Aloha HDR

Bringing HDR back into my photographic repertoire is fun and I feel like I’m creating some terrific images.

This summer I went to Hawaii and shot over 750 HDRs. Plenty of sunsets. Lotsa beaches. RAW+JPEG. Came home with just over 100G of photos and video.

I’d been working with the new release of PaintShop Pro while it was under development and as we came into home stretch I really wanted to put the software through its paces with content I can relate to. My content.

At Ulead, we first introduced HDR in PhotoImpact 8, but PaintShop Pro X4 takes it further. Much further.

Here are some of the things I’ve learned.

Hand-held is OK

Everybody says you need a tripod to shoot HDR. But that’s not entirely true. With a little practice, I got pretty good at holding my DSLR steady enough to run through the three bracketed (AEB) exposures. The trick was to line up some detail in the scene with one of the focus points in the viewfinder and hold those two together as steadily as possible. Good light helps. I didn’t take my tripod for strolls down the beach yet got some stunning shots. For sunsets, however, I used a tripod.

Go wide for sunsets

When it came to shooting sunsets, I wasn’t sure whether I should use a smaller aperture or a larger one. I’ve read that lenses perform best in the middle of their range, but then again a small aperture increases depth of field. So I tried a little of everything. The upshot? I got great pictures at all f-stops. But when the setting sun was shining directly into the camera, shooting with the lens wide open worked better. It produced fewer artifacts.

Batch processing is da bomb

750 HDRs is a bunch. And naturally, once I got home I was very keen to see how they turned out. Enter the HDR Batch Merge tool.

  • Add as many sets as you want. They don’t have to be in the same folder.
  • Photos appear one set per row, so you wind up with a column of normally exposed images (0EV), dark versions (-2EV) and then the light ones (+2EV). It’s easy to see where the pattern goes awry.
  • Add automatic alignment based on edges or features (features takes a bit longer but gives better results in most cases)
  • Choose where the files are to go and the format they’re saved in.

Once things are lined up correctly, hit go and let the computer do its thing while you do something else. Your reward is that before long, you are up to your ears in glorious new photos that you had only previously dreamed of.

Have a brush with greatness

Take three bracketed shots with people in them and most likely you’ll find that they’ve moved. Same is true for waves on the beach. Trees in the breeze. Traffic. You get the picture.

That’s where brushing comes in.

After you load your shots into the HDR tool, you have a chance to brush in details from individual frames that you want to keep, and brush out things you don’t want. Hit go and you see the results. If it’s not quite right, go back and change what you’ve brushed.

The rule of thumb is to think about what you want, and first brush that in. Then figure out if there’s stuff you need to brush out. Brushing, of course, is a way of creating a mask that the software uses to merge the images. The merging part is the rocket science in this deal, and as far as I’m concerned it’s straight over the moon.

No right or wrong answers

Back when we first started working with HDR, we talked about how it mimicked the way our eyes see – capturing detail in highlights, midtones and shadows. The idea was to create images that look as natural as possible.

Since then a new school of HDR thought has sprung up. HDR as art. Search for one of the online HDR galleries and you’ll see drama galore. Spectacular clouds. Stunning night scenes. Fantastic architecture.

HDR in PaintShop Pro X4 has everything you need to transform ordinary photos into something extraordinary. Chief among these is the Creative Detail control. Once you’ve been there, you’ll find yourself returning regularly for more adventures.

Beyond the visual pyrotechnics, you’ll find a full complement of tools to straighten, crop and adjust images to perfection. Or, if you’re the type that laughs at perfection, at least until they’re done!

No right or wrong equipment

So I was the guy on the beach in Maui with the DLSR, a camera bag and a brand-new tripod. And I had a gas.

When I got back I ran into my fellow blogger and Corel colleague Graham and checked out his kit: a lovely S95 point-and-shoot plus a gorillapod. During his summer family adventure, he too shot a ton of HDRs. He was kind enough to lend me his setup for a couple of days and I sported them around on my morning bike ride. Got some bird’s eye HDRs there’s no way I could have shot any other way. Vive la différence! Vive le HDR!

Mahalo cousins.

See more from this set at:


Check out a new set of HDRs from my recent bike trip over Taiwan’s 3275 meter Central Cross Island Pass – the highest in Northeast Asia!

Learn more about HDR at our Showcase website:

About Dwight Jurling

With some 17 years working in digital media software in Taiwan, Dwight continues to find inspiration in the people he meets and revels at the pure fun of editing photos and video. His goal is to make Corel’s new logo the best known balloon in Asia Pacific. And ride his bike.
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2 Responses to Aloha HDR

  1. David Ambrose says:

    I am a user of Paradox starting with 3.0 and for some years now 8.0. Where can I buy a copy of Paradox 11

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