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Thread: Extremely amateur photography

  1. #1
    Feeding LouCipherr's Avatar
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    Extremely amateur photography

    No, you read that wrong, it says PHOTOGRAPHY, not Pornography!

    Now that we have that out of the way, let's get started!

    So, about a year or so ago, our resident nutbag DjfunkmasterG happened to have an extra Pentax K-x dSLR left over from his filming of All in the Game. He asked me if I was interested in buying it from him, and me always wanting a dSLR myself instead of just point-and-shoot cameras, I jumped at the chance. He totally did me a solid favor on the price, too (thanks Dj!!!).

    That being said, I'm slowly learning the ins and outs of photography. I don't have a really good eye for shot composition yet (at least I personally don't think so), but I've managed to snag a few neat shots here and there.

    My current equipment:

    Camera Body:
    Pentax K-x (white, also known as the "Stormtrooper" )

    Lenses:
    Pentax DA* 50-200mm f/4.6
    Pentax DA* 18-55mm f/3.5
    Pentax DA 35mm f/2.4 prime

    So I'll start with a few of the pictures I've taken over the past year or so. My apologies if this thread takes a bit to load - I've reduced the pictures from 12MP down to a more reasonable size, but they still might take a bit.

    This is a HDR (High Dynamic Range) photo I took of the sunset in Boone, North Carolina last July:


    A photo of the Blue Ridge Parkway - another HDR shot:


    A photo of the Gooney Run Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway (again, an HDR pic):


    And this one was of a few cattails I spotted in Seven Springs, Pennsylvania. I actually took this picture with the Pentax K-x before Dj sold it to me. He brought it along to let me mess around with it:



    I have tons more I can post later. Any other amateur photographers out there that care to share some of their pics? I know there has to be at least a few of you out there. Post 'em up, let's see your stuff!

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    Feeding Tricky's Avatar
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    Nice pics Lou!
    Here's one I took over the Alps while flying back from Zante last year (taken with a HTC Desire phone)


    This one I took a few weeks ago of the sun setting in Yorkshire (taken on my new HTC One X)


    This one is an old Venetian fortress on the island of Corfu, I was there a few weeks ago. (HTC One X)


    This ones from when I was on a bike ride one evening mid July (HTC One X)


    My dog after I'd played with the exposure (HTC One X)


    My girlfriend a few weeks ago, messing about with the exposure again (HTC One X)


    Looking out through a Medieval arrowslit on York city walls last weekend


    I'm certainly no expert at photography, but a few people have said I just seem to have a good eye for it

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    Feeding LouCipherr's Avatar
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    SWEET pictures, Tricky! I especially like the Alps and Yorkshire. The others are great too, but those really stand out.

    Here's a few more:

    This one I took at my Uncle's house. I've always loved the grapevine on the right side of the pic - I used to play in it all the time as a kid (and usually got chased out of it by bees!) - this is another HDR:


    Last year during our trip to North Carolina, we visited the The Biltmore House in Asheville. It was built by George Washington Vanderbilt II between 1889 and 1895 and is the largest privately owned home in the United States:


    I HDR'd that picture too - makes it sorta look like a haunted house, but is still neat.

    For those unfamiliar with "HDR" or High Dynamic Range photography, it works like this: you take a series of pictures, but with different exposures (myself, I take 3 pictures - one at standard exposure, one an f-stop below standard exposure, and one an f-stop higher than normal) - then I blend the three pictures in a program called Photomatix. It tends to bring out some extreme definition, even in areas that tend to get blown out when you take just a single picture. For example, if you take a picture of tree in a field, usually the sky is washed out because the camera is exposing for the tree, not the tree AND the sky. HDR helps to bring some of those details back that go missing with a single shot.

    For some INCREDIBLE HDR phtography, I suggest checking out Trey Ratcliff's photography on his website STUCK IN CUSTOMS. His photography is what I strive to achieve in mine and boy will his photography blow your mind!

    I have a looooong way to go!

    Here's one more from the Dickey Ridge Visitors Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina:



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    Chasing Prey MoonSylver's Avatar
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    No bacon,
    No naked women,
    No naked women with bacon,

    Fail.



