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Clarification of the Sliders
on July 8, 2011
Tony Sweet has long been admired for his imaginative approach to photography. In this book he turns his attention to HDR processing.
Although the book can be studied as a lovely portfolio, I found that Sweet's discussion of how he processed each image (or since this is HDR photography, series of images) added to my knowledge of this subject. Sweet discusses the use of two different pieces of software: HDR Soft's Photomatix and Nik's HDR Efex Pro. His discussions of each piece of software appear similar at first, but close examination shows a slight variation. For Photomatix he first describes the software itself, including a brief description of the effect of each slider. (His description of each of the functions is just different enough from the description the software itself provides when one rolls over a particular control to provide additional insights into its purpose.) He then provides a number of photographs, indicating in a chart the settings that he has changed from the default with his reason for the change. For example, for a particular picture, he states "Saturation: Default is 70, Set to 100 to add color to a very drab scene." Next he discusses the post-HDR processing that he used on the image, relying heavily on plug-ins like Nik Color Efex Pro Tonal Contrast and Viveza. Each example includes a film strip of the images captured, the picture as it emerges from Photomatix and a large picture of the image after post-HDR processing.
For HDR Efex Pro he changes his methodology a bit, using a narrative form rather than a chart of the changes that he made to the software default. I found this approach a little harder to understand, but that may have been because of my experience with Photomatix. (I was unable to follow his efforts as well as I would have liked because I was unable to successfully install the trial version of HDR Efex Pro on my Windows 7-64 bit machine; try the trial version before buying the software.) Even though the narrative alone did not seem as effective as the chart of changes, it should still prove useful in learning to use this software.
Sweet covers the full range of outcome from realistic to slightly surrealistic, but not all out surrealistic. His main emphasis in Photomatix is on Details Enhancer although there is an image processed in Exposure Fusion. Individuals who feared that the Details Enhancer could not provide realistic images should be able to achieve that goal after reading the book and may find that that Detail Enhancer offers a degree of control not found in Exposure Fusion.
The combination of the basic description of a function and the changes made, with an explanation of the reasons for the change worked for me. For example I never fully realized how the Photomatix microcontrast slider brought out details. As a result of his discussion about using Color Efex Pro Tonal Contrast, I decided to try that plug-in and now I am a confirmed believer.
The only thing I wish the book provided was a way to download a few of the images to follow along with the process described in the book, but even without this feature I found this book extremely helpful in honing my HDR skills. Even experienced HDR photographers may benefit from reading this book.