Into the Open (HDR)

Into the Open (HDR) - twelve exposures, tonemapped in adobe camera raw

The story of this photo

This HDR image was shot in the Solitude palace in Stuttgart, Germany. During the blue hour. I was scouting some locations for a new video course that I am currently producing, and even though I have been at this palace quite a few times, I never shot it during the blue hour. This time I did! Visiting some well-known location at different times is worthwhile after all. 😉

Hands-on Photo Tip: Creating Truly Realistic HDR Images with Adobe Camera Raw

Watch the detailed tutorial video in which I explain the technique I used here: Creating Truly Realistic HDR Images with Adobe Camera Raw

New post-processing workflow

It’s also always good to try something new in terms of post-processing, right? Well, with this image, I did just that. Most of my previous HDR images where created using the Details Enhancer method in Photomatix. This time, I tried a new workflow that makes use of some new features in Photoshop CS6 and Adobe Camera Raw. I actually bypassed Photomatix completely with this image and did the tone mapping with Adobe Camera Raw (ACR).

Now, wait a minute! Isn’t ACR a Raw converter?

Into the Open - Pics to play with - Download the source files of this HDR image, test your post-processing skills and share your results in the comments below.

Into the Open – Pics to play with – Download the source files of this HDR image, test your post-processing skills and share your results in the comments below.

Yes, it is. But in the newer versions, you can open 32-bit files with ACR. This allows you to work with real HDR images and bring those 32 bits of tonal range down to 8 or 16 bits which is exactly what a classical tone mapping algorithm will do (albeit using a different method). The result is a natural-looking HDR image. What’s even better is that if you tell ACR to open the tone mapped image in Photoshop as a smart object, the whole tone-mapping step is non-destructive.

What does this mean? It means that you can go back and change the tone mapping settings at any time, and this is really cool! You can even create differently tone mapped versions of your image and blend them together in Photoshop. All of this works in a really convenient way. You don’t need to juggle around with different files, and you never have to leave Photoshop and ACR.

How the photos were shot

How the HDR image was created and tone mapped

  • CA reduction, lens correction and white balance correction on all source exposures in Adobe Camera Raw [details]
  • Exported the 12 images as 16-bit TIFFs files from ACR
  • Applied noise reduction (Topaz Denoise) to each of the source images individually [details]
  • The 12 resulting images were merged to a 32-bit HDR image using Photoshop’s Merge to HDR function.

How the tone mapped image was post-processed

  • Post-processing was done in Photoshop CS6
  • Topaz Adjust for enhancing the colors and the lighting [details]
  • Local adjustments
    • Floor
      • Levels layer for more contrast
      • Saturation layer
      • Spotlight effect on the center aisle [details]
    • Walls and pillars
      • Levels layer for more contrast
      • Saturation layer (decreased the Reds, increased the Master)
      • Separate tone-mapped version with more contrast blended in (Blending Mode: Soft Light, 78% layer opacity)
      • Highlight recovery: Walls to the left and right were too bright. Fixed with a separate tone mapped image layer.
    • Lamps
      • Separate tone mapped layer to bring out the highlights
      • Levels layer: improve contrast
    • Arches at the far end
      • Separate tone mapped layer to enhance the details in the arches
      • Saturation layer: master
  • Global adjustments
    • Slight vignetting [details]
    • Sharpening using the High-Pass filter method [details]
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7 replies
  1. Tony Veinberg
    Tony Veinberg says:


    I love it. But.

    I don’t like the difference in lighting between the left-side and right-side walls. A similar comment applies to the lights themselves. Similarly, floor shadows don’t reflect this difference in lighting.

    • farbspiel
      farbspiel says:

      I know what you mean, Tony. And I thought about fixing this. But the lights on the left and on the right have different color temperatures (right-side lamp is considerably cooler) and it would have been quite a hassle to fix this in post and make it look consistent. So, I decided against it. Hey, nothing’s perfect, right? 🙂

  2. David B
    David B says:

    Just the tutorial I’ve been waiting for. Still trying to develop my HDR workflow. I use LR for managing my photos so the 32bit ACR tone mapping fits right in with my plan. Watching for your full tutorial!

  3. Mustang Joe
    Mustang Joe says:

    Thank you Klaus for making these files available. Here’s my attempt at processing your image:

    I processed with SNS HDR then used the Adaptive Wide Angle filter in CS6 to straighten some lines. Nik Viveza was used to balance the color temperature between the two sides. I then used the Pro Contrast, Darken/Lighten Centre filters from Nik Color Efex Pro to enhance the image and finished it off with a curves and saturation layer on the floor to darken it up a bit.

  4. steve bastiman
    steve bastiman says:

    As with Dave B I’m still developing my process and I thought I was getting close and then you threw this spanner in the works 🙂

    As always thanks for the effort you make in simply documenting and presenting your tutorials, they are in a class of their own.


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