    (Seriously though, very nice )

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    Lou, some nice photos you got there! Don't sell yourself short on your shot composition. It's an acquired skill.
    You know about the "rule of 3rds" right?

    Are you doing those HDR's in camera or using software? What software are you using for general editing? Mac? PC? If you're using Photoshop(and I hope you are), something that makes an enormous difference in your images is to use Curves instead of levels when color correcting. And do them on each individual color channel, not the composite RGB channel
    How many exposures are you using to create those HDR's?
    I used to have a Canon Digital Rebel. No in camera HDR so i always used the cameras exposure bracketing feature. It wasn't really a very good camera IMO. I was always disappointed with the quality of the images. It was older and only had 8MP, it got stolen about a year or 2 ago and I haven't replaced it yet. To be honest, I liked editing images in Photoshop more than shooting them anyway.
    The cameras Histogram feature is the single most useful tool a photographer has at their disposal!! It's not as difficult to use as it seems either.
    Another thing that seriously effects the end result of your images is color calibration. Big time! Most people overlook it but it plays a huge role.
    Do you shoot RAW? Shooting RAW is the only way to go!

    I looked up your camera, and it has the ability to shoot in DNG format. Using the cameras RAW mode whether you choose the proprietary pentax PEF or the Adobe DNG format will give you a large leap in quality over JPEG. Not sure how much you know about image formats, but JPEG is a compressed image format. So it strips out some of the data from the image when it formats the photo. Using RAW mode gives you the "RAW" sensor data. So the images will be much larger in data size, which means you have much more image data to work with when editing.
    This is always the best way to go when shooting with a dSLR. And the image quality you get when shooting RAW is very noticeable. The downside is that you need to use software capable of editing RAW images. But it gives you much more flexibility and power over the image that just isn't even remotely possible with a JPEG. The standard for RAW images is Adobe camera RAW, which is a module of Photoshop and Lightroom.
    When using RAW it's possible to manipulate most aspects of the image with no loss in quality, stuff like white balance and contrast in a totally non-destructive way. So it basically gives you an extra few EV's on both ends to work with, which can make a huge difference in the image if your exposure is less than ideal when you shot the photo.

    Also, when reading about your camera I noticed the HDR mode uses 3 exposures. To get the HDR look you're probably after you'd need at least 5 exposures. Manual HDR always looks better than in camera HDR because you have much more control. You have the full spectrum of blend modes available when you layer your HDR's. Doing it manually will also allow you to use RAW images for your layers. In camera HDR is relatively new, and also limited in terms of true HDR. When you see really amazing HDR images they are rarely done by in-camera processing. True HDR is an art in itself, and the magic of it lies in the careful choosing of the exposure levels used, and your ability to blend the exposures. When you do it in-camera, all the personality of it is completely removed. There's a small application called HDRShop. It might not be around anymore but it was great. I still have it somewhere.
    Last edited by babomb; 07-Sep-2012 at 10:13 AM. Reason: ..

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    Team Rick MinionZombie's Avatar
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    Your composition is definitely decidedly better than you yourself consider it to be. Some really nice shots there, and the use of HDR really adds a pop to the colours and exposure - lovely stuff indeed.

    I would like to have a DSLR, but I can't afford to buy one yet. I'd love it if you could 'do a Matrix' and just download all the technical know-how for a new camera so you didn't have to learn all the tricky technical operations. Composition is something that can be learned, to an extent, but some people have a stronger inate sense of it than others - as in, you walk into a location, be it indoors or outdoors, and you immediately identify numerous composition possibilities that are both convention and unconventional, including using the aforementioned rule of thirds, perspective, planes of distance, etc etc etc.

    As I said above though, Lou, your composition skills are definitely strong, you're doing yourself a dis-service by saying otherwise.

    I like to take a lot of photographs when I get the chance, but sometimes if you're in a touristy area you're just snapping away like mad as you don't have the time to really consider the photo, so you're just relying on point & shoot skills and that aforementioned 'inate composition' stuff, rather than having the time to really soak things in. I have a normal everyday camera, a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX12, on which I've been able to take some nice shots - but obviously you can't easily do HDR stuff (or at all) with it, or get lots of control over it, but you can do some nifty things sometimes with some experimentation.

