Rick Sammon’s HDR Photography Secrets
for digital photographers

Rick Sammon

Wiley Publishing, Inc.

Rick Sammon’s HDR Photography Secrets for digital photographers

Published by
Wiley Publishing, Inc.
10475 Crosspoint Boulevard
Indianapolis, IN 46256

Copyright © 2010 by Wiley Publishing, Inc., Indianapolis, Indiana

Published simultaneously in Canada

ISBN: 978-0-470-61275-0
Manufactured in the United States of America

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About the Authors

Rick Sammon

© Judith Monteferrante

Canon Explorer of Light Rick Sammon has published 36 books, and this, he feels, is his most creative effort.

His book Flying Flowers won the coveted Golden Light Award, and his book Hide and See Under the Sea won the Ben Franklin Award.

Digital Photography Secrets and Studio and On-Location Lighting Secrets, both published by Wiley, are among Rick’s best-selling titles.

Rick has photographed in almost 100 countries, and he gives more than two-dozen photography workshops (including private workshops) and presentations throughout the world each year.

He co-founded the Digital Photography Experience (www.dpexperience.com), an online digital photography learning center. He co-hosts the bi-monthly Digital Photography Experience podcast, and he hosts five shows on kelbytraining.com.

Rick has been nominated for the Photoshop Hall of Fame, and he is considered one of today’s top digital-imaging experts. He is known for cutting through lots of Photoshop “speak,” making it fun, easy and rewarding to work and play in the digital darkroom.

When asked about his photo specialty, Rick says, “My specialty is not specializing.”

See www.ricksammon.com for more information.


Acquisitions Editor
Courtney Allen

Project Editor
Jenny Brown

Technical Editor
Alan Hess

Copy Editor
Jenny Brown

Editorial Manager
Robyn Siesky

Business Manager
Amy Knies

Senior Marketing Manager
Sandy Smith

Vice President and Executive Group Publisher
Richard Swadley

Vice President and Publisher
Barry Pruett

Book Designer
Erik Powers

Media Development Project Manager
Laura Moss

Media Development Assistant Project Manager
Jenny Swisher

Thank You

As you saw on the cover of this book, I get credit for taking the pictures on these pages and for writing the tips. And sure, I put a ton of work into this project; but the truth is, I had a lot of help-just like every author. No doubt, a book is a team effort.

So I thought I’d take this opportunity to thank the folks who helped put together this work as well as those who have helped me along the path to producing this book.

The always calm and patient Courtney Allen at Wiley was my main editor and project manager. She did a great job calming me down when things did not go as planned, and she was always patient when I was impatient. Thank you, Courtney, for all your help and understanding.

Barry Pruett, VP at Wiley, also gets a big “thank you.” Thanks to my initial meeting with Barry, I have four books with Wiley and four how-to DVDs (on Canon cameras).

Behind the scenes, the following people helped bring this book to life. Thank you all for your eagle eyes and artistic flair!

Jenny Brown was my editor, making sure that what you read is actually what I meant to say. Like Courtney, she always had a smile on her face, even when she probably wanted to kill me!

Erik Powers did a wonderful job laying out this book, compiling the text and photos into pages that are easy on the eyes. Thanks, Erik, for making me look good!

Thanks, too, to Alan Hess for his technical editing.

Three Sammons get my heartfelt thanks: my wife, Susan; my son, Marco; and my Dad, Robert M. Sammon. For years, they have supported my efforts and helped with my photographs. Thank you for all your help and love. Especially, I want to thank Susan for toting my tripod all over the place and for being a great HDR assistant.

About my tripods: I use Induro tripods and Induro ball heads. My friends Joe Brady and Jeff Karp at the MAC Group fixed me up with these sturdy and lightweight tripods.

My good friend Capt. Jack gets a big thank you, too. He took a private workshop with me in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, where several of the pictures in this book were taken.

Another friend who has helped me is Juan Pons, my co-host on the Digital Photography Experience podcast (www.dpexperience.com). Juan has kept me up-to-date on new technology, which one must do in the ever-changing world of digital photography.

My mystery friend on the cover of this book is Chandler Strange, a good friend and model with whom I have worked for years.

I’d also like to thank my workshop students, many of whom have shared their wonderful HDR pictures with me.

When it comes to photo industry friends who have helped me with the book, I have more than a few.

Rick Booth, Steve Inglima, Peter Tvarkunas, Chuck Westfall and Rudy Winston of Canon USA have been ardent supporters of my work and my photography seminars. So have my friends at Canon Professional Service (CPS). My hat is off to these folks, big time!

Jeff Cable of Lexar hooked me up with memory cards and card readers, helping me capture images for this book … and all my books.

Erik Yang at Topaz Adjust is one cool dude when it comes to keeping me up to date with great tips and techniques for using Topaz Adjust.

On the digital darkroom side, Adobe’s Julieanne Kost; onOne Software’s Mike Wong and Craig Keudell; and Tony Corbell and Ed Sanchez of Nik Software are always there to get me the latest and greatest info and software. And speaking of software, Scott Kelby of Photoshop fame gets a big thank you for just being who he is: a very sharing person.

And speaking of software and HDR, two photographers inspired me to get into HDR photography and to try new techniques: Trey Ratcliff and Ben Wilmore.

Thank you all. I could not have done it without you!


