HDR from RAW?

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    I haven’t done any HDR for a while, but I remember someone saying you can make an HDR out of a single raw file? How do you go about doing this?


    You save three or more copies of the same photo. Each one you adjust the exposure up down and correct before converting to JPEG.

    Not an HDR expert. YMMV!


    I wouldn’t expect too much great things from this. You can bring out a lot of noise trying to adjust a RAW file 2 stops.


    You can simply tone map the RAW file, I’ve been using qtpfsgui. The results can be nice, if you have a camera with good low-light noise characteristics… otherwise the shadows tend to be grainy. Reducing the rez on the final image helps with that.


    How does one tone-map?


    Several software packages are avaialable, both free and commercial. I’m one of those funny FOSS types, so I prefer the free stuff… leaves more money for the tangible toys 😉

    You can check out qtpfsgui here: http://qtpfsgui.sourceforge.net/

    There are others, but that’s all I’ve been using for now. It’s designed primarily for stacking bracketed images, but the tonemapping function will also work on a single image. I’ve been in the habit of setting exposure on the sky for a landscape for instance just to avoid clipping the histogram on the high end and then using tonemapping to bring the darker areas up. If your camera has good noise characteristics, the end result is pretty decent. Sample here: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2003979&id=1571595696&l=ba1792e6a9 showing the unprocessed RAW, mild and overboard tonemapping. I’ve got a bunch of examples floating around, but I need to organize… Also, that was taken with a Rebel, which has the noise you would expect from an entry-level DSLR. To be replaced soon! YAY!

    I’d like to try some other software at some point, the interface and controls in qtpfsgui are less than intuitive. But playing around for a while does manage to lead to getting a feel for what the sliders do.

    It’s no substitute for proper HDR bracketing, but it will give the appearance of a much broader dynamic range to an image. If you’re gentle with it, you can bring out the details without crossing the line into the HDR “look” and keep things very natural looking.


    Moving further off-topic, I did a little write up about HDR and tonemapping a while ago. Tonemapping is the difference between these two HDR images which were composited from the same source material:

    I used qtpfsgui to do this.

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