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    Feeding LouCipherr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MoonSylver View Post
    No bacon,
    No naked women,
    No naked women with bacon,

    Fail.
    Moon, I've seriously tried, but I cannot find a model willing to work with me and raw bacon. I'm trying, though!


    Quote Originally Posted by babomb View Post
    Lou, some nice photos you got there! Don't sell yourself short on your shot composition. It's an acquired skill.
    You know about the "rule of 3rds" right?
    Thank you. I still feel I have a ways to go with composition, but I'm getting there.

    Yes, I'm very much into the rule of thirds. I've used it in some of my photography, but I tend to use the same philosophy in photography as I do in music: first thing: learn all the rules. Second: throw all that shit out the window and do whatever looks (or in the case of music, 'sounds') good!

    There's also the fibonacci spiral technique, too, but Rule of Thirds is a bit easier to deal with.

    Quote Originally Posted by babomb View Post
    Are you doing those HDR's in camera or using software? What software are you using for general editing? Mac? PC? If you're using Photoshop(and I hope you are), something that makes an enormous difference in your images is to use Curves instead of levels when color correcting. And do them on each individual color channel, not the composite RGB channel.
    How many exposures are you using to create those HDR's?
    I'm using a program to do my HDR, and I do it on my PC. I do it in the following manner:

    Set camera to multiple exposures (mine can do 3 max). I realized I made a mistake in my first post regarding this: First photo is normal exposure, the other two are one at TWO f-stops below normal and one at TWO f-stops above normal exposure. I said one f-stop in my first post, that was incorrect.

    I take all three images and load them into what I consider the best HDR program out there: Photomatix. I get the levels of each of the picture to where I want them in Photomatix, then I export it to Photoshop and do "cleanup" if necessary. "Cleanup" usually consists of loading the final HDR and the "normal" exposure shot as a "mask" - then I can pull some of the "normal" exposure picture into the HDR to clean up some of the areas I want to focus your eye on. It's very subjective, and different for every photo. Some don't even require this step.

    My camera does have in-camera HDR, but you pretty much have zero control over the final output. I've tried to use it, but don't like the results.


    Quote Originally Posted by babomb View Post
    I used to have a Canon Digital Rebel. No in camera HDR so i always used the cameras exposure bracketing feature. It wasn't really a very good camera IMO. I was always disappointed with the quality of the images. It was older and only had 8MP, it got stolen about a year or 2 ago and I haven't replaced it yet. To be honest, I liked editing images in Photoshop more than shooting them anyway.
    The cameras Histogram feature is the single most useful tool a photographer has at their disposal!! It's not as difficult to use as it seems either.
    Really? I've always heard good things about the Rebel line, but then again, I've never used one first-hand, so... I tried to stay out of the Nikon/Canon thing for a few reasons:

    A) Pentax is just as good of a camera if you get the right one (my K-x has some of the best low-light, high ISO/low noise capability you'll find in a dSLR right now - very helpful for low light shots!)

    B) Pentax lenses are a metric shit-ton cheaper than Canon/Nikon

    C) Dj sold me the camera so cheap, there was no way I could say no.

    I use the exposure bracketing feature of my camera too for the multiple exposures - I'd like to be able to do 5 and 7 shot exposure bracketing, but my K-x will only allow for 3. That's enough in most cases.

    And you are right - the histogram is the absolute most powerful tool in your camera. It allows you to see what is over or under exposed in the blink of an eye. You always want that "mountain" look to be smack-dab in the middle of the histogram, to assure no 'blown out' areas or areas that are way too dark to recover the detail.

    Quote Originally Posted by babomb View Post
    Another thing that seriously effects the end result of your images is color calibration. Big time! Most people overlook it but it plays a huge role.
    Do you shoot RAW? Shooting RAW is the only way to go!
    Yes, sometimes I do. Depends on the situation. If I want full control over my photos, RAW is the only way to go. The file sizes are way bigger, but you have SO much more information to work with later when you're editing the pictures.

