View Full Version : False HDR with a little photoshop trick

12-08-2008, 04:38 AM
Alright, I've never really done any Photoshop tutorials, but I'll try to explain this as best I can. Basically, if you start out with one good source image, we can mimic an HDR image without needing to take multiple exposures of the same image. It sounds complicated, but it's pretty simple. This works in pretty much every version of Photoshop, so don't worry if you have an old copy. Also, the images I am providing are fairly small, but that's due to uploading limitations. You should check out stock.xchng (http://www.sxc.hu/) for some nice, high quality images. Anyway, here's the final result:


Alright, let's get started.

First, copy or download this (http://i33.photobucket.com/albums/d64/ConfusedCartman/base.png) image.
Once you've done that, open it up in a new Photoshop document.
Duplicate (ctrl-J) the layer with the image in it.
Desaturate (ctrl-shift-U) the duplicate.
With the duplicate layer selected, go Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and use a value between 2 and 4 (tweak depending on the image you are using; in this case, I used 2).
Once again, with the duplicate layer selected, change the blending mode to multiply and set the opacity of this layer to around 50%. The desaturated layer should be above the original layer at this point, and you should have a very soft, contrast-y image. There's a little bit we've gotta do before it really looks HDR, though, so keep going.
Select the original image (should be Layer 1) and duplicate (ctrl-J) it again.
Select the duplicate layer you just made (not the desaturated one) and drag it to the top of the layer structure (so it is above the other layers).
Set the blending mode to soft light, and set the opacity to around 50%.
Now, just to make sure, check your layers. You should have the "soft light" layer on top, the desaturated layer in the middle, and the original layer on the bottom. If you do, then you're all done! This works with many different kinds of images, but you might have to fiddle with the settings a bit to optimize it.

That's it, guys. I hope you try it out for yourself and see what you can do. Try out a building or a castle or an animal. Different subjects produce different results, and you can get some nice looking stuff from them. Also, feel free to completely deviate from my method. Tweaking the opacity setting on each layer is usually the best way to optimize your results, so play around with those and see what you get. Here's another example:


Whalio Cappuccino
12-08-2008, 06:05 AM
Dude... That's really good, thumbs up CC.

12-08-2008, 06:10 AM
i liked the original more................

12-09-2008, 09:46 PM
Dude... That's really good, thumbs up CC.
Thanks. It's hard to see the difference sometimes, but if you take a look at a real HDR image (http://beforethecoffee.files.wordpress.com/2007/04/blendedshipondock.jpg), you'll see that they have the same basic look as these do.

i liked the original more................
Try this (or suggest an image for me to try) with an image that is more drab and boring than the one I chose. You'll see it really spices them up.

EDIT: Here's a better example:

There's more contrast, the colors are more vibrant, and it doesn't look "washed out" like the Base image does.

12-10-2008, 06:09 AM
wow that's coool i did this with gimp and... it's really easy. Thanks :)

BTW: what does HDR mean? :o

12-10-2008, 11:34 AM
sorry if i sound like a noob.....but what does HDR mean? :o

they look really nice by the way. :D

Maybe someone should start a photoshop tutorials thread.:idea:

12-10-2008, 03:32 PM
Basically a trick to make lighting look more realistic. High dynamic range lighting isn't it?

12-10-2008, 04:27 PM
BTW: what does HDR mean? :o

sorry if i sound like a noob.....but what does HDR mean? :o
It stands for High Dynamic Range lighting. Basically, the actual effect allows for a much larger range of light than what the human eye can normally see. Since the human eye automatically adjusts to different light levels, we never really see the full range of light that a scene has to offer. True HDR allows us to see what we previously could not.

Basically a trick to make lighting look more realistic.
Basically, yes. This makes the image seem like HDR when it really is not. In true HDR, you have to take the same picture of a scene 3 different times with 3 different exposure times, and plug each image into an HDR image merger (recent versions of Photoshop have this feature). However, that is time consuming and it requires you have a high-end camera, so it's difficult for most people to do on their own. This is a method that will allow you to achieve the same basic results without the drawn-out process beforehand.

12-10-2008, 05:24 PM
HDR isn't typically used to show a wider range of light than the eye can see. It's mostly used to approximate what the eye can see, because the eye has a much greater dynamic range than a standard camera does.

If you're using HDR, it's because you have areas that are too bright and too dark for the camera to capture, and you are bringing them closer together. As such, the final image will have LESS contrast across flat areas, not more.

Now, I'll give you that this is a neat effect and could be used to add mood for some interesting artwork... but I definitely wouldn't call it a 'faked HDR'.

12-11-2008, 02:54 AM
Seems like a neat, easy and quick trick for enhancing a pic. I'll give this a shot, see what I come up with. Knowing myself I'll end up tweaking it to make a completely different effect, I love experimenting with Photoshop!

Thanks for sharing CC!