5 Tools You Can Use To Make The Most Of Shadows & Highlights Without HDR

There are many things you can do in Photoshop to make the most of shadow and highlight detail in images, even if you didn’t bracket exposures for HDR.
Curves, the most precise tool for modifying brightness and contrast, allows you to target and adjust shadows and highlights independently of one another. You can use it to reduce contrast and render more detail in very bright highlights and/or very dark shadows. The Curves interface has a feature (The icon looks like a finger with up and down arrows.) that allows you to click on any area of an image to place a point and adjust those values. If you’re adjusting highlights and shadows, it’s quite likely that you will also have to adjust values in the other end of the tonal scale and possibly midtones to generate the best results. Keep it simple; it’s surprising what you can do with just two or three points. Keep it smooth; avoid posterization by not flattening areas of a curve. The Blend Mode Luminosity can be used to remove any unintended shifts in saturation; more contrasti increases saturation while less contrast decreases saturation.


Curves can be used to lighten shadows and/or darken highlights


Before Curves


After Curves

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Extending Dynamic Range With Two Exposures


Two exposures blended


Dark exposure


Light exposure


The layer stack

Sometimes Two Exposures Are Optimum

There are a variety of ways to extend the dynamic range of a camera. The four classic ways are selective adjustment, double processing a single file, layering two exposures, and merging multiple exposures with HDR software routines.

Layering two exposures produces the best results when a scene has areas of dramatically different brightness separated by clear contours, like but not limited to horizons. For these types of scenes, layering two exposures avoids artifacts that are common in HDR merges, such as saturation distortions, midtone compression, localized vignetting, and detail / noise exaggeration artifacts.

Make Two Exposures Each Optimized For Select Areas

To exceed the dynamic range of a camera’s sensor (or film) you need to make at least two exposures. During exposure(s), rather than rather than striking a compromise between very different brightness values, instead optimize one exposure for each area of brightness, the highlights and the shadows. For each area, expose to the right. Monitor clipping differently. The exposure for the highlights will be clipped in the shadows. The exposure for the shadows will be clipped in the highlights. (If this is not the case, then you may be able to use a simpler technique such as selective adjustement or double processing.)

For this technique you only need two exposures, a very dark and a very light one, but to be on the safe side, make additional exposures in between them. It doesn’t matter which end of the tonal scale (dark or light) you start with. Simply work your way up or down from one to the other. Remember, using a tripod, locking down zoom lenses, and turning off auto focus will all help you register the two exposures more easily.

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56 Great Quotes On Success

Enjoy this collection of quotes on Success.
“Success is simple. Do what’s right, the right way, at the right time.” – Arnold H. Glasow
“For success, attitude is equally as important as ability.” – Harry F. Banks
“Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.” – Zig Ziglar
“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” – Albert Schweitzer
“Don’t aim for success if you want it; just do what you love and believe in, and it will come naturally.” – David Frost
“Action is the foundational key to all success.” – Pablo Picasso
“The first step toward success is taken when you refuse to be a captive of the environment in which you first find yourself.” Mark Caine
“Success is loving life and daring to live it.” – Maya Angelou
“The whole secret of a successful life is to find out what is one’s destiny to do, and then do it.” Henry Ford
“Success means having the courage, the determination, and the will to become the person you believe you were meant to be.” – George Sheehan
“I’ve come to believe that each of us has a personal calling that’s as unique as a fingerprint – and that the best way to succeed is to discover what you love and then find a way to offer it to others in the form of service, working hard, and also allowing the energy of the universe to lead you. ” ― Oprah Winfrey
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How Many Exposures Do You Need For HDR ?

Condensation X - Prelude

1 exposure – scenes like this won’t benefit from HDR

Incubation II

3 exposures – scenes like this may be made with 1 exposure but benefit from more

Antarctica CXXX

5 exposures – scenes like this require HDR

How many exposures do you need for HDR images?

It depends.

It depends on the contrast ratio of the scene you’re photographing.

Ideally, you’d make one exposure per stop of dynamic range in the scene. In your first exposure place the shadows in the top stop of the histogram (to the right), without clipping. Then in subsequent exposures reduce exposure in one stop increments, making a new exposure each time, until the highlights are placed in the top stop without any clipping. Then stop. Making more exposures is unnecessary and won’t improve image quality.

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