56 of 58 people found the following review helpful
on June 14, 2011
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
When it comes to reviewing photography/Photoshop books, it really depends on where you are in your development.
This book was spot on for me in my HDR development.
He takes you through HDR step by step. First he tells you how to capture the image, how many shots you need, a tripod, cable release, set bracket to under-even-over, mirror up, and why you should experiment with JPG. Oh my goodness, nobody who is any good admits to shooting, much less using JPG! But apparently the software companies are saying that HDR may do better with JPGs than with Raw. I'm definitely going to try it.
Then he gives numerous examples of things that lend themselves to HDR. Some of it is obvious, anything with really high contrast, and anything you want to have really high contrast. Some things, like the inside of a church, however, are not so obvious.
He uses the top three software tone-maping programs, Photoshop CS5's HDR Pro, Photomatix Pro, and HDR Efex Pro from Nik. In the process, he highlights the strengths and weaknesses of each program in that particular case. He admits to preferring HDR Efex Pro, but he uses all three programs depending on the image.
He has a large section on essential Photoshop techniques, adjustment layers, adjusting brush size, layer masks, New Smart Object Via Copy, (right clicking on the layer in the layer stack). All stuff that I use all the time.
He does a good job of describing his post HDR workflow in Photoshop. If you are a regular consumer of Photoshop User TV (a podcast) it will all look familiar, the famous merge up command, duplicating a layer then using a layer blend mode to darken and create a vignette, things that may seem sophisticated, but are easy to do.
It was such a relief to see that HDR creates a lot of junk in his images too. I thought it was just me, and that I wasn't neurotic enough about keeping my sensor clean. Halos too are a constant problem, and he works around that on occasion by dropping in a sky from one of the original exposures. Yes, it seems obvious now, but I was in the "I'm going to get this HDR to work!" mindset. There's more than one way to do that.
He even has a photo where he HDR tone maps the image twice targeting different areas of the image. Again, that's not something I would have thought of. He also uses Glamour Glow, a filter from Nik a lot on his HDR images. To me that was counter intuitive because HDR is all about detail and texture, but it was an interesting twist.
His before and after images were images he had tone mapped with HDR software compared to the same images with his Photoshop post processing. I think a stronger comparison would have been a single exposure image with the camera set on matrix metering compared to his final image.
Some of his images just didn't wow me. Unfortunately, the cover image in particular. But that doesn't diminish what I learned from the book. The book to me taught me technique. It's my vision used in combination with these skills that will make or break my images.
Then when you go to the companion website to the book, as of this writing, all the content isn't up. I wanted to see the video he describes where he talks about shooting for the basement (making sure your underexposed shot appears to have no detail). This is a foreign concept to me, so I'm eager to learn more about it.
The strengths of this book far outweigh the shortcomings. It's easy to read, understand, and emulate his techniques. I like it enough I will probably buy one copy for home, and one for the office.
28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on July 7, 2011
I just finished reading and working with RC Concepcion's newest book titled The HDR Book, and I would highly recommend this book to someone getting started with HDR or if you are finding that you just can't get what you want out of your HDR images. While I know there are a lot of opinions about HDR, I have always been a fan of HDR processing. The reason is pretty simple. I still shoot film for a large format camera, and HDR gives me access to something that I could easily do with film that was very difficult for me to do before with my digital imagery.
In the zone system, Ansel Adams said that there were ten zones that photographers work with. Those ten zones referred to creating the print. Sometimes an scene will have more than ten zones of light, and film can actually capture those zones. But to get those scenes captured, you have to expose and develop the image such that the range of light captured by the film can be translated onto the print. This process is called compensating development. The result of this process is a negative that is pretty flat with very little contrast, but lots and lots of detail (sounds like a basic tone mapped file). You then do some work in the darkroom (like with Photoshop on a HDR file) and all the sudden you have a print with detail in bright windows and dark corners of a room at the same time. Because of this, the HDR process has always been pretty exciting to me.