    Quote Originally Posted by babomb View Post
    Also, when reading about your camera I noticed the HDR mode uses 3 exposures. To get the HDR look you're probably after you'd need at least 5 exposures.
    Yes, 5 or 7 exposures would be "ideal" but I can usually get some really good results just from the 3 exposures available. Plus, I can dial those extra exposures, if I remember correctly, as far as -5 or +5 f-stops above "normal" exposure set by the camera. That's quite a bit of range - but I usually stick with -2 / 0 / +2 which seems to give the best results so far.

    I consider this my "starter" camera - I have a LONG ways to go, and I will eventually start buying higher-end equipment, but I have to admit, as inexpensive as this K-x is (even new, not just the cheaper price Dj gave me) - this thing can do wonders, and the colors are just stunning in some of the pictures - even without HDR.

    Quote Originally Posted by MinionZombie View Post
    Your composition is definitely decidedly better than you yourself consider it to be. Some really nice shots there, and the use of HDR really adds a pop to the colours and exposure - lovely stuff indeed.
    Thanks, MZ. You'd be amazed. Sometimes I have to take 50 pictures and only 2-3 of them come out with that "WOW!" factor. The rest are throw-aways. I wonder if that's normal for even pro photographers.....?

    Quote Originally Posted by MinionZombie
    I would like to have a DSLR, but I can't afford to buy one yet. I'd love it if you could 'do a Matrix' and just download all the technical know-how for a new camera so you didn't have to learn all the tricky technical operations. Composition is something that can be learned, to an extent, but some people have a stronger inate sense of it than others - as in, you walk into a location, be it indoors or outdoors, and you immediately identify numerous composition possibilities that are both convention and unconventional, including using the aforementioned rule of thirds, perspective, planes of distance, etc etc etc.
    To be honest, MZ? I probably wouldn't have this Pentax or even any other dSLR if it wasn't for Dj getting rid of his for a very cheap price. He just didn't need it anymore and was willing to take a hit on the price just to help me out and get a dSLR in my hands. I can't thank him enough for that, 'cause it has helped my photography skills increase exponentially (although not quite where I want it to be... yet! lol)

    Quote Originally Posted by MinionZombie
    As I said above though, Lou, your composition skills are definitely strong, you're doing yourself a dis-service by saying otherwise.
    Well, I appreciate the kind words. I personally feel I have a long way to go, but everyone else says they like my photos, so perhaps I'm a bit harder on myself than I need to be.



    Ok, so some more photos to tickle your eyeballs..

    Here's a random beach scene from in my neighborhood - it looked neat, and I kinda over-did the HDR, but the halo effect around the grasses is kinda neat:


    Here's one of an American Swallow-Tail butterfly. This is NOT an HDR, this was just a single shot captured outside the Biltmore House in Asheville, NC in their garden:


    A non-HDR photo of Cascade Falls, mile post 272 on the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina:


    Here's a B&W picture of my late Border Collie, Cirrus. I was lucky enough to have him with me for 14 years. Was the best dog on the planet and was smarter than most humans I know! This picture was a single-shot, no adjustments or enhancements after-the-fact. I just loved it so much I left it alone:


    More to come... Again, thanks for the kind words and tips, everyone. I try to take photos as often as I can and try to continuously improve. Hopefully that's evident in the pics.

    MZ - I know you take photos (and so do some of you others out there), I've seen some of them - post 'em! I love looking at other people's photographs. I tend to look at the ones I really like and study the shit out of them to understand why my eye likes them in particular, then I use that information in future photo shoots.

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    Ipsissimus Kaos's Avatar
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    If the board had a like button, I'd click it. Great pictures, guys!

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    Quote Originally Posted by LouCipherr View Post
    This is a HDR
    HDR is something I keep meaning to play around with.

    From what I understand you tell the camera to do a HDR photo which is made up of three photos. So I guess it needs to be on a tripod. Next, I assume you need to tell the camera how much to under/over expose the two additional shots? Finally, how do you combine all three and how painful is that?
    Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there--on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam. [click for more]
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    Feeding LouCipherr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kaos View Post
    If the board had a like button, I'd click it. Great pictures, guys!


