How to create and tone-map a HDR photo

Many cameras are not capable of capturing as many details as our eyes can see in a scene. In order to get more details in your photo, you need to take photos of the same scene that have different exposures and merge them to create a HDR photo. A HDR photo just means that the photo has a lot of details you can work with. To bring the details out of the photo, you have to take advantage of a technique, which is known as tone mapping. There are plenty of HDR photo apps with the function of tone mapping. But most of them are not designed for beginners in photo editing. If you are looking for a beginner-friendly app, please continue reading this post. In this post, I'll introduce an easy-to-use HDR photo creator to you and show you how to make a HDR photo and tone-map the created HDR photo with it.

Photo HDR by Vertexshare

Create and tone-map a HDR photo with Photo HDR 

With a suggestive name, Photo HDR is a piece of professional HDR photo processing software. It lets you quickly create a HDR photo from photos with different levels of exposure. Besides, it allows you to adjust the photo effect by using a wide range of parameters and decorative objects.

Launch the program and you will be greeted by a clean window. After you load differently exposed photos into the program, the HDR technique will be applied to them immediately. Click on "Next" and you will be taken to a new window with a neatly organized structure. Here you can enhance the visual aspects of the created HDR photo. The window consists of three panels. A set of preset effects are located in the left-side panel. You can see small preview thumbnails of these interesting effects. The middle panel is a large preview area where you can see the result of applying any change to the photo in real-time. A variety of parameters are located in the right-side panel. You can alter the contrast, saturation, and brightness. Moreover, you can modify the local contrast, make a tone map, and squeeze the dynamic range. What's more, you can add a graduated filter effect and vignette filter effect to your photo. In addition, you are allowed to adjust the sharpness of the photo and reduce the noise level in the photo. Other parameters include Lab adjustment, channel mixer, vibrance, and soft light.

On the whole, Photo HDR is a nice HDR photo editor that enables you to make a HDR photo and fine-tune its attributes using pretty handy settings. Photo HDR is a piece of commercial software, so the free version leaves a watermark to your changed photo. There is no limit on the functions for the free version and the price for the pro version only costs $29.95 for lifetime use.

Now, let's dive into the part of how to use Photo HDR to create a HDR photo and tone-map it.

How to create a HDR photo and tone-map it with Photo HDR

Step 1.

  • Take three photos at different exposure levels. One has a balanced exposure. The other two are respectively underexposed and overexposed. Drop three photos into the box "Drag and Drop Your Photo here". You can also import the photos into the program by clicking on the "Add" button. The three photos will be combined into a HDR photo.

Merge three photos into a single HDR photo

Step 2.

  • Click on the "Next" button. Go to the right-side panel. Click on the "Tone-Mapping" button to activate the function of adjusting the parameters. The parameters in this section are strength, gamma, edge stopping, scale, and reweighting iterates.

Strength

To adjust the overall effect of tone mapping, use this parameter. If you increase the value, the highlights will be raised and the shadows will be lowered .If you decrease the value, the highlights will be lowered and the shadows will be raised.

Gamma

This parameter biases the action of tone mapping towards shadows or highlights. It works for adjusting the mid tones. As the value is increased, the image will look darker. As the value is decreased, the photo will look brighter.

Edge Stopping

This parameter has an influence on the sensitivity to edges. To be specific, the higher the value, the more likely an illumination change will be taken as an edge.

Scale

This parameter is used to give a definition the difference between the global contrast and local contrast. The higher the value, the bigger the detail to be boosted needs to be.

Reweighting Iterates

Sometimes, tone mapping results in the cartoonish appearance and soft halos. This parameter is used to iron out these issues.

  • Drag each slider to adjust the effect until it suits your needs.

Tone-map a HDR photo

Step 3.

Press the "Save as" button to export the HDR photo to a desired location.

How to create a HDR photo and make a tone map in Photoshop

Besides Photo HDR, Photoshop is another tool you can use to convert three photos into a single HDR photo and further tone map it. Photoshop gives several methods to achieve this. Today, I'd like to introduce one of them. Follow the steps below to create a HDR photo and make a tone map with Photoshop.

  • Open Photoshop. Click on "File" on the top menu bar, go to "Scripts", and click on "Load Files into Stack".
  • Click on the "Browse" button to import three photos with different exposures of the same scene. Click on "OK". Three photos will be loaded into the program as separate layers of the same file.
  • Drag the layer of the highest exposure to the top. Drag the layer of the lowest exposure to the middle.
  • Select the layer of the highest exposure. Click on "Layers", go to "Layer Mask", and click on "Reveal All". Then, click on the "Image" and select "Apply Image". A dialog pops up. Check the "Invert" box and click on "OK".
  • Select the layer of the lowest exposure. Click on "Layers", go to "Layer Mask", and click on "Reveal All". Choose "Apply Image" in the expanded "Image" menu. Leave the "Invert" box unchecked and click on "OK".
  • Zoom in the photo. Perhaps you find some inconsistencies between layers, which are the so-called "ghosts". Select the layer of the highest exposure. Set the foreground color to while. Choose the "Brush" tool on the left-hand toolbar. Drag the brush over the ghosts to remove them from the photo.
  • Save the tone-mapped photo as a PNG or JPG.

Create and tone-map a HDR photo in Photoshop

Conclusion

You want to make your photo look realistic as much as possible? If so, make a HDR photo first. After you get a HDR photo, tone mapping is an important step to reveal the details. With the aid of Photo HDR or Photoshop, you can get the job done with very little effort. If someday you find other apps to help you complete the task, please let me know in the comment section below.

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