I learned about this particular book when I attended a workshop with RC prior to the release of this book. He did several hours of training on HDR, and I learned better ways to work with my HDR files. So once the book was announced, I quickly placed an order. As you would expect from RC, the book is very clear, concise and easy to follow. He quickly covers the tools and techniques you need to capture good source files to start working in HDR. Things like a tripod, bracketing, EV compensation and ISO should not be forgotten as critical to the success of the final image.
There are several other things that RC has done that I really liked as well. The first is that all the exercise images are available for download so that you can do the exercises that are in the book along with RC's instructions. I dislike hate books that have lots of instructions and examples with the author's images, and you are expected to have your own images to follow along. In those cases, not only do I not know if I am doing the steps correctly because my screen doesn't match their screen, but often times I don't even know what would be a good image to practice with.
RC eliminated this issue by supplying the images. This makes the book even more worthwhile, because as he notes in the first chapter, HDR is not just about the post processing. You have to get some things done in capture that really impact your ability to produce great looking HDR files. If you didn't have good HDR images to work with, this book could have been a frustrating process trying to match your bad captures to very clear instructions. Luckily, this is not the case.
A second aspect of this book that I really like is the variety of subjects that get looked at with HDR. I have seen a lot of HDR online where it is pretty much the same subjects over and over, and I like how RC is able to show how HDR can be used in everything from landscapes and panoramas to interiors and architecture to portraits and black and white subjects.
I also found it very helpful that RC shows the tone mapping options in a variety of HDR programs. As he points out, all software has strengths and weaknesses. His choice to show every exercise with a tone mapped file from Photoshop CS5, Photomatix and Nik's HDR EfexPro is a great teaching tool. I also found his analysis of the tone mapping results of each program to be very helpful. In the end, I believe that showing each program rather than a single option allows the reader to see more of the impacts that software choices make in the creation of the HDR file. While I now personally lean more towards HDR EfexPro, I still keep a full copy of Photomaix on my computer because sometimes it is the right choice for an image set.
I do think the best part of this book is the education that you get on how to edit and process your images in Photoshop AFTER they are out of the HDR program of choice. RC does a fantastic job of showing that it is not just tone map and done. Show-ready work requires you to finish your work. Sure you need to understand what things like gamma, smoothing, microcontrast, and strength are, but those are only half the equation. As with my film discussion above, HDR software does nothing but give you a working negative, it is still up to the artist to develop and create the final image. Images still need color correction, spot healing, cropping, masking/merging and lots of other adjustments to be finished. I think the reason that some people don't like HDR is that the images they see on Flickr only have half the work done. People create the negative then post it and call it good. Just like the capture of a RAW file, HDR files need to be finished to complete the vision of the artist. And no, I don't think the vision is ever just the default settings of a software program. RC guides you step-by-step in Photoshop with each excise on what he does to finish the various images. If more people took these techniques to heart, I believe that HDR discussions would return to talks about the image rather than the technique.
Finally, I really enjoyed the "Now it's your turn" exercises in the book. RC still offers some guidance, but these excises are really there for you to tryout various things on your own and create your own interpretations of an image. Anyone can copy setting from a book, but working on new images and generating your own visual stamp based on just completed lessons is a wonderful teaching tool. I also liked the chapter on Black and White image creation. This is one area of HDR that I think gets ignored a lot and shouldn't. HDR does a great job of giving you lots of tones to work with in an image. And black and white image are about changes and shifts in tones. If you are a black and white shooter, HDR can really make an impact on your work.
Even after sitting in a classroom with RC, I found this book to be very helpful. I even ordered a second copy to give to a friend who wants to try this "HDR thingy." I can't imagine a better place to start than with RC's guidance.
89 of 103 people found the following review helpful
To understand what is wrong with "The HDR Book" it might help to understand how high dynamic range (HDR) photography works. The human eye discriminates a range of tones about twice that of a digital camera. That means that the human eye can see details in shady or sunny spots in a scene where a standard digital photo would just show black or white. The HDR process combines photographs taken at different exposures so that the light areas are selected from the darkest photos and the dark areas are taken from the lightest photos. The tonalities are then remapped. The blackest tone in the scene still appears as black, but some tonalities that might have appeared as black in a standard photo show as dark grey tonalities, just as a standard photograph's white tones would also show detail. An HDR photo can show the same amount of detail in dark and bright areas as the human eye sees.