For My Family


About the Authors

Thank Youk

Preface - A Walk Before the Run: Basic Photography Tips

Make Photographs

Tell a Story

Consider the Background

The Name of the Game is to Fill the Frame

Check Your Camera Settings

Choose Your Lens Wisely

Interesting Subjects Make Interesting Photographs

See the Light

Create a Sense of Depth

Move It

Take a Walk

Compose Carefully

Before HDR

Extreme HDR

About this Book

About the Layout

A New Way of Seeing

Don’t Overdo It

About the Pictures in the Book

The Impact of Subject

It’s Photography!

Adventure Awaits

Introduction: Welcome to the Magical World of HDR Photography

Bracketing is the Starting Point of HDR

Creating an Effectiveand Impressive HDR Image

Seeing Into the Shadows

Try HDR Even You Don’t Think You Need It

High Depth Range Images

Highly Do-it-Yourself Rockin’ Images

Pseudo HDR Images & HDR-like Images

Realistic or Artistic

Envision the End Result

Composing in a New Way

Life After HDR in Photoshop

Part I - To HDR or Not HDR … That is the Question

No Substitute for Good Light

RAW Files are Packed with Data

When HDR Rules

More Exposures Mean More Data

HDR Is Not a Magic Fix

The Right Light for the Situation

Strong Light Might Be the Right Light

Soft Light is Sometimes Right, Too

Always Be Prepared for HDR Photography

Part II - Must-Know Info

See the Light & Determine Bracketing

Too Few and Too Many Shots

Spot Metering Can Help

What Your Eyes See vs. What Your Camera Sees

Check Your LCD Monitor

Auto vs. Manual Bracketing

Look for Highlights and Shadows

Careful Bracketing Pays Off

Movement Can Be Okay

Two-Image HDR Images

Pseudo HDR Images

Aperture Must Remain Constant

Carefully Focus; Manually Focus

Reduce Digital Noise

Check for Chromatic Aberrations

Steady Your Camera and Try Not to Touch

Hand-Held Images Can Work

Basics are Essential

dSLR vs Compact Camera

Sharpen your HDR Images

HDR vs. RAW File Processing

Faster with Photomatix

HDR File Management Suggestion

Separate Your Shots

Part III - Photomatix: The Most Popular HDR Program

Getting Started

Generate HDR: RAW vs. JPEG

Don’t Panic

Taking Control of Your Image

Tone Compressor for Realistic Images

Tone Compressor Adjustments

Details Enhancer for Artistic Images

Detail Enhancer Adjustments

Watch the White Point and Light Mode/Smoothing

Suitable for Framing

The Subject Often Dictates the Effect

Part IV - Single File Pseudo HDR Images with Photomatix

Contrast is the Determining Factor

Starting Point

Different Options

Better Safe than Sorry


Part V - Exposure Fusion with Photomatix

Launching Exposure Fusion

Adjusting Your Images: Highlights & Shadows Adjust

Adjusting Your Image Part II

Exposure Fusion with Help from Photoshop

True HDR with Help from Photoshop

Look Closely and Carefully

Part VI - Enter Topaz Adjust

Topaz Command Center

Improving an Image

Dramatic Differences

Subtle Differences

Add Drama to a Landscape

With a Little Help from Photoshop

The Beauty is in the Details

Awaken the Artist Within

Highly Dramatic Color

Creating Color

Apply Topaz Adjust Selectively

The Softer Side of Topaz Adjust

Expect Surprises

Part VII - Photomatix Meets Topaz Adjust

Topaz Adjust: Details and Spicify

Topaz Adjust: Portrait Drama and Spicify with Noise Greatly Reduced

Topaz Adjust: Exposure Correction

Topaz Adjust: Exposure Correction with Saturation Reduced

Topaz Adjust: Portrait Smooth

Part VIII - Expanding Dynamic Range in Photoshop

Adjustment Layers are the Law

Basic Adjustments, Big Improvement

Photoshop vs. Photomatix Pseudo HDR vs. Topaz Adjust

Part IX - Expanding Dynamic Range in Adobe Camera RAW

Exposing for the Highlights

ACR Preview Window and Basic Tab

ACR vs. Photomatix

Recovery and Fill Light to the Rescue

Avoid Photo Washouts

Part X - The Lucis Pro Approach

First Look: Lucis Pro Adjustment Window

Split the Channels and Work in Black and White

Check Before You Click

Lucis Pro Meets Lucis Art

Lucis Pro vs. Photomatix Pseudo HDR

Part XI - Creating HDRs from Fast-Moving Subject Photographs

Birds in Flight at Bosque de Apache, New Mexico

Native American Action Shot

Kenya Migration

Pelican Coming in for a Landing

Lion Love Bite

Part XII - Shooting HDR Panoramas

Basic HDR Process Multiplied

Standard Photomatix HDR Processing

Let the Pano Fun Begin

Photomerge Magic

HDR Pano vs. Traditional HDR

Manual Exposure vs. Automatic Exposure

The Fun and Creativity Continue

Part XIII - Converting HDRs to B&W

Silver Efex Pro Overview

Nik Silver Efex Pro: Neutral

Nik Silver Efex Pro: Neutral

Nik Silver Efex Pro: Underexposed -1

Nik Silver Efex Pro: Antique Plate 1

Nik Silver Efex Pro: Neutral, Yellow Filter

Nik Silver Efex Neutral

Part XIV - My HDR Gear: The Stuff of Magical Imagery

Cameras, Lenses and Tripods

In-the-Field Gear

HDR Rocks!

Part XV - Cool Web Sites

True HDR Plug-in Sites

Favorite Plug-in Sites

My Web Site

Rick’s Digital Learning Center

Digital Photo Experience

Plug-In Experience

Stuck in Customs

Post Script - Learn by Questioning

More Before HDR Images

Look Ma! No Details Lost