HDR: Do you process RAW images first before combining?

cayenne

EOR R
Mar 28, 2012
2,032
164
Just curious....

I was thinking, that once you combine your multiple exposure images, that is the last time you will have opportunity to do any RAW manipulations to them.

Do ya'll do any RAW changes before combining the images into an HDR for tone mapping?

If so...what?

Since you are combining images...are there any RAW changes you have to be careful of in order to not have problems multiply as they combine?

Thanks in advance!!

cayenne
 

Don Haines

Beware of cats with laser eyes!
Jun 4, 2012
8,228
1,841
Canada
cayenne said:
Just curious....

I was thinking, that once you combine your multiple exposure images, that is the last time you will have opportunity to do any RAW manipulations to them.

Do ya'll do any RAW changes before combining the images into an HDR for tone mapping?

If so...what?

Since you are combining images...are there any RAW changes you have to be careful of in order to not have problems multiply as they combine?

Thanks in advance!!

cayenne
I have used lightroom, and just feed in the RAW files as is.....

They combine to make an additional file, and that is the one that gets edited.


hmmmmm......

I think that when I get home tonight I am going to try an experiment..... 1st try, combine the images as untouched RAWs, and 2nd try, process the individual RAW files and then combine them.... I have no idea if it will make any difference.......
 

GammyKnee

EOS RP
Jan 24, 2013
246
2
I do lens-related fixes (distortion, CA etc) prior to blending, but everything else comes after that.
 

Frodo

EOS RP
Nov 3, 2012
298
17
If you are combining multiple HDR images into a panorama, I think you would have to merge into pano first, then merge into HDR. HDR will change the exposure of different parts of the pano and you will see the joins.
The LR HDR process generates a dng file which will have much, but presumably not all, of the maleabity of the RAW file. I do basic processing such as lens corrections before merging into HDR. Only once I see how the HDR dng turns out can I really visualise how the final image will evolve.
I was excited about HDR when first introduced into LR, but now it use it only a little. I am usually able push shadows and pull highlights sufficiently on my 5Ds and 6D files in most cases. The main issue is ghosting from moving leaves, water, etc.
 

Don Haines

Beware of cats with laser eyes!
Jun 4, 2012
8,228
1,841
Canada
Frodo said:
If you are combining multiple HDR images into a panorama, I think you would have to merge into pano first, then merge into HDR. HDR will change the exposure of different parts of the pano and you will see the joins.
The LR HDR process generates a dng file which will have much, but presumably not all, of the maleabity of the RAW file. I do basic processing such as lens corrections before merging into HDR. Only once I see how the HDR dng turns out can I really visualise how the final image will evolve.
I was excited about HDR when first introduced into LR, but now it use it only a little. I am usually able push shadows and pull highlights sufficiently on my 5Ds and 6D files in most cases. The main issue is ghosting from moving leaves, water, etc.
For panoramas, AutoPano Gaga allows you to import everything raw as one step, and then start it stitching like you would for any normal panorama
 

cayenne

EOR R
Mar 28, 2012
2,032
164
Interesting slant on doing the HDR Pano thing....

But in general I was thinking that once you combine into HDR, you lose the true, low level ability to push and pull the RAW data that is non-destructive....

I thought about lens corrections myself and do that....but what about things like saturation? Vibrance?

Once you are in HDR combined, you're basically limited on how much you can push/pull these things as much as you can with a jpg.....

C
 

Frodo

EOS RP
Nov 3, 2012
298
17
cayenne said:
Once you are in HDR combined, you're basically limited on how much you can push/pull these things as much as you can with a jpg.....

C
I understand that dng is similar to RAW and much more maleable than jpg. Hasselblad, Pentax and Leica use it as their "RAW" format.
 

Ladislav

EOS RP
Feb 13, 2013
332
44
37
Czech Republic
Hmmm, interesting question. My assumption was that it does not matter when merging to HDR in Lightroom since I expected that it takes RAW data and merge that to HDR DNG which is still raw so all modifications should still happen on top of that.

Different story is exporting for merge to Photomatix. In such case I do very basic RAW processing first - camera profile, lens profile and chromatic aberration, color temperature.
 

ken

Engineer, snapper of photos, player of banjos
Aug 8, 2016
81
65
Huntsville, AL
I do a lot of HDR work. I typically go from Lightroom to Photomatix Pro then back to Lightroom. I always apply lens profile to the individual files, and then I knock down highlights as needed. Highlights are the big thing that I pre-process. Whether it's the sky during the day, point lights at night, or daylight from a window. Sometimes I'll toy with clarity and contrast, but typically I'll do that on the merged file when I get back it in Lightroom.

