Lightroom Q&A's

The Paris Trip / HDR Q&A

Lot’s of great questions came from my post last week. First I just wanted to say thank you for all of the kind words about the photos. Next, I figured I’d compile your questions so that everyone can benefit from some answers. Thanks again!

Q. Great shots Matt. Do you tend to use Photoshop CS5 for HDR processing, HDR Efex Pro from Nik, or Photomatix?
A. After many trials, switching and testing I’ve settled on Photomatix for my HDR photos. It’s hard to explain exactly why. Personally, I’m just able to get the look that I want with it. It’s fast and, well, it just works for me.

Q. Pretty awesome HDR shots.. One question though, I have been to Paris but I could never get any of these shots without people in it. How did you manage to do it? Photoshop? Or another trick?

A. First off, thanks 🙂 For most of the photos I was just patient and waited. For some of the Louvre photos (which were HDR photos), the people were there, but they were ghosted because of the long exposures. Once I had the photo in Photoshop, I used the Clone Stamp tool or Content Aware Healing in CS5 to get rid of them. For the ones taken at sunrise, well, there’s your answer. It was cold and Serge and I were the only ones silly enough to be up that early 😉

Q. Which traveling tripod did you take with you?
A. I use the Gitzo traveler 1550T along with a BH-40 Really Right Stuff ballhead. On this trip I borrowed my buddy’s BH-40 because it’s so much lighter than the BH-55 I own. In fact, if anyone wants to buy a used BH-55 (but very well taken care of) let me know. I just don’t use the lenses big enough to warrant that size bullhead and will probably wind up selling it to buy a BH-40.

Q. Paris + Bad weather = Black and White. Why no black and white photos?
A. I’m just not a fan of B&W. I’ll convert 1 out of every 100 photos to black and white. Don’t know why really. I just personally like color.

Q. I usually don’t like HDR, but I like these photos (This comment came up a number of times)
A. OK, this was more of a comment instead of a question. But I thought it was a good topic because it came up a lot. I really don’t do any naturalistic or realistic HDR photos any more. I’d rather just overlay two bracketed photos in Photoshop and use masking to get the best results from the two. So, when I create an HDR photo I’m purely going for more of a surrealistic over-the-top look. To me, that’s where HDR fits in best. I think we tend to say we don’t like HDR when we see it used poorly on poor subjects. But when you go for the surreal style of HDR on subjects that tend to have a surreal look/feel to them I think it works. That’s my take anyway.

Q. I don’t know if you’re aware, but you were very lucky with your Eiffel Tower shot – if (like most people) you’d waited to see the ‘flashes’ (on the hour for several minutes) on the Tower, you’d have been in copyright violation.
A. Good point. For those that don’t know, the Eiffel Tower has flashing/blinking lights on it that go off for about 5 minutes on the top of every hour. When those lights were installed, it’s said to have significantly changed the appearance of the Eiffel Tower enough so that any photos with the blinking lights on are copyrighted by the company that owns them and any use is forbidden. I did take a photo with all the lights blinking but I just thought it looked bad in a photo (very cool to see in person). It took away from the beauty of the tower for me. That said, I did some research and from what I could find, I’d still be OK if I posted the photo. Its only if I tried to use the photo commercially that I’d have a problem. Think about it. There were probably 1000 other people taking photos with me. You know those photos end up all over Facebook, twitter, blogs, wherever. I don’t think they’d be successful in forbidding people to post the photos. From what I read, you just can’t use them for commercial purposes. That said, I’m sure there’s some one out there that’ll tell me I’m wrong and I’m a law breaker due to my lack of respect for churches and monuments world wide and how I do the photography community a disservice bla bla bla… But I’m pretty sure those comments won’t make it through 😉

Q. Great pictures from Paris, but did you also shoot some pictures in Amsterdam? It may be a smaller city, but it’s at least as beautiful.
A. I agree totally. Beautiful city! Honestly, I was working most of the time in the Netherlands. I had my evenings free and after the long days I had (and some jetlag), I just felt like hanging out and enjoying at a nice dinner and drinks (and admittedly some people watching) with my wife.

Q. Love your story of shooting the model in the Netherlands and forgetting to put your card in the camera. Why don’t you enable the feature that won’t let you shoot without a card in the camera?
A. I always enable that feature on my own cameras. I was using some one elses camera for the shoot though, and it wasn’t turned on (and I never checked).

Q. How did you get the starburst effect on the shot with the two street lamps in front?
A. I shoot my night HDRs at f/16. With the Nano coating on the newer Nikon lenses you can get a nice starburst without going all the way to f/22. Sometimes I even get them at f/11.

Q. Hey Matt! I do really like HDR. Could you share approximately how many images you took and the range of bracketing?
A. I set my Nikon D3 to shoot 5 frames most of the time. They’re each 1 stop apart and I discard the +1 and -1 photo so I’m just left with -2, metered, +2. For most photos that does the trick. Once in a while, I’ll have to change the settings to get a longer/shorter exposure depending if there’s a bright window or really dark shadowy area in the frame.