Let there be Light (HDR Vertorama)

Let there be Light (HDR Vertorama)
HDR Vertorama Before-and-After comparison: Let there be Light (HDR Vertorama)

Also view the Before-and-After comparison of this image to see how it was created (click on the image above).

The story of this photo

When you are taking photos outdoors, the rule says that you should not do so in the middle of the day. The light is harsh and not very flattering for your subjects. This 12-shot HDR Vertorama image taken in the Basilica St. Lorenz in Kempten, Germany is a good example where photographing around noon is actually a good thing. In this case, the sun was shining through the window and on the floor. It was reflected on the pillars and the other objects in the church. This created a special lighting from below that you don’t get when you go there late in the afternoon or early in the morning.

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Note however, that I had to cheat a bit more than usual to compensate the very bright exterior on the right side. In the original exposures, the right window was blown out, and there was nothing I could do to get back those details. This created an asymmetry in the image that was kind of distracting: The left window had the nice blue colors you see in the image while the right window was white. To cure this, I took the freedom to duplicate the left window and copy it over the right side. But pssst – don’t tell anybody! 😉

This is the kind of processing where opinions are divided. What’s your take on this? Do you think that this type of ‘manipulation’ is Ok?

Also read my free recipes for Taking Interior HDR Vertorama Shots, Taking HDR Vertorama Shots with a Tripod, and Creating HDR Panoramas and Vertoramas to learn how you can produce images like this one too.

How it was shot

How it was stitched and tonemapped

  • CA reduction and white balance correction in ACR
  • Created two additional exposures in ACR (+4EV and -4EV) to preserve highlights and shadows [details]
  • Saved the images as TIFFs
  • Applied noise reduction (Topaz Denoise) to each of the source images [details]
  • Resulting TIFF images were then used as input to Photomatix (Details Enhancer option)
  • Stitched the 4 tone-mapped TIFFs using Photoshop

How it was processed

  • Post-processing was done in Photoshop
  • Topaz Adjust on the entire image to get back the colors and the details [details]
  • Topaz Infocus on the entire image for sharpening
  • Perspective correction and cropping
  • Some retouching to fix stitching errors (due to hand-held shooting)
  • Global saturation and levels layers for better contrast and colors
  • Global levels layer for better overall contrast
  • Separate selective adjustments to the following parts: the golden elements, the paintings, the floor, the ornaments on the pillars (saturation layer for better colors, levels layers for more contrast) [details]
  • Saturation layer on the white walls (desaturation)
  • Levels layer on the white walls (more contrast)
  • Copied the window from the left over the window on the right to deal with the blown-out exterior
  • Vignette effect using a masked fill layer [details]
  • Watermarking [details]
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16 replies
  1. Darlene
    Darlene says:

    I don’t have a problem with that manipulation at all! If you hadn’t have told me I wouldn’t have noticed it. I still can’t tell.

  2. Erkki
    Erkki says:

    Thanks for sharing this photo and the editing steps. That’s huge amount of work, but the results is very much worth it!

    This kind of editing (like copying over the blown out window) are quite acceptable. If we really aimed at hyper-realism we would be shooting with all-JPEG and only put the horizon straight afterwards. 🙂

    About vignette: some times the panoramas / vertoramas look a tad too uniform or synthetic, and I’ve also experienced that adding a gentle vignette at the end of the process (if it suits the scene) can really bring the resulting picture together & create the feel of “one photography”.

    Lastly I’d like to thank you for the inspiration in HDR, plugins and other tools in service of aiming for good results. 🙂

  3. Rony
    Rony says:

    We have the tools for manipulation ,so why not use them anyway you want,if you yourself like your photo the way you made it and changed it….well thats the way it is .If someone else doesn’t like it , thats their problem.The most important , take photos for yourself the way you like them !
    Ps :Do you use PC or Mac???

  4. Patrick Ahles
    Patrick Ahles says:

    Like Darlene says: if you hadn’t told it, nobody would have noticed. Well, some pixel peepers might have, but then again, they wouldn’t be looking at these sort of pictures anyway…

    Great shot/composition!

  5. Pete Rowbottom
    Pete Rowbottom says:

    The way I look at it, you are creating an image, the image to my eyes looks great, and a lot more so than leaving in a blown window, the creation of art for me goes side by side with straight up photography, I enjoy photography, and also creating art, if the end result is good – it’s good!

  6. Peter S
    Peter S says:

    Manipulation of any kind is completely acceptable as long as the photographer likes what he did. If you are creating a photograph for a client well, that might be a different story but photographers have been manipulating photographs since the beginning of photography. It’s just a little easier now with digital. Your photographs are a true testament of how manipulation works beautifully and for those people who don’t like it well they don’t have to look at your wonderful images and they can just go away.^_^


    • Erkki
      Erkki says:

      I did some architecture photography and asked the client “how real do you want it?” and they replied “You’re kidding, right? We want to look as good as possible!” Applies most of the time also with portraits (to the limits of good taste). On many countries (and all big photo agencies) there are ethical guidelines for photojournalism that state what editing is allowed.

  7. Debbie
    Debbie says:

    I certainly don’t have any problem with the manipulation. Today a photographer has to do everything possible to maintain the best images in order to stay in business.

    I can’t even tell it was done.

  8. Maureen
    Maureen says:

    Great photo I have no problem with the two windows. The window looks much better and a lot less distracting with being like the window on the left.

  9. Pete Halewood
    Pete Halewood says:

    Fantastic shot Klaus, definitely one of my favourite HDR vertoramas of yours. Great time of day to capture this picture as well, any time of day has photo opportunities and I simply am dumbfounded by people who say (and I have read them too) not to shoot during bright daylight hours. Find the opportunities!

    • farbspiel
      farbspiel says:

      Hi Pete,

      Thanks, mate! If your out in the open, bright light in the middle of the day can really be a problem. But as with any rule, you should reflect it and break it if necessary.


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