    Quote Originally Posted by Neil View Post
    From what I understand you tell the camera to do a HDR photo which is made up of three photos. So I guess it needs to be on a tripod. Next, I assume you need to tell the camera how much to under/over expose the two additional shots? Finally, how do you combine all three and how painful is that?
    A tripod is a good thing to have, but not really 100% necessary since a program like Photomatix can "line up" the multiple photos for you (and does a pretty decent job if your hand is fairly steady). I like to use one when I can, but most of the HDR's you see here are hand-held.

    As far as the additional exposures: many cameras have a mode called "exposure bracketing" - this is the setting you use to get the camera to take 3, 5, or 7 (or whatever your camera is capable of) pics in a row. I set mine for 3 exposures (the most mine will do, but the more exposures, the better and more depth your HDR will have). I set mine to expose one "normal" pic, one pic 2 f-stops lower than normal, and one 2 f-stops above normal.

    As far as combining the pics - you can do it in Photoshop or something of the like, but get a hold of Photomatix - it will do all the difficult work for you (putting the pics together and lining them up) then you can adjust things like brightness, contrast, black levels, white levels, contrast details, etc.

    It sounds difficult, but after a few times, it really does become pretty easy. There's a TON of adjustments you can make in photomatix, but really, there's only 5-6 adjustments that really matter - the rest are just kinda for 'eye candy' and used for really, really weird manipulation of the pictures. I like mine to retain "some" of a realistic look to it while enhancing it to make it "pop" more - if that makes sense.

    Here's another from the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina (another HDR):


    Anyone like Chris Isaak? I caught him at the Chesapeake Bay Blues Festival in Maryland last year - totally kick-ass concert. Here's Chris with his other guitarist, Hershel Yatovitz (non-HDR pic):


    Something to note: notice in the Chris Isaak picture how the sky is completely white and void of any clouds/details? This is what happens when you use a single exposure. When you use multiple exposures (see the pic above Chris Isaak) you can pull all the detail from the additional exposures so you can bring the cloud/sky details back. And it doesn't just work with the sky. If I had taken that Blue Ridge Pkwy with just one photo at normal exposure, not only would the sky be blank and you couldn't see the clouds or details, but the colors wouldn't be anywhere near as rich as they are in the final HDR'd photo.

    Some people believe HDR is cheating, but I really, really like the effect if you don't go too overboard with it.

    Neil: you can see a FANTASTIC HDR tutorial by Trey Ratcliff (who is the master at this HDR stuff) here:

    Trey Ratcliff Free HDR Tutorial

    It seems like a massive overload of information at first, but take it one step at a time and feel free to ask me any questions. I'm by no means an expert, but I'll help any way I can.

    Trey's photos make me sick they're so goddamn good! THAT was what I personally strive for in my own photography, but I'm a long way away from it... for now. I'm learning, though! And that's part of the fun!

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    Here's another couple I took last year when I climbed Snowdon in Wales, its difficult NOT to take good photos when you're surrounded by scenery as dramatic as that.


    And looking down from near the summit

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    Team Rick MinionZombie's Avatar
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    Lou requested some pics, so I dug out a couple ... a couple of experimental ones relating to Christmas lights (I do love whacking on a long exposure and 'smearing' the lights), and a couple of pics from trips to Scotland.

    Just a random small cluster, and I should note that these are all as-is, taken with a normal and everyday snappy camera (Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX12).
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    Last edited by MinionZombie; 07-Sep-2012 at 07:44 PM.

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    Awesome pics, Tricky! Yeah, when you have scenery like that, it's almost hard not to come up with some good shots. Excellent eye-candy though.

    Wait, what you typed just registered in my slower-than-normal brain - did you say you climbed that damn thing?!

    <in my best Keanu Reeves> WHOA!


    And now for something completely different - I experimented a few years ago with panoramic pictures. One of the first and better ones I did was of the Hagerstown 10 Cineplex, which you guys who have seen "Deadlands 2: Trapped" by our own resident nut DjfunkmasterG, might find extremely familiar:



    The original panoramic for this was so massive I couldn't post it full-size or ya'll would've been cussing me out. Put it this way - it's about 10x as wide as this shows when blown up to 100%.

