Home / Articles / Adobe Photoshop / HDR Efex Pro: Tone Mapping Secrets

HDR Efex Pro: Tone Mapping Secrets


  1. Tone Compression
  2. Global Adjustments
  3. Selective Adjustments
  4. Conclusion

Article Description

Photoshop expert Dan Moughamian, author of Adobe Digital Imaging How-Tos: 100 Essential Techniques for Photoshop CS5, Lightroom 3, and Camera Raw 6, examines the following HDR Efex Pro settings: Tone Compression, Global Adjustments, and Selective Adjustments.
Selective Adjustments

Selective Adjustments

The final step in our HDR Efex editing process is to apply Selective Adjustments to our photograph. These adjustments allow us to take one or more global controls and apply them to specific regions of the photo, leaving other regions untouched. Generally, this concept is similar to creating an adjustment layer in Photoshop and then isolating the effect with a layer mask, except that with HDR Efex Pro, the masking is more automated and slightly less precise.

First we need to create a new Control Point. Control Points are part of a technology from Nik Software called “U-Point.” This technology uses automated masking to help you isolate your edits.

To create a Control Point, click the silver, CD-like icon in the Selective Adjustments panel. When a crosshair appears, drag it over the region of the photo that you want to edit and click once. When you do this, a small circle or dot appears that is connected to a series of control sliders with abbreviations. These sliders represent the following Global Adjustments: Exposure, Contrast, Saturation, Structure, Blacks, Whites, Warmth, and Method Strength (Figure 12).

Figure 12 The U-Point “control tree” widget is used to apply Selective Adjustments to your photograph. You can apply multiple adjustments to a single image.

The dot represents the center of a larger selection region. To understand how this process works, click the “Show/Hide Selection of Control Point” option in the Selective Adjustments panel. When you do, the main image preview switches to a black and white mask preview (Figure 13).

Figure 13 Viewing the U-Point selection area as a mask makes it much easier to see exactly where your edits will be applied.

As in Photoshop, black pixels are not selected, white pixels are completely selected, and grey pixels create the transition between the two. You can now click and drag the dot to place the selection region over different parts of the photo; as you do so, the selection will update on the fly. You can also drag the top-most slider on the U-Point widget to change the diameter of the masking region.

For this photo, I made multiple Control Points. One was used to add perceived sharpness and detail to the bench house and trees while also increasing the saturation of the those same areas, a second to decrease saturation of the bright green grass, and a third to increase saturation of the reflected details and decrease the perceived sharpness (or Structure) of those same details (Figure 14).

Figure 14 All three U-Point widgets are visible, and all edits are complete.

In many situations, you may find that you want to apply the exact same amount of localized editing to non-adjoining regions of the photo. HDR Efex Pro and U-Point makes this easy. Just create your first Control Point and apply its settings as needed, and then with that item highlighted in the panel, click the Duplicate button. This will create an identical U-Point widget that you can then size and move to the appropriate area. To delete a Control Point, highlight it and click the Delete button in the same panel.

From this point, you can follow the “Finishing” tips in the previous article I wrote to add a vignette or extra contrast curve if necessary, and output the file into Photoshop.

4. Conclusion | Next Section Previous Section