HDR Photography Tutorial 1: Strong Black & White HDR Photo

12 September 2016
HDR Photography Tutorial 1: Strong Black & White HDR Photo

I often get questions about how I edit my photos like the one in this tutorial. It’s difficult to explain how I edit a photo, because every photo needs it’s own way of editing. There are many ways to Rome, but there are a few editing techniques I almost use in every photo. I will explain these techniques in this tutorial.

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Tutorial introduction

– In this tutorial I use my own photo as an example –
All the steps I explain in this tutorial are based on personal experiences.

Dramatic, surreal and mystic elements are the most interesting things in photography for me. The photo in this tutorial is an example of how you can emphasize the dramatic atmosphere by using the famous software: Adobe Photoshop (CS3 & CS4).
Many people will think the editing process does all the work, but a good beginning makes a good ending.

Why HDR?

It is important for me to get as many details as possible. For example: snowy weather results in big contrasts. It is almost impossible to get all the details from the dark and light areas without using HDR (High Dynamic Range).

The photo from this tutorial is a HDR photo. Which means it consists of 3 photos with different exposure settings.

Step 1: Let the editing begin

When you are satisfied about the HDR photos you took, you can go on with editing in Photoshop.

1 ) Open the three photos in Photoshop and put them together in one file. Open the “Layer Window” (F7) . For the overview I recommend giving photos names by it’s exposure stop.

HDR Tutorial: HDR in photoshop

Now you have ordened your photos it is time for a little trick.

2 ) Duplicate the top layer and set the copied layer to “Overlay”.
With this blendingoption you can preserve the highlights and shadows of the base color.

HDR Tutorial: HDR photoshop overlay

Result till now
HDR Tutorial: HDR Colour result

As you can see this result is far better then the original. The contrasts are good, the movement in the clouds are appreciable and the overall atmosphere is more dramatic. The only thing is that I prefer darker clouds for making this scene just a bit more dramatic.

Step 2: Using Masks

In this step we are going the use the “Layer Mask” function. This function gives you great flexibility in editing by using this in combination with “Brushes”.

1 ) Open the “Layer Window” (F7) and bring the “-2 stop” layer on top. Like the example below.

HDR Tutorial: Photoshop HDR with 2 stops

2 ) Put a layermask on the top layer “-2 stop”. Go to “Layer” -> “Layer Mask” -> “Reveal All” or check the little button in the “Layer Window” like the example below.

HDR Tutorial: HDR dark clouds

I don’t like the dark building in layer “-2 stop” so I will use the “Brush” to remove it. By doing this you only use the clouds from layer “-2 stop” and use the other layers for the highlights and shadows on the building.

3 ) It is time to get rid of the building. Press “B” to select the “Brush”. After this you see the brushoptions toolbar. Change “Opacity” to 50%, select a softround brush and set it to “300px”. Like the example below.

HDR Tutorial: HDR Photoshop brush

Don’t forget to select the “Layer Mask”.

HDR Tutorial: HDR Photoshop layer mask

Set the colour to black and “Brush” on the building to remove it.

Result till now
HDR Tutorial: HDR Photoshop result

Step 3: Convert to Black & White

There are a lot of ways how you can convert a colourphoto to Black & White. I prefer the easiest way in photoshop by using “Fills”.

1 ) Open the “Layer Window” and click on the “Fill/Adjustment” button and select “Black & White”.

HDR Tutorial: HDR Black & White tutorial

A popup will open with all the Black & White settings.
There is not a certain setting I always use, it depends on which photo I edit. I just play with the sliders till I got a nice strong Black & White photo.
Keep in mind. Don’t push on the sliders too hard or you will see compression in the high contrast areas.

HDR Tutorial: HDR settings

Result till now
HDR Tutorial: HDR Tutorial result

Step 4: Finishing touches

Now the Black & White converting is ready, it is time to add a bit more contrast and put some highlights.

1 ) Open the “Layer Window”, click on the “Fill/Adjustment” button and select “Brightness/Contrast…”.

HDR Tutorial: HDR Photography contrast

A popup will open with the Contrast settings.

HDR Tutorial: HDR Photography settings

2 ) It is time to bring some final highlights on the building. Open the “Layer Window” and make a new layer.

HDR Tutorial: HDR Photoshop layers

Set this new layer to “Overlay”, take a brush (white colour) and bring some highlights (see step 2.3 how to use a brush).

HDR Tutorial: HDR Photoshop highlights

Final result

For more information check out the Photography Video Tutorial below
I hope you have learned a bit of the techniques I use. If you have a question about this tutorial, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

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