High dynamic range (HDR) photographic imaging has been extremely popular in recent years. It is a style of photography that is frequently employed not only by commercial artists but amateurs too. This was made possible by the widespread ownership of both digital cameras and post-production software like Adobe Photoshop. It seemed, for a while at least, that every photo you came across used this technique. At first great HDR images took your breath away, but increasingly its ongoing ubiquitousness made them rather less appealing. Today, you get the feeling that photography is moving on.
For those that don’t know, HDR imaging involves using software to mesh three or more images taken at different exposures (ie one underexposed, one overexposed and one normal) into a single image. Creating something that could be described as a more ‘dynamic’ image. To better understand what the photographic results can be, try looking at the work of one of the most talented and successful photographers of this technique – Dave Hill – who uses a combination of HDR and photo illustration (the post-production, Photoshop part) in his work. This relatively young man seems to have HDR-ed every major celebrity around, yet Hill himself suggested a while back that he had had enough; proclaiming more interest in ‘natural light’ shooting than the artificially lit ones he is most known for. But because of the quality of Hill’s work, their huge visual impact and distinctive feel, HDR enthusiasts will continue to discuss how to obtain the ‘Dave Hill effect’. This, however, is not easy as his images are a result of not only his ability, but hours of work in the photographic and post-production stages.
While the most effective HDR image processing is carried out on multiple exposures, it is possible to attempt something similar using a RAW file and layers in Photoshop. If you go online and search for ‘Dave Hill effect’ you will get a whole series of tutorials taking you step-by-step through Photoshop actions in an attempt to achieve something similar.
As an homage to Dave Hill and all that he has achieved, Plant Curator thought it would try out the process on some plants, or more specifically an area of tulips. A Google search uncovered the following steps in Photoshop needed to achieve Dave Hill styling. So off we go…
1. Duplicate layer of image
2. On top layer go to Filter – High pass filter – set value between 2 and 6
3. Set blend mode to vivid light
4. Then merge visible layers
5. Duplicate layer again
6. On top layer go to Filter – High pass filter – set value between 5 and 8
7. Set blend mode to Color
8. Set opacity to 40-60%
9. Merge visible layers
10. Duplicate layer one more time
11. Set surface blur – values 3 and 23
12. Add a layer mask – use 50% opacity brush to reveal local texture (ie bits of the image that you may want to highlight)
13. Merge visible layers
14. Set unsharp mask values as follows: Amount: 100, Radius: 40, Threshold: 0-2
That’s it. Results can be seen below. What you get is a very substandard Dave Hill effect. He is an incredible artist after all.