HDR Video

Trey Ratcliff is Mr. HDR and has been shooting and promoting HDR photography for years now.

HDR or high dynamic range allows the digital photographer to create amazing full-range images. dsc0039_hdr1

That’s one of my HDR shots taken a few years ago at a weekend workshop on HDR.)

HDR compensates for the fact that the best digital cameras can only capture a limited number (You’ll hear instructors say anything from 3 to 13 or 14.) stops of light. But that’s a fraction of what the human eye can see. When I teach dynamic range I hold my arms straight out from my body when I describe the range of light the human eye can see  and then as I talk about the limited number the camera sees I move my arms so that my hands are straight out in front of me and about a foot apart. This visual indication gives students the idea that their camera doesn’t see as much as their eyes.

So when it comes to photography often the dynamic range in the photo exceeds by a wide margin the ability of the camera to record the image.HDR photography allows the photographer to capture three or more images and merge them into a final photo that has a greatly enhanced dynamic range.

Of course most of what we see online when it comes to HDR photography is way over the top and becomes pretty boring after the first few images. But HDR in the hands of a photographic artist can be very subtle and very very pretty.

So getting back to Trey, he’s got a 40-minute introduction to his HDR how-to video. The intro video is complete enough to give advanced amateurs some great ideas in how to use HDR. But if you’re new to digital photography his full-length video might be the way to go but at $99 it’s not cheap but it is complete.

BTW Trey is an expert in HDR and uses all the tools including Photoshop. There are much simpler HDR stand-alone editors out there. I use Lightroom and NIK’s amazing HDR Pro with with its presets make HDR easy.

You can learn HDR on your own or find lots of how-to videos online. But if you want instruction from the master (who BTW lives in New Zealand and his images are amazing) then Trey’s video might be just the ticket to amazing images.


HDR Done Right

Most the HDR which stands for high-dynamic range is atrocious. Overly bright, no content worth watching, HDR photography too often calls attention to itself and not the image.

So where to go it you want to see HDR done right?xBurning-Man-Day-1,P20,P281006,P20of,P201210,P29-X3.jpg.pagespeed.ic.AsYbT53j2a

Trey Ratcliff is Mr. HDR. He’s been training people online and in person on how to shoot three to five frames on manual or aperture priority (so the shutter speed changes in each image and not the depth of field) using a tripod (You can do hand held in daylight.) to create fabulous images.

How fabulous? (That’s a Trey Radcliff image on right. Isn’t it great?)

The image shown here is one of Trey’s from his most recent slideshow from Burning Man 2013. (See the SmugMug site which has a full-scale slide show tab to get the full effect.)

This is Trey’s four time at the annual collection (50,000 people showed up this year) of artists and creative types in the Nevada Desert.

You might be surprised to learn that Trey shot the whole slide show with a Sony NEX-7! I point this out because most folks who read this column will be shooting with a DSLR and wonder if the mirrorless Sony could do the job.xi-4VCZhph-S.jpg.pagespeed.ic.zV-4DLgLx4

For the most part, any camera that will allow HDR autobracketing or has a manual control and a tripod socket can be coached into doing HDR shots. However, when it comes to B-I-G prints in HDR nothing works better than lots of megapixels but lots of megapixels often means lots of camera.

The NEX-7 bangs out lots of megapixels in a hand-holdable (almost pocketable) small camera body. This is one of the reasons I went to Olympus Pens for my travel camera system after hiking my Nikon across Brazil. Won’t do that again!

BTW Trey has a newsletter which is very good. Here’s a link. Try shooting HDR. I think you’ll love it.

BTW I use NIK’s HDR Pro for my post processing.



Why We Watch Webinars

I’ve spent the last two days watching family portrait photographer Michele Celentano photographing a family of nine!

Why would a professional like myself take two days to watch someone else teach family photography?

Because even a pro can learn something new.

Celentano is a classical photographer in the mode of Monty Zucker and she’s terrific.

If you want to learn how to shoot portraits and especially family portraits you can buy the three-day workshop downloads from Creativelive.com for a special $99 until tomorrow when the regular price of $149 goes back into effect.

BTW if you’ve got Lightroom or Photoshop or Aperture NIK is offering its entire gallery of external editors including Colour Efex Pro, HDR Pro, Silver Efex Pro and Viveza plus its sharpening and noise reduction software for a special $149 price. The whole editing package sells for well over $500 so this is a deal from Google which recently bought NIK.

Nikon’s Capture NX2 RAW Editor

One of my students (so K. this is for you) who uses a Nikon DSLR found a copy of Nikon’s proprietary RAW editing software Capture NX2 and she wondered if it was something she could use.

After we talked about the difference between shooting JPG images where the camera makes all the decisions and essentially bakes the image so there’s not much you can do to change any of the parameters like brightness, contrast, noise reduction, etc. as compared to shooting RAW images where you make all the decisions in post-production software like Photoshop, Photoshop Elements or Lightroom.

Many new photographers just want to view their images of their vacations or the kids at Christmas and shooting JPGs which can be viewed in just about any software including IPhoto which is included on all MACs or Picasa which can be downloaded for free and can be used on MACs or PCs. Most point-and-shoot cameras only create JPGs but all DSLRs give you the choice. In fact, all DSLRs (I think) allow you the choice of shooting RAW files plus JPGs so you can have the best of both worlds (with the caveat that you’re using up twice the memory space on your memory cards and causing the camera to do more processing during each shot).

But let’s get back to Capture NX2. Here’s a link to Capture NX2 After The Shoot book.

