Trey Ratcliff’s Photography, HDR, and Post-Processing Course is a complete course that details everything that you need to photograph, create, and professionally produce high quality High Dynamic Range (HDR) photographs through the use of Adobe Photoshop and Photomatix Pro processing software.
This course was created from the recording of a paid online webinar that took place beginning in May of 2011 and took place over the course of nine days. Each of the lessons is over an hour (a total of over 11 hours in length) and takes you through beginning, intermediate, as well as advanced topics. There are over 130 source working files (in the Total package editions) and are full size actual files that the instructor works with during the course.
Each lesson begins with an informal discussion that covers a wide variety of topics that pertain to photography, HDR, and personal growth. Sometimes they reflect topics that are covered in the course and other times they are just life lessons that the instructor shares with the group. Then you get into the meat of the lesson which consists of working with the files and processing images and finishes up with a question and answer session.
Lesson 1 begins by getting into the instructors philosophy of a holistic approach to photography and art in general. Here he talks about how many people have a very shallow, almost fragile knowledge of photography and he would like this course to provide a much deeper knowledge. This lesson discusses these concepts while taking you through the overall workflow so that you can see the process from a higher level. The remainder of the lessons dig deeper into these processes providing much more in depth information. The Q & A session looks at what kind of mistakes people make when creating HDR and why the instructor uses JPEG files instead of TIFFS.
Lesson 2 starts off by talking about the private Clubhouse forums (available for the Total package editions) and the experience of interaction with users. Then he gets down to business on setting up both Nikon and Canon cameras for bracketing and how to take the type of shots for HDR imaging. He also explains the number of images that you need to take, the use of RAW vs. JPEG files for processing. He then does three different Photomatix processing examples. In the Q&A segment there is a detailed explanation of color space, megapixels, and histograms.
Lesson 3 examines how to find your own artistic self through the process of trying new things until something works for you. Through the use of social media and the internet, you can both share your work as well as examining the works of others to refine your vision. You will also learn about critiques and criticism. The instructor takes a look at a lot of the work that has been posted by those who were participating in the webinar with a critic’s eye. He also provides a demo of a double-tone mapped photo, how to set up shortcuts, and the Q & A segment talks about the use of wide angle lenses and how they affect the image.
Lesson 4 is about how HDR photography works and how it relates to how we see the world and the emotions that affect what we remember about a scene. He also talks about image size as well as how chromatic aberration and noise is not that big of a problem especially with Web based presentation. Other topics include how Photomatix works – what it gets right and where it falls short, working with layers in both Photoshop and Photoshop elements, and other post processing techniques. Q & A looks at online images being copied, how to take HDR images without people in them, and how to get that wow factor to your images.
Lesson 5 looks at composition and how the decisions that you make can affect how you process your shots. Here the instructor looks at some of his images and the thought process that went into creating the images and the way to use composition to tell a story with your images. He also works on a photo of a red-phone booth as his demo HDR and the Q & A is about getting rid of noise in night shots, the use of releases when shooting people, and more on working with layers.
Lesson 6 explains why you should not be intimidated when you are shooting. Even if it appears that everyone around you knows more about photography than you do, many of them are probably just pretending and are just as confused on certain topics as you might be, they just hide it better. He then goes into working with Photomatix and processes a lot of different kinds of images with various types of challenges and so here he shows you how to work through these differing problems. He also works a single image RAW file into a HDR shot. Q & A shows how he processes one of one of his images into a blog post, how to work in really low light situations, and talks about rich coloring and oversaturation in images.
Lesson 7 describes how to grow in your photographic abilities by looking other peoples work and trying to puzzle out how they accomplished different things in their photos and then trying to recreate these techniques. It is OK to make mistakes and even perhaps finding new techniques in these failures. Here he presents an image he created and challenges you to figure it out. He also processes more images and this time describing additional add-on products to enhance your images. Q & A talks about processing batches in Lightroom and putting a Nikon lens on a Canon body.
Lesson 8 starts off with talking about eustress and how this is the good kind of stress – as opposed to distress, but by sharing your work – even if you are not sure of its quality, this good stress helps you grow in your confidence. He does three more images in post-processing using various lighting conditions and situations. Q & A now takes a look at what Lightroom is used for, how to backup images, and color correction after processing in Photomatix.
Lesson 9 finishes with how the image that he presented in lesson 7 was created. This discussion makes you examine how lenses work as well as how other things within the image were considered when creating it. Then he goes into working more images and now using more advanced techniques. In the Q & A session there are a lot more questions including why does the instructor use Adobe Bridge in his workflow, how he uses catalogs and keywords in Lightroom, and why he uses layers instead of the Dodge tool.
Trey Ratcliff’s Photography, HDR, and Post-Processing Course is really the first course that I have seen that fully engages you within the full realm of HDR processing. Tagging in at over 11 hours there is a lot of information here. Granted, there is a lot of philosophic overview to photography in general, but there is also a whole lot of processing of images. In many ways it is like hanging out with the instructor over the course of nine days with the non-processing time proving to be as much value as the processing.
Where I think that Trey Ratcliff’s Photography, HDR, and Post-Processing Course scores the biggest win is the fact that this is not a pre-planned demonstration. He took 130 raw files that cover more than 25 images and processes them on the spot for the first time while you watch him do it, hear his thought processes, and sometimes see his mistakes.
The next big win is that he provides you with the same 130 raw files for you to work with on your own. To me when learning HDR, you have a two phase issue. The first is learning how to take the shots, and second is how to process them. If you don’t get the first part right, you are going to have problems with the second. Not to mention the ability to follow along.
The only thing that was mildly distracting was some of the inconstancies of the audio on the Q & A sessions, sometimes it was there, and sometimes they used text labeling to allow you to see the question being asked. In either case the information was presented clearly and easy to understand.
There are technically three packages available – The Basic Package for $87 which includes strictly the videos, The Total Package for $96 which includes the videos, access to private clubhouse forums, and the 130 RAW working files, and the Best Value Package which includes the videos, RAW files, access to the forums, as well as an additional eBook called “Top 10 Mistakes in HDR Processing” for $97. Personally, I see no reason to consider anything but the Best Value Package.
If you want to learn how to use Adobe Photoshop and Photomatix to create stunning High Dynamic Range images, if you want to learn it from one of the people who helped define the process as a work of art – he is the only one who has an HDR image hanging in the Smithsonian Museum, then I can very highly recommend Trey Ratcliff’s Photography, HDR, and Post-Processing Course.