1. Taking the photo
On a cloudy day, take your beloved camera, find something interesting and take a photo.
Make sure your camera is set to RAW mode. Include alot of sky! It doesn't matter if the sky turns out really bright. That's what we're gonna fix in the following steps. Though, do not overexposure the ground or the sky might be hard to save. So, not too bright!
Here in my shot I have actually underexposed the ground a little. Is not extremely necessary to do that, but I wanted to be sure I don't end up with any overexposed parts when I edit the picture later. Too much light is simply too much light.
2. Opening the RAW file
Open up your RAW file in your RAW editing software. It will probably not look as good as you imagined. At least, mine didn't, but that doesn't matter.
Save your RAW file untouched as a 16-bit TIFF file. Now to the smart part.
Play around with the settings for your image. Create a brighter image that looks like a longer exposure.
Exposure compensation 3.00
Fill Light 10
Noise suppression 100
Color noise suppression 60
And now do the same thing, but create a darker image where you concentrate on the sky. You can see my settings and result below.
Exposure compensation -3.00
Shadow contrast 52
Highlight contrast 64
3. Merging the exposures
Now that we have three different exposures of the same image, it's time to actually do something with them.
Open up Photomatix and go HDR > Generate. Browse for you three exposures and click OK. Wait for it to load.
You will end up with an image with extreme contrasts. This is where the magic comes in.
Go to HDR > Tone Mapping.
This opens up a new window with lots of fun stuff. Play around with each one of the controls to see what it does. But in the end, try to get an image without too much contrast.
Color Saturation: 59
Light Smoothing: 2
White Clip: 5,000%
Black Clip: 1,365%
Output bit-depth: 8-bit (This is just to save some disc space. A 16-bit TIFF image takes up almost 50 mb for me.)
Save your image as a new file.
4. Photoshop work
In Photoshop we will work with contrasts, color and all that stuff. So open the "HDR" photo.
This part is entirely up to you. I will of course go through my editing, but it could be very different from yours.
- I started by duplicating the layer and lift some shadows by going Image > Shadows/Highlights. Then I masked the sky so that this would only affect the ground.
- I added a Curves layer and enhanced the contrasts. I masked the ground get only the sky.
- Did the same thing, but with the ground and no sky. I did this in two layers because I simply wanted different contrasts on sky and ground.
- I created a new layer on top of everything and took a black to transparent gradient to darken the sky a little. I set the layer to Soft Light and lowered the exposure.
- Created some slight vinjetting by doing the same thing with the ground, on a new layer.
- The image was very blue-ish, so I created a Hue/Saturation layer, selected the blues in the sky and simply lowered the Saturation for them a little.
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