Editing high dynamic range images in PhotoLab 5

Mike, Joanna, Peter, Wolfgang,

First I want to thank you for your (also very swift) replies, feedback, recommendations, etc. This I really appreciate to the full extent. Much info to consider, plat with in PL5. I’d like to emphasize the speed in which things come on this Forum, the good info. Okay, everyone has its own interpretations of course, but I reckon some ‘red line’ becomes visible for me meanwhile. My camera+lens are well set (I don’t see advice in that region; exposures seem all fine, as is focus and sharpness). So I leave this untouched for now (and the future). Other matters are more important now.

I like what you did to my original photo. Seems right and better reflecting reality at that day and time. I’ll will look at your .dop. It brought back the cloud structure the way I saw it through the lens.

Don’t get me wrong here; I fully agree with you. Skylum apps (HDR / Aurora) and others have such features, but I will never use that. This in agreement with your arguments. Besides, the photo will then turn into a ‘moulded’ picture, which can never be the intent in my point if view (alike yours :-))

Will look into the Smartlightning feature. According to your info (and that of Joanna’s) this should be a good starting point and in some cases even more than sufficient for the final result. Interesting stuff.

Thanks again you all. I’ll go practice and come back some other day with results.

PS: You’re nice bunch of people. Willing to assist on every aspect. Don’t see such this often anymore on the Internet.


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In the context of this forum, I think you and I and everyone here share that view, but I shouldn’t have used the word “NEVER” as I did. In any situation where the photo is expected to have been a real photo that a person captured, I meant what I said. But there are exceptions. If the photo was to be used in an advertisement, “anything goes”, and there is no need to be “real”. For infrared photography, nobody can “see” infrared, so I guess we’re free to experiment with how things might look, at least most of the time - probably not so for medical images. Then there are models. A friend sent me a photo of his model railroad, beautifully detailed and painted and made to look SO realistic, but behind it was a wall with crudely painted clouds on the wall. So, I replaced the painted wall with the sky from one of my photos. This had two results - the sky looked as good as always, but the “models” looked less realistic than before. I learned that lesson - for future model railroad photography, if I do replace the sky, it will be with a dull, non-exciting sky, so it doesn’t detract from the models which are the point of the photograph.

Maybe someone here might have a suggestion on how to improve on a photo like yours, to make the sky look better. All I can think of is a polarizing filter, which may or may not darken the sky depending on which way you were pointing, and where the sun was - behind you, or off to the side. I love infrared filters, but haven’t used mine in a long time. They remove distractions such as reflections on water, or cars, and can often create a much prettier sky. Are they “legit”, or do they go too far? I think they’re fine, but I wonder what others think about them. I love “Kodak-perfect” skies, with fluffy white clouds, but most of the time none of that is to be seen. Maybe someone here will have a good idea on how to treat a boring sky to make it more interesting, without going too far…

Mike, I took your DOP file and added my version

Your Control line didn’t cover the whole sky and wasn’t anywhere near selective enough. So the top of the building was being partially affected by the darkening. I tried moving it down and increased the Luma selectivity so, if you look at the master version, you should see what I did to ensure that the adjustment only affected the sky.

In the end, I decided to try a “patchy” collection of control points, changing the colour temperature and vibrance to give the appearance of high cloud with a hint of blue sky. What I have done is by no means perfect but it was just an idea to put some life into an otherwise totally blank sky without “dropping in” a replacement.

IMG_5019.CR2.dop (46,5 Ko)

Ouch. I thought that when I placed the pipette in the sky, it wouldn’t darken the building. I see how you now accomplished this with several control points.

Was there any blue in the sky, that you enhanced, or did you tint the sky blue somehow? If it’s “real”, it is certainly better than what I did. I need to try this on my own.

Alternate plan - point the camera lower, for less sky and more grass?

Added later. I opened the image and studied what you did some more. The most annoying thing to me is the sky. Since I can’t add more “grass”, I did the next best thing, cropped away more of the sky. Then I moved the left crop most of the way to the left, so more if the image is “picture” and less percentage is sky. I didn’t like the white and blue sky, as it just didn’t look plausible. So, I greatly reduced the amount of blue, leaving just a tiny amount, just enough to notice.

