5 tips to show off the texture in your HDR photography

hdr photography tips for texture
Time – Jim Harmer

More than any other type of photography, HDR loves texture.  The reason is that the HDR process exaggerates fine detail in a scene.  Because texture has so much fine detail, we see it in a way that captivates viewers.  There are a few ways to bring even more texture out of your HDR photos that you might like to know.  I have used all of these techniques in shooting the photo featured on this page.  I took the shot last week in Estero, Florida.  I had scouted out the location specifically looking for texture to shoot HDR, and when I saw this rustic old cabin, I knew I was about to be translated into HDR heaven.

HDR Texture Tip #1.  Do not short-change the micro-contrast setting in Photomatix 4.  I almost always crank it all the way up to ten (that means moving it to the right).  This setting is specifically designed to bring out texture.

HDR Texture Tip #2.  Wait for the right light.  Texture can be flattened and almost erased if the light in the scene is hitting the surface at a 90 degree angle.  The smaller the angle between the sun and the textured surface, the more clearly the texture will become visible.  If the sun isn't cooperating, then you could try out your new off-camera flash skills if you followed my advice on off-camera flash on the cheap in the post two weeks ago.

HDR Texture Tip #3.  After tonemapping the HDR in Photomatix, bring it into Photoshop and add some sharpness to the textured area.

HDR Texture Tip #4.  Do not add sharpness or micro-contrast to areas of the photo that aren't included for their texture.  To do this, you'll need to process two HDR photos in Photomatix.  On one version, tonemap only focusing on the textured area.  On the next one, only tonemap with the non-textured area in mind.  Do the same for sharpness in Photoshop.  Then, mask together the two photos in Photoshop.  You can see the results of this by looking at the photo featured on this page.  Notice how the old wood was treated specifically for texture, and the scenery around the cabin looks more natural.

HDR Texture Tip #5.  GET CLOSER!!!  Few photographers would choose to shoot a photo of the cabin featured on this page so close-up.  Especially because of the beautiful bamboo forest surrounding the cabin, most photographers would want to include more of the trees; however, I shot this photo close to the cabin with a 10mm wide-angle lens in order to make the texture large enough to be easily visible in the resulting photo.  This is especially true if your photos are most often seen teeny tiny on the web only.  If you're printing the photo large, this is less of an issue.

Oh, and remember that friends don't let friends shoot texture without a tripod.

6 thoughts on “5 tips to show off the texture in your HDR photography”

  1. I lately noticed your web site back i are usually looking by means of which on a day-to-day basis. You’ve got a loads of info at this web site so i truly like your appear towards the web a tad too. Preserve the top show outcomes!

    1. for tip #4, I am new at photo editing. I don’t know what tonemapping is and I am not sure why you have to use two different softwares to get the results. Is it possible to use one software? Do you have tips for people new at photo editing? Thanks!

  2. Thank you for another fantastic article. Where else could anybody get that type of info in such a perfect way of writing? I have a presentation next week, and I am on the look for such information.

  3. Jim, have you any experience with the Sony A35 auto HDR capability? This was one of the reasons I went for the camera but I am a little disappointed with the results so far. They always seem over exposed or no different from a std picture.

    Great website by the way, I am learning lots.

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