Saturday, August 5, 2006

GIMP: Poor man's HDR

  • Take two separate frames of the scene. They should be exactly the same except for the lighting. Take them with 2/3 f-stops between them. One will show the shadows and other the highlights.
    • Set the camera to Aperture priority (to prevent change in field of depth) and manual focus.
    • Might be helpful to use a tripod.
  • Paste the dark frame on the light frame. The light image becomes the background and dark image becomes a new layer on top of it.
  • Now there are two methods:
Painted mask method:
  • Add a layer to the dark foreground image: layer / add layer mask / full opacity (while)
  • Select the paintbrush tool and choose a large brush.
  • Start painting over the dark area of the image; try to expose the underexposed parts. Painting on the dark-mask will remove parts of the dark image. Dont go too close the light areas.
  • Then select a smaller brush and do the dark-light edges.
  • This method allows one to precisely control what to expose.
Layer mask method:
  • This one is a black magic :)
  • Add a layer to the dark foreground image: layer / add layer mask / full opacity (while)
  • Click on the background layer, copy it.
  • Select only the white mask (press ALT and then click the while rectangle). Press CTRL-V to paste the light image on the mask.
  • Gimp creates a floating pasted layer, right click and say "anchor layer". A B&W mask image is displayed.
  • Add a gaussian blur with 40px radius (Filters / Blur / Gaussian blur)
  • (Optional) Edit the curve of the background image.
  • Flatten image (merge layer with the background layer).
  • Voila! I was amazed with the results. Now I will make bracketing the default mode in my camera.

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