All of this occurs by shifting tonalities in the photograph, either changing all of the tonalities of a certain level, or by changing tonalities based on the ratio of tonalities of adjacent pixels. In order to achieve that, HDR software offers a variety of tools, each represented by a slider, that offer different methods of shifting. As a result of the options offered, the photographer can not only extend the range of light but also change tonalities to achieve what may be considered surrealistic effects, although surrealism is not necessarily inherent in HDR processing.
In "The HDR Book" the author begins by introducing the techniques of capturing images for HDR processing, like bracketing and using a tripod. Next he discusses what subjects are particularly suited to HDR photography, although his emphasis seems to be on subjects that will lend themselves to the surrealistic approach. The third chapter discusses the software to be used in HDR processing, including Photoshop CS5, Photomatix Pro and HDR Efex Pro, with an emphasis on processing in Photoshop after creating the HDR image. (This creation process is known as tone mapping.) He next offers 10 different images that he captured and processed first in HDR, and then in post HDR processing in Photoshop.
My experience is that many photographers are interested in extending the tonality of their images to approximate the human eye without adding any special effects but almost all of Concepcion's work seems to be of the surrealistic variety. This might have been mitigated if he had offered detailed explanations of how the various sliders in the three pieces of software covered affected tonality and interacted but his advice seems to be to experiment with the sliders. When it comes to the sample images, a single screen capture and a short paragraph are devoted to the sliders that he moved in tone mapping and then several screen captures and paragraphs explain how the pictures were processed after tone mapping. Moreover, the Photoshop adjustments that he covers range from the simplest techniques that even tyros will be familiar with to intricate techniques that only experts might consider. There is little general explanation of these techniques so that to benefit the most, one should be well familiar with Photoshop.
I was disappointed that while discussing the details enhancer process of Photomatix Pro, Concepcion did not mention some of the other HDR processes available in Photomatix, like tone compressor and exposure fusion, especially since these processes may prove useful for individuals not seeking a surrealistic image.
I have no doubt there is a need for learning about post-tone mapping Photoshop cleanup. However, this book does not provide much help in understanding the tone mapping uses of the facilities in the discussed pieces of HDR software.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on July 4, 2011
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
The only positive I got out of the book was some of the tips for using NIK's HDR program. Most of the rest was pretty much standard stuff you would do with any picture, so not quite too sure why the hype on the book about post HDR process. I really like RC, but sorry guy, this just isn't worth the $24 price on Kindle (but read on an iPad).
Better to put money into a book on Photoshop or Elements for post processing. If you don't already know layers you won't get anything out of this book, and if you already know how to use layers, you probably don't need this book.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on December 18, 2011
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I purchased another HDR book at the same time as this one. Nice book to, great photos I like, instruction for me and my learning style was lacking what I needed.
This book is set up so you can learn no matter your level or learning style.
To me the author was unknown and when reading other reviews I decided to chance the purchase and I am not disappointed.
I entered this subject (HDR) figuring one quick fix for eye-popping photos and yes it can stop there. Many software manufactures, each with their own claims carpet the HDR market.
This book takes you into many options in software and how to marry into Photoshop and get even more brilliant photos, step by step. Nice for my particular learning style and much appreciated.
There are tutorial's on line by the author to further aid you in refining your particular style outlined in the book.
Photography, to me has always been much like cooking, season to taste.
This book allows you to explore with guidance and then spring forth to find your own recipe's in life and experiment for more self discovery.
For me an excellent purchase.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on June 27, 2011
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
True this book devotes only a chapter on using the actual HDR software... And only a chapter or two to taking the HDR photo's... but really that is all that's needed.
The difference to great HDR and overdone/crappy/mundane HDR is the post-HDR work done in Photoshop/Lightroom/etc... and this is were the bulk of this book is devoted. And where the is book shines.
