HDR Tip - Need for a Good Black Point
This is the second in a series of advanced tips created by shooting and teaching pro James Brandon who will be delivering a new tip each month for our blog and newsletters.
As some of you may know, I'm an editor over at a great site called HDRspotting. It's a site created by Trey Ratcliff of Stuck in Customs and is designed to drive traffic to your images. When you submit an image to the site, the editors go through all the submissions and rank the images. Depending on the ranking, the image will go into a few different categories: The 'Latest' section for images that didn't quite make the cut. The 'Featured' section for really good images. And finally the 'Editor's Pick' section for the absolute cream of the crop GREAT images. Even though the site is already incredibly popular, it's still currently in BETA mode, and therefore is still invite only.
So why am I telling you this? Well, for two reasons: One, because over the course of these coming newsletters (and the previous ones) I'm going to go over certain things I look for when judging images, whether on HDRspotting or elsewhere on the web. And two, because at the end of this newsletter I'm going to let you in on a little contest for a chance to win some a code to HDRspotting or a product code for HDR Express :-). I only have a few to hand out at the moment, so be sure to act quick.
In the last newsletter, we discussed ways to prevent those terrible, muddy whites in your HDR images. When I see these in other images around the web, I almost immediately get turned off. It's just ugly! Another thing that makes a great image is a great black point. Lucky for you, HDR Express has a black point slider! So, what is black point? Well, it's basically the amount of black in your image. If your black point is too low, your image will look washed out and dull. Kind of like if you bought a brand new t-shirt and left it out in the summer sun for a few days. On the flip side, if your black point is too high, you will lose details in the shadow areas, and your image will look over-processed. Here's an example of an image I worked on, and what it looked like with a low black point...
As you can see, there is very little contrast or detail in the image. Black point works best when it's used in concert with the 'Shadow' and 'Contrast' sliders. What we want to do with this image is to bring out the texture and detail in the snow and the rocks, as well as the sky and the water. I know the scene didn't look this dull when I was there, and I want to convey to the world what the scene really looked like. Here's the image after a few tweaks in HDR Express...
Now isn't that better!? As you can see, I cranked the black point up from 9 all the way to 41. When I did this, I had to bring the shadows slider up a bit to preserve the details in the shadow areas. Finally, I brought the contrast way up from -27 all the way to 46. The contrast slider is more of a detail slider than anything else. When it has a good black point to pull from, the contrast slider will go into those details within the frame and pull out the textury (yes I made that word up) goodness that is already there. Here's the final image...
HDR Spotting Invite Codes
Alright, we are giving away 2 copies of HDR Express and 4 invite codes to HDR Spotting! Here's what you need to do for a chance to win:
1.) The first qualifier for the contest is that you are following Unified Color (@UnifiedColor) and myself (@jamesdbrandon) on Twitter. Next, send out this exact tweet:
"RT @UnifiedColor & @jamesdbrandon are giving away 2 copies of HDR Express & 4 codes to HDRspotting. To enter:http://bit.ly/hzZPqr"
48 hours after the newsletter is released, I will go through the tweets and pick the winners at random. It's that simple!
HDR Expose 2 is the pro’s choice for creating stunning and color-accurate HDR images.
This major upgrade incorporates 26 new or improved features making it a full-featured application and not just a tone mapping utility.
HDR Expose 2 ships with Adobe Lightroom and Apple Aperture export plug-ins.