Once I get the merged file back in Lightroom, I usually "Group into Stack" the originals so that I can find the groups easier in the future. (You have to unstack to export to Photomatix Pro again.) That's just an organizational tip.

Just experiment and see what works! It's easy enough to go round-trip several times with a set.
 

Don Haines

Beware of cats with laser eyes!
Jun 4, 2012
8,228
1,841
Canada
Did a quick experiment.....

Processed the RAW files and then ran them through the Lightroom HDR, and ran the unprocessed files through Lightroom HDR..... got essentially the same result....

First photo, pre-processed....
Second photo, no pre-processing....
 

Attachments

LDS

EOR R
Sep 14, 2012
1,593
164
cayenne said:
I was thinking, that once you combine your multiple exposure images, that is the last time you will have opportunity to do any RAW manipulations to them.
When you load an image, it won't be in "RAW" anymore - it will demosaiced, camera profile applied, etc. etc.

"RAW" means you have the data as read from the sensor, but most image processing applications need to transform them into a common format they can manipulate.

In memory, the image will be some sort of 16-bit RGB image, hopefully in some large enough color space. When you open it in Lightroom, IIRC the in-memory format is very similar to that used internally by DNG, in its variation of ProPhoto RGB color space.

Any image stored with enough bit-depth and large enough color space can be edited with ample space before too many data are lost, clipped, etc. Manipulating a RAW file or a 16 bit ProPhoto RGB TIFF file is quite the same, especially since they will transformed into the same in-memory format.

Thereby, if after the merge the image is still in a "large" enough format, it can be edited as if it was a RAW - how much depends on the merging algorithm and the resulting image.

The advantage of RAW is just you have the original camera data, so any improvement to the "load" algorithms (demosacing, camera profiles, etc.) can be re-applied to the sensor original data, something you can't do if those are no longer available.

Returning to your question, processing RAW images before merging may change the merge result - the algorithms will work on different data - I'd be very careful also about those who alter some pixels only (i.e. sharpening, which changes pixels along the edges) because they could be applied in different ways in the different images, and may result in artifacts later. Other may have no impact.

IMHO, unless you have a good reason to do otherwise, processing should be applied to the merged image. If you think pre-processing some images will yield better results, do it - but not because you think you lost the opportunity of "RAW processing" later.
 

jaell

EOS M50
Mar 28, 2013
33
0
Photomatix recommends processing RAW to TIFF before loading images (as a first step, before aligning, deghosting, etc.). That recommendation is based on the pre-processing to remove any/all artifacts from your individual images--because those artifacts will compound as you're pushing saturation, contrast, etc., in the HDR process.

So if you have lens distortion, chromatic aberration, fringing, flare, vignetting, etc., you want to address that before you move to HDR processing. Ditto with any white balance correction you need to do. As I primarily use HDR on outdoor shots, and often desaturate (even to full BW), I don't need to do a lot of white balance correction.

For me, when I need the intermediate step of RAW->TIFF prior to HDR is, as others have pointed out, when I'm stitching panoramas. You must-must-must stitch first--you can't just HDR your individual slices and then stitch the HDR-ed images together. And, if it isn't obvious, you need to crop your stitched panos before the HDR process, because if you try to process an image with the funky borders from the stitching process, it'll throw off all the contrast and DR adjustment.

I've been using Photomatix for almost 9 years now, with 'normal' images and IR, and I've tested individual projects letting Photomatix use the original RAW files and using TIFFs processed (by both ACR and DPP) from the RAW files with no adjustments. I can't tell any difference, so I believe Photomatix's RAW processing is just fine for my uses. I do tend to pre-process in DPP when I'm using IR images that I want to end up BW, because the little bit of color that the RAW files have can produce some odd/jarring results in Photomatix. On occasion I've tweaked the TIFFs in Photoshop (using Nik Silver Efex, applying red filter) before porting over to Photomatix, but that's a lot of work--the main benefit being smoother skies without weird artifacts.

I'd say the biggest thing, if you're doing HDR landscapes with a wide angle, is to address vignetting. If you're going for a very "HDR" look, any vignetting in your RAW images can become very pronounced.
 

scottkinfw

Wildlife photography is my passion
cayenne said:
Just curious....

I was thinking, that once you combine your multiple exposure images, that is the last time you will have opportunity to do any RAW manipulations to them.

Do ya'll do any RAW changes before combining the images into an HDR for tone mapping?

If so...what?

Since you are combining images...are there any RAW changes you have to be careful of in order to not have problems multiply as they combine?

Thanks in advance!!

cayenne
Excellent question. I have wondered this myself. Thanks for asking.


Scott
 

scottkinfw

Wildlife photography is my passion
cayenne said:
Just curious....

