Hello, today I want to share with you a simple technique that I use in some of my pictures and helps me transform an average scene into a magical picture without having to be a master of retouching or owning the most expensive D-SLR on the market, so let’s begin with the ingredients you’re going to need:


  • Digital camera with Manual or Bracketing options available
  • Photomatix Pro
  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Topaz Labs

Step 1: Taking the pictures


The first thing I did was shooting three different pictures at different exposure values, you can do this by manipulating the aperture and speed values or if you’re one of the few lucky ones with the “bracketing” option incorporated in your camera then you just have to use it and the camera will do all the job.

Step 2: Photomatix

Now that we have the initial seasoning, we’re going to merge down these pictures through Photomatix, an amazing software that many HDR artists love. Click on “Load Bracketed Photos” and follow the next screenshots.

Load Bracketed Pictures

Align Features

So now we have a rough version of our afternoon picture, this means we still need to do some processing in order to achieve a better result.

Rough HDR

Proceed by making click on the “Tone Mapping” option, this will open a side menu from which we can adjust all the values such as exposure, contrast and brightness in order to obtain the best result possible.

Tone Mapping

The Tone Mapping window displays a series of options that allow you to customize the resulting picture according to your preferences, you can manipulate things such as saturation, contrast, brightness and more.

Tone Mapping options

Sometimes Tone Mapping is the best option but others you might want to opt for Exposure Fusion. The first one is commonly used for developing the famous HDR effect, while the second one is utilized for correcting pictures that have some exposure problems, take your time to experiment with the different handlers till you’re satisfied with the result before moving to Photoshop.

Tone Mapping result

This is the result we’ve obtained in the end, now click on Process and save the picture as a TIFF file and open your Photoshop to start working on the final touches.

Photo Crop

The first thing to do is taking the Crop tool to remove the red halo that usually appears after working with Photomatix, this will not affect your photograph as the halo is just a few pixels wide.

Duplicate Layer

Once you’re done with the cropping, create a duplicate of the layer and place it on top of the original, having the duplicate selected we’re going to use the Topaz Labs plugin.

Topaz Labs Menu

You can learn more about Topaz Labs in our article HDR photography, mastering the technique, in that article we explain the steps for installing the plugin as well as the website where you can download a free trial or purchase a copy. Go to Filter>Topaz Labs>Topaz Adjust 4 and wait for the new window to show up.

Topaz Labs

If you want, you can experiment with the different Presets, though in this case we’ve chosen the Dramatic preset due its capacity to enhance skies and background elements, hit OK and you’ll be back in Photoshop.

Blending Mode Change

Good, now select the duplicate layer and change the blending mode to Luminosity, then adjust the Opacity value to 67%, this will be enough to highlight some details without making the picture look too crispy, now we just need to play with Curves and our afternoon scene will be done.

Red Curve

Green Curve

Blue Curve

Following the previous screenshots will help you enhance the warm tones of your picture, resulting in a more beautiful afternoon scene!, you can make some additional manual adjustments but that’s up to you, which means that now our afternoon scene is complete, let’s take a look at it.

Afternoon scene

There you have it, our afternoon scene is complete, what’s your method for working with pictures like this?, we’d love to know your opinion so don’t forget to leave us your comments, we hope you’ve enjoyed this tutorial and we’ll see you next time, hasta pronto!…