What I might have done wrong though, is looking at it now, what is the “focal point” of the image? It ought to be the main building, but there are too many things distracting my eye. Maybe everything but the main building should be toned down, and the main building made more brilliant and saturated?

Everything is a compromise I guess.

IMG_5019.CR2.dop (46.6 KB)

Whether you use control lines or control points, you need to make the masks visible and use the selectivity sliders to make sure that only the sky (in this case) is being selected.

Like I mentioned, I changed the colour temperature to get the blue tint and the vibrance to make the blue more obvious. The use of control points was to try and give the sky a “patchy” appearance rather than a blank single colour.

Meh :wink:

Sounds like a plan. As I said, it was just an idea to play with.

Hello Mike,
You both been optimizing some of my photo’s (results differ, but look better by each day, especially the cloud with that tiny bit of blue now introduced). Will practice myself based on provided info and results. Appreciated.

Here’s my interpretation of your sunset, hope you like it (Done it my ‘old’ way though, no corrections within PL5)

I’m sorry I can’t post the originals, they’re just too big, but here are two from this evening’s sunset at Locquémeau.



Hello Joanna,

Those look indeed very nice! The 2nd one is my favorite in this case.
Is this North-West of France, Lannion, right?

Yes, just about 10km to the west.

Such a beautiful scene - well worth visiting. Did you capture a shot just as the sun was in the process of dropping below the horizon?

To me, the first one looks like what you might have seen with your own eyes, as you were standing there, with several layers of clouds each doing its own thing, and the sun just starting to show that orange glow.

To me, the second one looks too “purple-ish”, but maybe that’s just the way you saw it with your eyes. As to the building, I wish you lightened up the bottom left, to show more detail there, and in the ground. When I click on it to make it larger, I start to see all that detail - lots more, including more rocks in the water. The larger I view it, the nicer it gets. It would also be fascinating if you go back there when the water and the waves are rougher.

How far away from your home is this? Lovely spot!!! And your camera angle makes everything look so “good” and “balanced”!

All in all, I took 34 shots and we were there for an hour from 16h43 to 17h43 and the sun finally disappeared for view at 17h26. At the moment, the two I have shown here are my favourites, but that might change when I have further sorted and processed the others.

Here is the very first shot…

It’s one of those times when fact can be stranger than fiction, with a strong blue sky above and the approaching red reflections, maybe it didn’t look quite so purple to the naked eye but that could be down to selective vision and the sensor not coping with pure colours. I have had similar problems with the wash from primary colour stage lights at concerts.

Ah, this is the point where the very fine dividing line between too much HDR appearance can all too easily spoil a great shot. Some folks like it one way, some another. Anyway, here is a slightly different version, which might look too light close up…

Well, I did take this shot three years ago, with a lot of graduated filtration in front of the lens and a 5 second exposure, so even though there was a bit more surf, it got beautifully smoothed out in the long exposure…

It’s about 10km so, if we know the tide times, the sunset time and can see the sky starting to develop where we live, it’s a case of jumping in the car and hoping that the clouds don’t change too much. And, of course, it’s always different, depending on the wind, sea level and cloud cover.

  1. We know the spot very well
  2. We setup the tripods well in advance, connect the remote, etc
  3. It “fits” the 28mm lens perfectly, so we know we can use a hyperfocal distance of 5 metres and get everything in focus from 2.5 metres to infinity.
  4. After, having studied it out over a number of years, we’ve learned from our mistakes :nerd_face:

Oh, and here is one that Helen took at the same time…

This is by far my favorite photo of all that I’ve seen:
a) The water is active, and agitated, and adds movement to an otherwise static photo
b) The clouds are gathered in a group in the middle, and other things in the sky radiate out from them
c) If you follow all those radial lines, they point to the building
d) I can already see detail in the building and ground, and it wouldn’t take much for me to see it better
e) I can already see the reflection of the sun in the water, and it wouldn’t take much for you to bring it out.
f) This photo has a single “focal point” for my eyes - the sun.
g) I would be so tempted to make the photo a little warmer, expanding the orange near the sun.

