Most photographers will remember occasions when the dynamic range in a subject was too wide for the camera to capture. If you’ve shot raw files, you can generally recover a fair amount of highlight and shadow detail when processing the shot in Adobe Camera Raw.

The same applies if you’ve recorded an HDR (high dynamic range) sequence by capturing three or more images with different exposure levels. These images can be combined in Photoshop to record the full dynamic range in the scene by taking the correctly-exposed sections from each shot and using tone mapping to merge them.

However, until now HDR merging has required multiple shots, all of exactly the same subject. The only variation is the exposure level. If you have only one shot – and it’s a JPEG image – even the Shadows/Highlights adjustment may not provide enough control to subdue highlights and boost shadows for a natural-looking result. There’s also the ever-present risk of posterisation to contend with.

A new tool in Photoshop CS5 goes a long way to addressing these problems. It also provides photographers with some quick, easy – and highly adjustable – special effects.

In this feature we’ll look at the new HDR Toning feature, which is designed to enable photographers to extend the dynamic range in JPEG shots with a higher degree of control than the Shadows/Highlights adjustment tool provides. This tool provides controls for mimicking the tone-mapping functions traditionally achieved in HDR (high dynamic range) photos – which are normally achieved by combining three or more images captured with different exposure levels.

Step 1: Open the image in Photoshop CS5 and select Image > Adjustments > HDT Toning.


Step 2: Using the Default preset, adjust the settings until the image appears as you would like it.


Drag the Radius and Strength sliders to the left to keep these values low for a natural-looking result.

Move the Gamma slider to the left to set Contrast at between 2.04 and 2.06.
Move the Details slider to the right to accentuate details in the image.

Use the Shadow and Highlight sliders to fine-tune adjustments to the dark and bright regions of the image.

Monochrome Conversion
You can convert the image to monochrome by dragging the Saturation slider to the left (-100%). The Vibrance slider can be used to fine-tune the way individual colours are mapped to grey tones.


Special Effects
Adobe has provided 13 special effects presets in the drop-down menu at the top of the dialog box. Many of these are quite extreme; but all can be fine-tuned with the sliders. You can also create your own presets and save them for future use by clicking on the icon to the right of the Presets dropdown menu.

Some examples of the presets are shown on this page, along with the default settings in the dialog box for each effect.



The drop-down box showing the special effects presets with the Surrealistic effect selected.


Monochrome Artistic.


More Saturated.

This is an article from Photo Review Magazine Sep-Nov 2010 Issue 45.

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