I like to approach my digital photography with a certain sense of the fantastical and the surreal. Many of my architectural and cityscape images feature the use of bracketed multiple exposures, which allow me to retain highlight detail in things like window lights and neon signs when shooting at night, or shadow detail in underexposed areas of the frame I want to call attention to.
The majority of my editing is though Photoshop, with the process starting in Adobe CameraRAW. I’ll take each of my bracketed exposures and make my initial adjustments there to things like color temperature, saturation, highlight/shadow detail and perspective correction.
Starting with whichever is the most overall balanced exposure, I’ll then place my other bracketed frames over my base shot using layer masks. Sometimes doing this manually works easier for me where I can “paint” in elements from the other frames into my base exposure, and sometimes it works better to use luminosity masks in order to achieve a cleaner look.
This can be very time consuming, but I quite enjoy the process and the level of manual control over using an automated piece of software to blend frames. Additionally, the final result will be free of some of the common artifacts that can occur with using HDR software such as halos or ghosting.
Once I have an overall balanced exposure with the desired amount of shadow and highlight detail re-inserted into the picture, I then look into my color grading and fine detail options. I tend to use Nik Color Efex pro for achieving the overall “final” result. This now free plug in for Lightroom and Photoshop has a heap of great tools which allow me to make tweaks to individual colors, increase or soften specific details, and can be used as dramatically or minimally as you desire.
I recognise that my particular style of shooting and processing forms a split opinion amongst photographers. HDR processing is easy to abuse, and I too am guilty of over-doing it on many occasions. These Before & After samples are simply meant to highlight what can be done with the power of Photoshop, and as such, I have deliberately provided the most dramatic examples.
About the author
Peter Stewart is an Australian travel and fine art photographer, currently based out of Hong Kong. You can see more of Peter’s work on his website, and you can reach out to him through Facebook and Twitter. Images used with permission.