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.



  1. Jonathan Rice 1 May, 2011 at 13:54 Reply

    I have come to much the same conclusion as you—I just like Photomatix better. I’ve tried all of the HDR software out there and yet I keep coming back to Photomatix for that special quality that only it has.

    I’ll answer your RAYS question. I tried it out and must say I think its very nice. I found had to kinda under do it a bit to keep it realistic, but it added just the right finishing touch to one of my photos that it received an EC on Photoshop User’s weekly portfolio contest. I will be using it in the future to add that little special something when needed. I’m about the final image, not about how I got there. Anything to make the image great is my credo.

    Keep up the great work and the great tips.


  2. Andre Maltais 14 April, 2011 at 14:10 Reply

    Matt – Great information. I have moved from Photomatrix to Nik’s HDR Efex Pro. Would love to know your thoughts on that software. I thought you had a blog post somewhere, but I can’t seem to find it.

    Thanks again for sharing!

  3. Rosewood 12 April, 2011 at 11:51 Reply

    Can someone share some more information behind this whole Eiffel Tower / copyright thing?

    Here in the US if that was tried it would be laughed out of the courts. Imagine if the lighting on the Statue of Liberty was copyrighted? Or the Empire State Building?

  4. KazM 11 April, 2011 at 22:01 Reply

    Great HDR shots Matt…I might be interested in buying your BH-55. Send me an email if you are ready to sell.

    Thanks for all you do…Kaz

  5. Ahmad Al Khalidi 11 April, 2011 at 16:50 Reply

    Great HDR shots they were could you please do a detailed tutorial on how you did any one of them? I’ve been trying to do some HDR shots from a trip last weekend and I am not able to get such a beautiful look from my bracketed shots even when trying cs5 or photomatix..thanks

  6. RicardoC 11 April, 2011 at 15:01 Reply

    Great post…

    Everyday I’m sure I have to take the HDR course at Kelby Training… maybe next weekend. 🙂

    You could create a video on the processing of one of these pictures… 🙂


  7. Kevin Halliburton 11 April, 2011 at 12:40 Reply

    I’m with those who think you do a great disservice to the photo industry. How are “REAL” photographers supposed to drum the HDR monster out of town if you keep drowning their petty little arguments in wave after wave of unrelenting talent?! Please STOP! The rest of us are trying to look good too you know! 😉

  8. MD 11 April, 2011 at 09:16 Reply

    Great shots and very informative post, Matt. Everyone has their own style and workflow, especially when it comes to something as processing oriented as HDR. But just my 2 cents – I actually think you may be better off using those +1 and -1 exposures. Just doing a little testing (very informally) with my D700, D50 and Canon G11, to my eye across the board for all 3 cameras I see a noticeable decrease in noise after processing through Photomatix when I use the “tweener” exposures compared to when I do not. I do not, however, see any advantage in terms of ability to capture the dynamic range. Your D3 may have such a good sensor that even after heavily processing with Photomatix you do not see much noise.

    Anyway, just sharing my “findings” – and I use the term real loosely.


  9. al 11 April, 2011 at 08:42 Reply

    Hey Matt,

    I too started with photomatix and tried other aps when cs5 came out. I went back to Photomatix when it went to version 4. Not only did this version address the competitions advances but I feel the many sliders gives you more control when you get past the learning curve.The only knock that remains is the issue of noise.For that, doesnt everyone finish up an HDR pic in cs5 with its great noise reduction? Keep up the great teaching and photography.

  10. Stephane 11 April, 2011 at 00:52 Reply

    Hi Matt,

    Great shots. I live in Paris (I’m french), and it’s great to see the city “interpreted” by so many talented photographers.

    One word of warning though, my understanding of the Eiffel Tower copyright status, is that ALL the lighting is copyrighted, not only the “on the hour glitter”. To me, it translated to “Day shot, yes, night shot no” as soon as the tower is prominent in the photography.



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