I have been working through these extensive and detailed tutorials and it really is wonderful. Different types of HDR shots require different post-HDR techniques. From cityscapes, to landscapes, to indoor, to people... You learn how to approach each type of photo and what work is required to make it special.
I highly recommend this book.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on February 1, 2012
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
I am a Lightroom user, and I have the full complement of Nik filter plug-ins. This book is for photoshop users, but that is not made clear in the write-up. Yes, there are some good tips on capture techniques. But if you don't use photoshop, you might want to look at HDR Efex Pro, After the Shoot.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on October 13, 2011
I made the mistake of reading this AFTER a weekend of HDR shooting. My setup was the exact opposite of everything RC says to do, minus the tripod. He takes you through each photo, showing you all the popular HDR software screen shots as he goes. Incredibly useful teaching instrument.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on July 19, 2011
I guess it's fair to say that there are few topics in Photography that cause as much of a reaction, be it good or bad, than HDR...people either love it or loathe it!
I guess it's also fair to say that most people's exposure (excuse the pun) to HDR would have been the highly overprocessed, surrealistic, fantasy look with masses of detail, dark clouds and saturated colours. However, there's so much more on offer than that, as this new book by Photographer, Photoshop Guru and all round `Go To Guy' RC Concepcion shows...
As you would expect the book starts off by covering the photography side of things with regards to what it takes to capture images for making a HDR image; camera settings, number of exposures, equipment and so on and then moves on to discuss what kind of images should be considered for HDR.
Like most things, when we discover and start dabbling in a new technique there can be a tendency to use it on everything and HDR especially is one of those techniques that needs to be handled with `kid gloves' and used wisely as it definitely won't suit everything. RC does a great job of discussing where it can be appropriately used; sure it's not a definitive list but through his obvious experience of HDR he clearly has a pretty good idea where and where not to use it.
Where I think this book is set to be a winner though is not how it covers the `capture' side of the HDR but in covering the post-processing side of things; let me explain...
There's no question that HDR is an extremely useful technique to have in your photography `tool bag' allowing full detail in the shadow and highlight areas across an entire image but if that's the case why has it attracted such vocal reactions against it in the past? ... well, the answer lies in the post processing, and this is exactly where RC nails it!
Capturing the necessary images to make up a HDR isn't rocket science. Once you've chosen your subject and you understand how to capture the necessary shots all at varying exposures, you're up and running in no time but it's how you `complete' the image when sat at the computer that it all comes together.
Having explained the capture process, the rest of the book is made up of projects showing how to post-process a whole range of images such as dimly lit interiors, landscape, real estate, black and white images and portraits...yes HDR can be used extremely well for portrait shots but again it's knowing the how, when and what that is so important and this RC covers in great detail.
What I particularly like about RC's approach throughout the book is that he doesn't push any one particular processing software and rather deals with the 3 main players (Photomatix, Nik HDR Efex Pro and Photoshop) and covers the pros and cons of each, so that you can make your choice of what to use as opposed to feeling compelled to make yet another purchase.
Through an understanding of the editing process RC shows how to edit your images to be `photorealistic' through to the `surrealistic' depending on what you prefer and as you'd expect, the pages are packed full of some wonderful examples.
In the past I've `dabbled' in HDR but it's something that I tended to steer away from because I, like most, had a preconceived idea of what it was having seen the `fantasy' type images in the past. However, when you look at the work of folks like Joel Grimes who makes use of HDR in his images I'm now of the opinion that I need to look at it a lot closer and that I'm going to look at putting together some HDR backgrounds for use in my workshop [Link].
So, to summarise...RC's done it again by producing another `killer' book and a book that people have been wanting for quite some time...
Finally HDR isn't a dirty word!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 30, 2011
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I'm a bit of a novice, but I do love well done HDR photos. I'm not going to sit here and debate the merits of HDR in my review. What I will do is succintly say that RC has done a great job laying out the technical how-to from taking the photos to showing you the post processing (from 3 different HDR software packages). He does go into some soft guidelines, as well, for what he thinks makes a great HDR scene. I think hes pretty spot on, but even if you don't (this is an art after all) his how-to is great.