HDR Tip 6 – Don’t HDR People

Trey’s Note: this is part of a week-long HDR Tip session with Rick Sammon.  If you want to find out more, feel free to see the free HDR Tutorial or the more in-depth HDR Tutorial on Video.

Resist the temptation to carry HDR techniques over to people. They just never look good. This is a big reason HDR Video will never take off until there are algorithms to find people’s faces and skin tones to remove the HDR processing.

There is something about the human mind that does drink in the rich texture and colors of objects, clothes, skies, trees, etc — but that does not carry over to faces. Our anthropological wiring enables us to apply a different standard to faces… and this is one of many reasons not to HDR people!

The best way to ensure people don’t have HDR effects is to create two layers — the HDR layer and the original RAW layer. Create a masking layer and slowly mix in the appropriate skin tones.

High Dynamic Range Photo

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  • Frank

    Hi Trey,

    Your recommendation makes sense but for this shot it presents somewhat of a puzzlement. With so many flesh tones tones mixed in with the building, clothing, and floor, how do you mask just the skin areas in the HDR layer to blend in the RAW?

  • Dan

    Not sure if my explanation will be as good as Trey’s but would I would do Frank is create the HDR as normal, And then open that in Photoshop and then open up then original photo, copy and paste that onto the HDR image then use your rubber tool and rub out the faces on the HDR image which will the display the normal ( non-HDR’d) skin tones. lol…. Non-HDR’d cannot be a word.

    But hope that made some sort of sense… If not, I’m sure Trey will explain soon. 🙂

  • Frank

    Hi Dan,

    Thanks for the tip!
    I’m just starting to learn Photoshop and was thinking that using the polygon lasso or something similar to select each and every face, arm, and leg would be an impossible task! When I’ve tried to brush or erase objects I get a mess everywhere! LOL! I have an incredible amount yet to learn.

  • I believe what Trey would have you do is create a document with both your HDR layer and your standard layer. If the standard layer is on top, you will create a layer mask (at the bottom of the layers palette is an icon which looks like a grey rectangle with a circle in it… that is the add layer mask icon) and use a black brush to paint over everything that is not skin tone.

    If the HDR layer is on top, you will create the layer mask and then use the black brush on the skin tones. Either way is fine, but the second will be much less work.

    If you make a mistake, switch to white (cmd/ctrl + x) and paint over it.

  • Frank

    Neat Audrey! I’ll try that. Thanks!

  • Dan

    Thanks Audrey, That’d help me out too lol.

  • Treys HDR tutorial on this site will also help you guys with that tip fro audrey, as the masking technique is broadly similar for fixing a range of these problems in HDR, not just people!

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