of filters available, and the one I used is called "Tonal Contrast". The effect is subtle, but noticeable, especially in the clouds and the mountains in the background. There is more texture and everything seems a little sharper. I could have left it alone, but I want to see what would happen with a little more tweaking.
Now things are starting to pop! The sky is really taking shape, the plane seems so sharp and radiant, and even the tarmac has a grainy texture to it. All I did was to rerun the "Tonal Contrast" filter again, making no changes in the settings. Here's a screenshot of the Nik plug-in:
I'm sure there are several other ways to get a similar effect. Topaz is another plug-in program that's popular and seems easy to use. There may also be so options for those of you that are using GIMP http://www.gimp.org/.
Back to the photo. I really like the way this looks, especially the clouds. There is definite definition between the dark and light, and the P-40 really pops. There's just a little clean up to do before calling it done. While I think I did a good job of having more sky in the shot than tarmac, I did kind of leave the plane almost dead center. There's also an annoying orange cone on the right edge that's distracting. A little cropping can take care of both problems, and this is the result:
I'm pretty pleased with this version. The cone is gone, the plane is slightly off center, and the tarmac has also been trimmed. The final result is something I would be happy to post and share. Admittedly this isn't as crazy as it could have gotten because I wanted to keep it somewhat real this time. I'll go deeper into the grungier side of this process in another post.
Hopefully this helped, and will give you some ideas on how to adjust some of your own images. Leave and comment and share your techniques!