I was thinking, that once you combine your multiple exposure images, that is the last time you will have opportunity to do any RAW manipulations to them.

Do ya'll do any RAW changes before combining the images into an HDR for tone mapping?

If so...what?

Since you are combining images...are there any RAW changes you have to be careful of in order to not have problems multiply as they combine?

Thanks in advance!!

cayenne
Not to hijack the thread. I am curious do people who use Photomatix feel it is superior to LR, and why?

Thanks.

sek
 

jaell

EOS M50
Mar 28, 2013
33
0
scottkinfw said:
Not to hijack the thread. I am curious do people who use Photomatix feel it is superior to LR, and why?

Thanks.

sek
I have no idea about LR's HDR capabilities. I don't use LR. I'm weird.

Photomatix has a bit of a steep learning curve, but is very flexible and you can do quite a bit with it. I tried another HDR program 9 yers ago--I think it was EasyHDR--and it didn't have all the options that Photomatix did, though it was ostensibly easier to use... because it didn't have all the options that Photomatix has.

I *ahem* bought a lot of Nik plug-ins, but stayed away from HDREfex, despite it getting glowing reviews, mainly because I had given Nik enough money already and was happy with Photomatix. Then when Google acquired Nik, I got HDREfex for free. Tried it, seemed fine to use, but again, Photomatix just has more options and feels more powerful.

It's a clunkier process than a Photoshop plug-in or a LR process, but I have a decent workflow established. And I've gotta say, HDRSoft has been very generous with free upgrades, and even when they had a major update, they had a very reasonable upgrade price for owners of prior versions. And they allow you to install Photomatix on 2 machines, so I have a laptop (with no PS) with Photomatix installed, and I can end up doing a lot of work on it.
 

Woodwideweb

I'm New Here
Jan 7, 2017
21
0
Hi

Only done a limited amount of HDR, but have used Affinity Photo. Created an HDR Panorama from 18 images. Each of the 6 slices was created from 3 raw files, no raw processing except selecting specific areas from one of the input files where I wanted a certain image to be used in the HDR output.
When merging into a panorama, there seemed to be some slight exposure differences, but Affinity took care of that and I could then process the final image.
If you want to see the process there are tutorial videos available on the Affinity forum website
https://forum.affinity.serif.com/index.php?/topic/10119-official-affinity-photo-desktop-video-tutorials-200/
Look under the HDR section for HDR panoramas. That’s how I learnt to use the tool features.

Chris
 

ken

Engineer, snapper of photos, player of banjos
Aug 8, 2016
81
65
Huntsville, AL
scottkinfw said:
cayenne said:
Just curious....

I was thinking, that once you combine your multiple exposure images, that is the last time you will have opportunity to do any RAW manipulations to them.

Do ya'll do any RAW changes before combining the images into an HDR for tone mapping?

If so...what?

Since you are combining images...are there any RAW changes you have to be careful of in order to not have problems multiply as they combine?

Thanks in advance!!

cayenne
Not to hijack the thread. I am curious do people who use Photomatix feel it is superior to LR, and why?

Thanks.

sek
Lightroom's internal HDR support is extremely limited. It will do it, but you have very limited control over the process. Photomatix provides very detailed control over the fusion and tone mapping processes, and choices of algorithms. (And a big pile of presets to get you started) I use Lightroom to manage the images and to edit the final result. When you export a set from Lightroom to Photomatix, Lightroom will generate the intermediate TIF files for you so it's an easy process. (Same with Nik HDR, which I don't use much anymore... although it isn't bad).

And I'll say again, as someone who has generated thousands of HDR photos for real estate business, there is a DEFINITE difference in processing highlights prior to HDR processing vs after for many, many cases, although it can be exaggerated based on which fusion process you use. Also, if all the images in your bracket are below normal exposure, it won't be as noticeable. I typically shoot 5 shots, from -2EV to +2EV, so there can be plenty of blown highlights. Just because someone has never noticed a difference in processing them before or after in their particular shooting situations doesn't mean they've encountered every use-case. :) I don't always fuse the same way, so I always work highlights ahead of time just to be safe.
 

stevelee

FT-QL
Jul 6, 2017
1,286
310
Davidson, NC
I understand that LR is a lot like ACR, so I've never bothered with it. I've heard from pros that it helps their workflow, but I don't see any advantage for me. The current version of HDR working out of filmstrip mode in Bridge seems rather easy and gives me a lot of control, using the same sliders of ACR after merging the files. Is that how LR's current version works? I've tried the more native Photoshop version, and am not good enough at it for it to be an advantage. I've also tried some third-party solutions that didn't much impress me, though I could get different, though not necessarily better, results.