Many professional and advanced amateurs shooting almost exclusively in RAW believe that NX2 is the best RAW photo editor for Nikon NEF (Raw) files. Some say it’s better than Lightroom 3 ($299) which is a huge favourite with wedding and special event photographers who shoot a lot of images on each job. Some say it’s better than Photoshop ($800) which is the industry standard and is used by everyone who wants to highly manipulate their images. Portrait and landscape photographers use Photoshop as do top-notch wedding photographers who use a lot of secondary software plug-ins to create photographic works of art. (BTW these are the photographers who get $5k to $10K a wedding and are in high demand.)

So if you’re a Nikon shooter and you find a copy of NX2 in your box what have you got?

NX2 is a full-featured, non-destructive RAW editor that uses something called U-Point technology which allows you to drag a pointer directly onto the photo and change anything locally right on the image with having to make masks (as in Photoshop). Not only is U-Technology super fast but it doesn’t create huge image sizes which can be a problem in Photoshop.

I find NX2 now to be very fast on my MacBook Pro which is a big improvement over previous versions which could be slow. NX2 also can use NIK’s Color Efex filter software editor which is a very versatile tool and well worth the cost.

NX2 also does what’s called non-destructive editing. In other words you never edit your original file, which some software editors do. With NX2 you can always return back to your original RAW file.

In NX2 it’s recommended that you begin with global adjustments such as cropping, straightening, noise reduction, white balancing, overall brightness and contrast changes before moving to specific changes such as selective colour or sharpening changes before ending with overall sharpening and outputting a finished JPG image (which is where you would have started if you were shooting JPGs but in this case you’ve made all the decisions about how your image is going to look).

It takes some patience to learn NX2 but that’s the same with any photo editor and trust me NX2 is a lot easier to use than Photoshop and does as great a job as a photo editor. Can’t ask for more than that.


NIK Workshops

One of the advantages of shooting in RAW is you can open these images in any of the high-end photo editors (Photoshop, Lightroom, Aperture, NX Capture) and create your own custom JPG for viewing online or printing at home or by a lab.

But a RAW photo editor is just the start. With the exception of NX Capture (which is designed mainly for RAW NEF files from Nikon cameras)all of the above editors work with NIK’s family of software products. (NX Capture does work with NIK’s Color Efex Pro 3 filter package. NX Capture is my preferred editor for my individual Nikon images while LR 3 is my editor for working on my commercial special events work. Aperture is for MAC computers only but is available right now for $70 which is a bargain. Adobe’s Photoshop Elements (under $100) will also work with all NIK products with the exception of HDR Pro.

I’ve got the whole NIK family and I can recommend every program. My favourites are Color Efex Pro 3 and Silver Efex Pro 2. I got HDR Efex Pro and it’s great fun and easy to use.

But best of all, NIK has online webinars where wonderful teachers walk you through using the products. If you can’t join the webinars, there are online tutorial videos here. Fabulous products – great teachers – good company 🙂

NIK gets better and better

Want to learn a lot about photography in a hurry? Then click on over to NIK Software’s Learn tab and start watching the videos. The gang at NIK has figured out how to produce and deliver really worthwhile online webinars.

Sure the content is largely about their software products but there’s lots in the webinar for everyone.

Having said that I recommend all their products and I’ve got them all and use them all the time.

If you’re going to pick one start with Color Efex Pro 3 which is a wonderful collection of filters).

Silver Efex Pro 3 (which is coming out next month and I’ve already placed my order) is an upgrade from Silver Efex Pro 2 which produces stunning digital black and white photos just like I used to make in the wet darkroom at the daily newspaper where I was one of the staff photographers.

If you can afford the entire collection (sold at a big discount when you buy it all), you’ll have software solutions which you will use on after every photo shoot.

One new package is HDR Efex Pro. I used to think that creating high dynamic range images was complicated. With NIK’s HDR Efex Pro it’s really simple. I’d call it one-button processing (which you can do) but there are so many other controls that makes it sound too basic as it’s one of the most sophisticated pieces of software in my arsenal.

But best of all, regardless of which package you buy, NIK has online support and teaching which is almost as good as what I do in classes 🙂

NIK’s HDR Efex Pro

I used NIK’s HDR Efex Pro software on a couple of my images from Saturday’s 2010 Toronto Zombie Walk.

HDR software is often overused by some photographers and the image ends up looking really fake.

Of course, when you’re dealing with zombies who cares 🙂 I also discovered that an image like this one which is actually just a little out of focus still works when given the HDR touch.

But really great HDR images don’t look fake. They look better.

NIK’s HDR Efex Pro is not only hugely powerful but absolutely dead-drop simple to use.

It’s easy to load a single image (I couldn’t handhold the camera steady enough or get my subjects to stay still enough to get three bracketed  images in close enough registration to upload into HDR Efex Pro) or multiple images (which is really the correct way to use the software. A tripod is essential for getting the best registration) .

From there, I can use any of the several dozen presets or go manual with the slider controls and the U-Point Technology.

If you haven’t used U-Point Technology (found in NIK software including the amazing NX Capture 2 RAW editor for Nikon files) you have no idea what you’re missing.

It’s way faster than Photoshop and works very differently to create fabulous changes to your images. Best of all you can selectively change almost any aspect of your image without having to go to the trouble of creating a Photoshop layer which can create huge file sizes.

The image of the girl here is done in NIK’s HDR Efex Pro. I just kept the effect down a little and I think it looks way better than the original image.

One of the best things about NIK software is the company offers virtually unlimied support.  The online live webinars and archived demos area really useful. I’ve attended scores of the webinars and they are very professionally run and full of information on how to incorporate NIK’s products into your workflow. They start and end on time and the content is always first class.

For example today I’m watching a HDR webinar being conducted by master photographer John Barclay. This is so cool.

NIK makes my digital darkroom much, much more powerful than anything I could have done back in my wet darkroom days. Sure I miss the smell of the D-76 and the fixer chemicals but now I can sit in a nicely lit office working on my Macbook Pro 🙂