This example is another reason single-exposure high dynamic range is so much fun and accessible. This photograph was taken with a smaller, lighter dSLR (a Sony Alpha 300) with the kit lens, and shot on the go. The photographer used RAW+JPEG in order to have access to the Raw exposures for HDR. It’s perfect.

In this case, the single Raw exposure was converted to three 16-bit TIFFs to start. In Photomatix Pro, the default tone mapping settings (using the Details Enhancer tab) were too “vanilla.” However, the settings used as a starting point for multi-exposure HDR (the baseline) were too harsh.

At times (especially when tone mapping people), expect to reduce the Strength setting and increase the Micro-Smoothing setting. This keeps faces from being too detailed and riddled with dark lines. The result is a nice balance between color, clarity, and detail in the boy's face.


The clouds, however, were another story. They were too dark and ruined the effect. This is where you have to let yourself go a little bit and realize your boss isn’t standing over your shoulder checking your work.

When you run into its limits, don’t lose any sleep over using what looks best (and accomplishing that in an image editor after tone mapping is completed). Unless you’re entering a contest with strict rules or are otherwise in a situation where your methods are restricted, give yourself that freedom, too.

In this case, the photographer took the tone mapped image of the boy and used the un-edited Raw image for the clouds. Then he blended them in Photoshop Elements to capture the best of both worlds.