Processing Photo of Silicon Valley for HDR in Photomatix

For today’s Before&After post I’ve chosen the photo of Silicon Valley in California, which I took during my last driving trip along California State Route 1. In the background, across San Francisco Bay, you can see Oakland and Union City  and in the middle of the frame is Silicon Valley.

Below you can find my Before&After Widget which illustrates 10 editing steps of my workflow.

Before & After Widget

Step 1

I imported 3 bracketed raw images into Lightroom.

Step 2

I processed 3 bracketed raw files in Photomatix using Photomatix Pro Lightroom Exporter.

Steps 3-7

After I finished my edits in Photomatix I brought merged image as 16-bit tiff file back to Lightroom and applied following edits.

Steps 8-11

Final touches were performed in Photoshop. I used following plugins: Nik Color Efex, Topaz Labs Detail, Topaz DeNoise.

In Nik Color Efex Pro I combined 2 filters: Cross Processing and Darken/Lighten Center.
Nik Color Efex Settings:

I used Topaz Labs Detail plugin to enhance details (Preset: Feature Enhancement I) and Topaz DeNoise to eliminate noise, mostly in the area of the sky (Preset: RAW – moderate)
Topaz Labs Detail and Topaz DeNoise Settings:

Final step: photo was saved as JPG at full resolution and uploaded to my portfolio at SmugMug for safekeeping, sharing and online sales.

  • wartybliggens says:

    Hello, Viktor (This is Robt. J. Moore II from Google+). You’re very generous to share this detailed information. Thanks!

    I notice you don’t use sharpening in Lightroom. I’m not familiar with Photomatix or Topaz Labs Detail, but it looks like you use these to sharpen. Do you find these do a better (or more precise) job of sharpening?

    • Rob, my sharpening philosophy is to do it at the very last phase of post processing. In my case I do it in Photoshop just before saving final image as JPG. Feel free to ask me anything, I will be happy to help.

  • Doesn’t RAW allow exposure adjustment in post processing? Then how does shooting in RAW help with HDR?

    • You always shoot RAW, no matter if you do it for HDR or single Lightroom processing. JPG is not supposed to be processed.

  • Alessandro says:

    Great detailed explanation and precious sharing (for passionate photographers) as well.
    Kindly thank you Viktor for this post.

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