Photographs by Mitchell Alcala

Before and After- HDR House

So today I’m going to try and do something new. I’m trying to make myself better by, and in the process I might be able to help someone out.

I really enjoy helping others, and teaching photography is something I really do have a passion for, so today I’m going to go ahead and do a before and after comparison blog.

Tonight I had a meeting to get to, and seeing it was such a beautiful day I decided what better day for a nice hike to the FRC, and like I always I a camera over my shoulder.

As soon as I got outside, I knew I had made the right decision to walk, because the sunset was absolutely beautiful. While walking the parking lot, I realized that I had a great clear shot of a cool house right beside the university.

Ever since I first spotted this house, I’ve wanted to take a picture of it but I’ve scene it in a way that made me stop and actually do it. Tonight I saw the sunset, and just knew I wanted to take an HDR image.

A small problem I had was I had a camera but I didn’t have a tripod. When shooting an HDR image it is important to have a tripod because you need three or more images that are pretty much the same.

With an HDR you use a program to stack the images and increase the dynamic range, it attempts to make the scene appear more like the way you saw it. The human eye is amazing, and has a wonderful ability to sense a huge scale of dynamic range. You can see details in the shadows and in the highlights at the same time.

A camera doesn’t have that ability. It sees a very limited dynamic range, so by stacking the three photos, a computer has the ability to pull out the details in both and merge them together.

With out a tripod, you have to stay extremely still to get three images in the exact same framing. If not the computer doesn’t like you and you can end up with all kinds of ghosts and movements.

I also have a problem were I’m not satisfied with just three images, if I’m going through the process of HDR I want a 7 or 9 image HDR to really pull out all of the details I can get, but I digress.

I stood and took 9 images as still as I could, and headed to my meeting.

When I got back I went ahead and merged the HDR, but let me tell you it looked horrible. I didn’t stand still enough, so it didn’t turn out anywhere like I wanted, kind of disappointing I know.

So I sat back and thought about it for a moment, and decided I’d try a new technique that I’d read about. You see, some photographers create HDRs with only one image, and so I went ahead and tried it.

I grabbed the image that I had “correct exposure” with by the camera meter. It’s the image you’ll find below. I then opened the picture in camera raw, and proceeded to save a copy of it at -3,-2,-1,+1,+2, and +3 giving me 7 images of the same photo.

I sent them through Photomatix Pro and merged them together. I’m not going to go into detail on what sliders I used, because to tell you the truth I just mess around with them until I get the photo I like. If you want more info on what sliders to slide, and their effect go ahead and check out .

After I had my HDR processed the way I liked it, I took it a step further and opened the photo up in Photoshop. I stacked a few of the images I had made onto layers with the HDR image, and masked in some of the areas I thought needed it.

Then I adjusted the curves just a bit to give the exact look I was going with. It was a little time consuming, but I went from the photo below to the photo above.


I hope this was somewhat educational, and I’ll try to do some more before and after photos in the future.


Talk to you soon,



One response

  1. Nice work, Mitch.

    April 7, 2012 at 4:34 am

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