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Using Photoshop CC and ACR’s Powerful Tone Mapping and Color Correction Tools to Create 32-Bit HDR Photos

Article Description

Over the past few years, Adobe has provided Photoshop users with variations on an HDR workflow for photographers, but the options for precisely mapping tones and colors (especially) were somewhat limited. Today, using Photoshop CC, Photoshop and Lightroom educator Dan Moughamian shows how you can open a merged, 32-bit image into a brand-new (but very familiar) environment, to create those HDR photos.

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Final Adjustments in Photoshop CC

Final Adjustments in Photoshop CC

When you’re finished with the ACR adjustments, click the OK button. After a few seconds of processing, your new 32-bit HDR photo will appear in Photoshop CC! Notice that by default a Camera Raw Smart Filter layer is created, which means you can go back at any time and tweak your tone-mapping, color, and detail settings, and have those re-render into Photoshop, without loss of quality! The ACR-rendered, 32-bit image is shown in Figure 13.

Figure 13 The results of tone-mapping and color-correcting a 32-bit HDR photo in ACR are often impressive in their accuracy and punch, as compared to older HDR methods.

Assuming that you handled any cropping, straightening, and Lens Profile Corrections before entering the HDR process, only minimal changes should be required from this point. Generally, it’s best to save your 32-bit image immediately (Smart Filter included) so that you can come back to it at any time. I recommend using the PSD format, and be sure to include the Profile and Layers when Photoshop asks.

Next, choose Image > Duplicate to create a copy of your HDR photo, which you can then crunch down to a 16-bit image. We want to do this because it will open up many additional tools and adjustments when retouching the file. Once your copy is visible, close the document you saved prior (so there are no mix-ups when working on the files). Finally, with your new copy active and the “Layer 0” ACR Smart Filter active in the Layers panel, choose Layer > Rasterize > All Layers to generate a standard raster image layer. You should see something similar to the layer shown in Figure 14.

Figure 14 It’s a good idea to save your original 32-bit file, then duplicate it and rasterize the HDR layer so you can easily convert it to 16-bits, gaining access to more of Photoshop CC’s tools and adjustments.

Finally, choose Image > Mode > 16-bits/Channel. You will be asked if you wish to Merge the Layers. Click the Don’t Merge button. This will convert your HDR image layer to 16-bits automatically, thus giving you access to all the tools you might need to retouch the photograph.

The final result for this demo is shown in Figure 15.

Figure 15 The final HDR image, after 16-bit conversion, in Photoshop CC.