Maybe the photo you took right after this is even better? I dunno. But this one is a perfect starting point for your editing (as I see it).

Hindsight is always 20:20, but I’m wondering what it might have looked like with a longer shutter speed, to “blur” the water, rather than capture it so clearly? When I view this, I think I’m looking at a crop from a much larger image, and would like to see the rest of what (might have been) there.

I would crop out the (boring) left side of the image, so the sun reflection would be closer to the middle.

Which camera does Helen shoot with?

Sunset is playing with colors. I’m curious what WB you used on the camera, for the first impression, and if/how you changed it. And also that one of Helen.
I thought you were Canadian, but you live in France?


But then the spray can become so ethereal it’s almost invisible, but that is a matter of choice and Helen wanted to show the light catching on the droplets of surf and a lot of the droplets looked like diamonds.

To illustrate, here is one that Helen took on the other side of the headland, exposure 1/13 second…

Boring to you but not to Helen :nerd_face: :grin:

Nikon D810

We both shoot at 5600°K unless it’s peculiar artificial lighting. The differences you see are due to being there between the Golden Hour and the Blue Hour.

Nope, we are English and moved to France in 2016

I had to find out the difference between the golden and the blue hour. Finding that the blue hour only last about 10 minutes :blush:
I’ve been there for a 2 week holidays. A lot of English people there, also living.
Anyway a WB of 5600 means nearly no correction of the color temperature.


Maybe “boring” is not the best word… I was taught long ago to look at my photos with my eyes “squinted” so all the details are gone, and to just look at “shapes”, and see if a photo was… well, “balanced”. When I look at this photo, I see all the fascinating action towards the right, and a large dark area at the left.

To my eyes, knowing nothing about the intent of the photo, this is what I “see”:

Screen Shot 2021-11-18 at 07.09.08

I guess I have my own way of looking at things nowadays, and I prefer “simple” compositions, which is why I preferred your sunset photo with the clouds all clustered together. Sadly, when I look through my viewfinder or screen, I have no control over what’s going on, only the ability to decide what goes in the photo, and what gets cropped out.

Shutter speed - it is strange and beautiful to see each drop of water so clearly, frozen in time. The “action” is captured perfectly, but the “movement” is lost. I know I “see” this with my eyes, but my brain “sees” things with a longer “shutter speed”, meaning water that is a little blurred.

Another way to look at this shows the beauty of doing exactly what Helen did, showing every bit of water frozen in time. Sort of like this:

From that point of view, the water is captured perfectly in Helen’s photo, even though I never aware of what I see IRL (In Real Life). Here’s an article on how I can learn to do this, now that I’m thinking of it:
And specifically in Helen’s photo, she captured the water with “back lighting” making it even more interesting. …and after re-thinking this, I now prefer exactly what Helen did capture, more so than what I was wondering about with a slower shutter speed.

…and this setting only matters to built-in previews, thumbnails and OOC jpegs,
but not to raw image data…

I’ve known about the “golden hour” since long before I heard those words, but I don’t remember ever reading about a “blue hour”. What is it, and what makes it special?

Because of Joanna’s suggestion, I have set all my cameras to 5600K, and RAW, and I used to think that when shooting in the golden hour, I should play with the white balance to make this more obvious, but I think what it’s really doing is making the camera “see” what I felt I saw with my own eyes. I’m not very good at this, and for much of my life, I never paid much attention to it. I started using it for real in India, and it’s probably from all the dust in the air that the world started to look overly “golden”. My favorite outdoor temple photos were from when the sky was just starting to get really dark, a deep blue color, but before the sky turned black. The low-level golden lighting just added so much more to the photos. I realized I had between five and ten minutes to take the photos - anything earlier or later lost the effect I wanted. This means being all set up ahead of time, waiting for just the right timing, and shoot. I’m no expert, but with trial and error, I soon found out what worked best for me.

Nowadays I find my favorite photos are from early morning or early evening, when the sun is low on the horizon.

Anyway, can you please post a photo taken in “blue hour” so I can understand what you mean?