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Video Training Review – High Dynamic Range Mastery With With Ben Willmore

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High Dynamic Range Imaging has been all the rage over the past two years. It is a method of photography that allows you to merge the light of different parts of an image in to one image giving you a much more balanced feel for the lighting. It is also a technique that allows you to create illustrative effects to an image giving it a unique feel. It has even touched off a new movement within the photographic world called the "grunge" movement.

In High Dynamic Range (HDR) Mastery Ben Willmore, Photoshop guru and road warrior, will shows you step by step how to master HDR photography. Ben sold his house in 2006 and bought a bus, converted it into a mobile home, and has been traveling the U.S. ever since. You can find out where he is by checking out his blog site "WhereIsBen"

Image courtesy xTrain

The idea of HDR is simple. By using HDR, when you shoot an image, say from inside a building where there is low light, through a door way, or window, where there is bright light, you can adjust the image to balance the two. This video will take you through everything you need to know about HDR. To create the kind of images displayed in this video you will need a product called "Photomatix;" a stand alone product from HDRSoft, and you will also need Adobe Photoshop CS3. While you can do some of the work with each of the packages alone, to get the full effect, both are required. High Dynamic Range (HDR) Mastery is divided into four classes composing twenty lessons. I will break this down by class.

Image courtesy xTrain and Ben Willmore"Shooting for HDR" begins with the big picture of what HDR is. Here you will learn that you can use HDR for more realistic photography, or as the instructor often does, more as an illustrative look. First he shows some examples of what can be done with HDR. Then he shows how to choose subjects that will work best for the technique. From there you will see how to set up your camera to do HDR; here he shows both Canon and Nikon set ups. He then finishes with how to set up for handheld and monopod setups.

"Merging Exposures" primarily focuses on three techniques using two different software products that you can use to merge exposures. The instructor gives the basics of the Photomatix software package and then continues by showing how to merge a single group of images and then how to do it in a batch of images. Then he shows how to use  Photoshop's HDR capabilities. This tends to be the tool of choice when shooting handheld or on a monopod since the release of the CS3 version; it can handle alignment when there is slight movement. Depending on your tool of preference, you can always take it back to Photomatix for additional processing.

"Processing HDR Files" now takes the HDR files that you created in the last class and begins to process them. Again, while techniques for using Photoshop are shown, the major focus is on using Photomatix. During the Photoshop segment you are taken through the different options that you have for processing your file, what the sliders do and how to work with the curves adjustment. For the first Photomatix segment, you will learn how to process your files by using "Tone Mapping" and more specifically using "Tone Compressing" portion to get that, more natural, photographic look. After this you may want to take it back to Photoshop for additional adjustments.

Next you will learn about the options available when you work with the "Details Enhancer". This gives much more control over the processing of your image. You are still treating it as a photographic image, but now with more available adjustment options. Next, still using the "Details Enhancer," you will learn how to process your image to get that illustrative look; sometimes called the grunge look. Then you will see how to double process the image. Finally for this class, you will see how to process a single file 16-bit image in Photomatix to get interesting results.

In the last class, "Enhancement" you will see how to do further enhancement in Photoshop. You begin with Camera Raw to exaggerate colors. Next you work on spotting and retouching, with some good tips and tricks, brightness and contrast changes, and color interpretations. Then you will learn how to automate some of these procedures by using Actions, Dual HDR process will show you how to use dual processing to create two images to take the best parts of an image to merge into one image. Finally, you are taken through start to finish examples.

High Dynamic Range (HDR) Mastery really addresses two audiences. First and most obviously is the group that wants to learn how to create HDR images. For them, Ben Willmore takes you through every step on how to create high quality HDR images regardless if your goal is to make photographic styled images or the illustrative, grungier look.

The next group is those who want to learn how to use Photomatix. Because the instructor spends a lot of time using the product, he really goes through quite a lot of the tools and techniques that are available from within it. That is not to say that he does not tackle a lot of Photoshop techniques, he does that as well.

High Dynamic Range (HDR) Mastery is available as online training from xTrain.com. There are three ways to pay, one is an annual fee of $199 which not only gives access to this class, but every one of xTrain classes for a full year. You can select the monthly fee, which is normally $29 per month, but for a limited time you can get it for $19.99 per month which gives you access to all classes for a month. Or you can purchase it by the lesson which is listed as $79.00.

I found High Dynamic Range (HDR) Mastery to be entirely entertaining, thoroughly enlightening, and incredibly easy to understand and learn from. Ben Willmore makes a great instructor who not only knows his subject, but is able to convey that subject in a manner that makes learning easy. I highly recommend this course.

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.