    I created this picture by setting up my tripod and took 7 separate pictures while "panning" across the theater for each shot, overlapping by about 1/3rd for each picture taken. Afterwards, I loaded all 7 pictures into Photoshop and used the "photomerge" option, subsequently merging all 7 pics into one extremely large panoramic, then cropped it to neaten the border. I was so impressed by this picture, considering this wasn't even taken with my Pentax. It was shot on a Sony DSC-H1 camera (a non-dSLR camera).

    Sometimes, it's not the camera that matters - it's the person pushing the button on it (in other words: sometimes you just get lucky as shit, like I did with this one! ).

    ***edited to add:

    MZ - hell, you posted at the same time I was and I missed your pics until I hit "post." I remember that xmas light picture (the first one on the left), and that's one of the ones I was hoping you posted - that picture has always tickled my eye for some reason. As for the rest of the pics? A+ dude!!! Awesome shots! After seeing your videos and movies, I know damn well you have a great eye for composition. Nice stuff!


    Speaking of longer exposures, I love doing the same with flowing water:



    Last edited by LouCipherr; 07-Sep-2012 at 07:53 PM. Reason: edited to add comments to MZ

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    Team Rick MinionZombie's Avatar
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    Oh I do love long exposures over running water. I love how it creates a kind of plastic/ice look to the water.

    Speaking of panoramas, I've dabbled occasionally in that ... here's the view from Edinburgh Castle on a gorgeous late-August day in 2010...
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    I've been doing computer graphics since 1998, and although not exactly the same thing as photography many of the principles apply. There's some things I noticed about that tutorial that weren't mentioned that could make alot of difference in the end result. My experience is mainly in 3D design, and designing textures for architectural visualization. This is mainly what I use Photoshop for, but the concepts of it also pertain to photo editing because they're basically the same thing. I often have to take a photo of a texture and remove the lighting from it so that it can be mapped to a 3D model. Final renders are also done in an HDR format and converted accordingly. Although I don't do all the work for the render, I'm in charge of editing the final render to be used for various applications. We use 32bit images because they offer the most flexibility.
    So I just want to point a few things out about that tutorial that fly in the face of what i've learned over the years.

    If you were to do the entire HDR process in photoshop you would have much more control over every aspect of the process. The big thing I don't like is that the end result gets saved in a JPEG, then he brings the JPEG into Photoshop for his advanced steps.
    There's much more suitable formats that preserve every bit of data for the end conversion. Actual HDR formats are much more suitable. Like a radiance file. The best HDR format is actually OpenEXR. Check it out-OpenEXR
    It does lossless compression, unlike a JPEG which is terribly lossy. So if you were to save the final HDR image from photomatix to a 16 or 32bit openexr file, then bring that into photoshop for the advanced steps you would preserve alot of the data that gets lost when you save to jpeg. JPEG's are only for presentation on the web. They aren't a working file format, they're an end result.
    Another thing is that the tutorial never mentions ICC profiles. Which are a major part of digital imaging. Most dSLR's have the ability to capture in AdobeRGB and/or ProPhotoRGB which both have a much wider gamut than other profiles. Especially sRGB. When you save your end result to display on the web you want to embed the sRGB profile into the image. But that's only because web browsers only use sRGB and can't display wide gamut profiles. But editing in sRGB is a big no-no because it doesn't display the same variety of colors that a wide gamut profile does.
    I'm not sure how Photomatix handles ICC profiles. But I do know how Photoshop does. It uses different profiles for different uses. So when you setup your color settings in Photoshop it will either preserve or convert the colors to match your profile settings. So if your camera shoots in AdobeRGB or ProphotoRGB you want to keep that as your working profile and don't allow it to convert to another until you tell it to.
    These things make a huge difference because every bit of data in an image counts.

    Another major thing I noticed is that the tutorial never mentions the proper method of doing sharpening in photoshop. When you use the unsharp mask feature you aren't supposed to do it in RGB mode. That produces more chromatic abberation(colored noise) in the image. Instead you convert the image to LAB mode and apply the sharpening to ONLY the "L"(lightness or luminance) channel. This is a big deal for HDR images because noise is already an obstacle. By converting to LAB mode you totally negate the possibility of producing abberations because the sharpening is not applied to the color data in the image, it's only applied to the luminance channel which is gray-scale.

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