Glendale at Night – HDR Processing Marathon

I had great fun tonight processing the photos that I took last night in downtown Glendale (see my post from yesterday).  I had sixteen sets of three bracketed shots to work with, and I processed them all. Once again I used Photomatix to create the HDR image, and then did some post-processing in Paintshop Pro.  Tonight I did a little more experimentation during the processing in Photomatix, and I actually wound up using the Tone Compression tab more often than the Detail Enhancement tab.  The photos I was processing had a great deal of contrast, and the Tone Compression option seemed to produce a more pleasing result.

Here’s an example of the difference between the two processes.  This first HDR was produced using the Tone Compression option:

Bitz-ee Mama's - Tone Compression HDR

The photo has a great late-night diner feel to it with the roof fading into the night sky. The “Open” sign is clearly visible in the window, and the lights on the building provide some nice areas of contrast and interest.

Now here is an HDR produced from the same three photos, but this time I used the Detail Enhancement option:

Bitz-ee Mama's - Detail Enhancement

This shot kept all the detail of the trees, even the green one behind the building (keep in mind this was shot at about 9:00 PM so it was dark back there).  I’m not sure which of the shots I like best, but they’re certainly different.

Another first for tonight’s processing was that I got some experience in using layers in Paintshop Pro to do some burning and dodging on one of my HDR’s.  I shot a street scene, and during the third bracket shot (the over-exposure), a car drove by and I got the typical red and white trail of lights, which was fine.  However, it also created some glare on the backs of some of the vehicles parked on the side of the street.  When the HDR processed, this glare was badly burned out in areas, and no matter what I did with the sliders in Photomatix, I could not fix it.  Here’s the shot with the bad area highlighted:

HDR with burnout

So I decided to try my hand at masking.  I opened up the best of the three shots, which was the one at normal exposure, and then I layered the HDR image on top of it.  Then I used my Eraser tool to “erase” the burned out area and allow the clean image to show through.  I wound up totally removing the light trail since part of it was burned out–I couldn’t just leave part of it and erase the rest.  The result was not perfect by any means, but it did look a heck of a lot better, especially when viewed as a normal web image at 600X400:

HDR masked

So now, it’s after midnight, and I’m in the process of uploading my shots to Flickr, and for some reason it’s taking forever.  Probably because I’m ready to call it a night and go to bed!




  1. I’m not sure which version I like better either. I like the warm glow that the detail enhanced picture brings to the lighting and the cars but I do like how the top of the picture fades to the night sky in the other one. Perhaps a combination of both?

    Nice work using the layers and masks as well!

  2. I like the second one of the diner. I like being able to see the sky. And I feel like the trailing lights in the street lead me around the shot, so I like that one, too.

  3. I like the second one a bit more but it is clearly HDR. However I would have taken the shot earlier and gotten some more sky with it. On the burnout, that’s a standard problem with HDR. I used to think I was the only one with this problem but if you get Trey Ratcliff’s book (A World in HDR) you will see he even has some in his HDRs.
    Keep working on the HDRs it’s great.

  4. Interesting post – comparisons are always fascinating to me. Looks like you did a great job layering and masking too, congrats. I know how time-consuming that stuff can be. And by the way, I love the light circles in your previous post!

  5. Thanks for the great feedback everyone! I appreciate your taking time to read my post and comment on my photos, and I especially value your tips and advice! Namaste!

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