Step 11: Hold on.. "brightness mapped"?

Astute readers may have noticed the previous step was labeled "for brightness-mapped HDR". There are other techniques for achieving a similar effect, which I will outline, but the process is broadly the same other than creating the layer mask image.

Tone mapping refers to another method for creating layer masks. While the previous instructions used the brightness of the stock image to create the layer mask, another school of thought says that the interesting parts of a stock image are those with the greatest local contrast. To make a tone-mapped HDR image, once you have desaturated the stock image, choose Filters -> Edge-detect -> Edge... and select Sobel. This will create a new image where the edges in the stock photo are highlighted in white, the uniform areas are filled in black.

This image is again not yet suitable for use as a layer mask- the edge-detected mask has too much "ripple" in it, and if used for a layer mask will create a very patchy image. To smooth out the edge map, go to Filters -> Blur -> Gaussian Blur. Now you will need to put in the rough width of the ripples in the edge-detected mask. This will vary depending on the size of your stock photo- I shrunk mine to 572*428 (because I was editing them on a 500MHz PIII over a remote desktop connection.. it was traumatic), so 5 pixels was fine, but full-res 6 megapixel shots may require a larger radius. You are aiming for the ripply areas to be blurred to a more-or-less uniform grey, but not to smear the white areas out too much- again, experiment.

Once you are satisfied, copy the edge-detect map to use as a layer mask as before. Note that as this picks out areas of high detail, you don't need to invert the maps from your bright layers before using them as layer masks.

Brightness mapping tends to create a subtler effect, slightly increasing the colour in the image for a natural feel, whereas pure tone-mapping often gives a more dreamlike or psychedelic quality. Once I figure out how to combine a brightness map with a tone map to get a little of both, I'll edit it in here.
<p>third attempt .... but works</p>
<p>Amazing tutorial. Thank you for this</p>
<p>Thanks a lot for this tutorial. I still need to think about <em>why</em> it works, but I was able to get great results by making copies of a ho-hum image and using GIMP to adjust the exposure levels (to artificially create over-exposed and under-exposed shots). I used the layers and masks just like you said, and it worked really well. It will be an extremely useful addition to my skill set. Take care.</p>
<p>Hello. I know how to make a mix of brightness mapping and tone mapping like you said.</p><p>For each bright or dark image, make a tone mapped mask and a brightness mapped one. Then make the tone map 50% transparent and merge it on top of the other map. Use this as your mask and repeat.</p><p>I actually haven't tried it yet, but I'm pretty sure it'll work.</p>
<p>Wow!! Awesome and so easy! Thank you! After playing with this a few times, the 2.8.10 version of Gimp offers quite a few shortcuts, namely when you create the layer masks, it's now combined into a single step. There is no more need to desaturate or desaturate / invert first. Right click the layer, create layer mask, and just select the grayscale copy of layer and either check / uncheck the Invert Mask checkbox. Here's the compiled steps:<br></p><p>Steps to convert Images to HDR using <br>the gimp 2.8.10</p><ol><li>Open the middle image. Rename that <br> layer.<li>Open the dark image, copy the full <br> image and paste it as a new layer on top of the base. You can do <br> that with the Edit \ Paste As \ New Layer option, or create a new <br> layer from the layers toolbar, paste the image, then anchor it down. <br> Rename this layer...<li>From the layers toolbar, right <br> click on the dark layer and Add Layer Mask. Initialize Layer Mask <br> to: Grayscale copy of layer.<li>Open the light image, copy / paste <br> it as a new layer above the dark layer. Rename this layer.<li>Again, from the layers toolbar, <br> right click on the dark layer and Add Layer Mask. Initialize Layer <br> Mask to: Grayscale copy of layer. One additional option is needed <br> though, to check the Invert Mask box. This will make the grayscale <br> mask a negative.</ol><p>voila!!</p><p>And, if you want to edit the curves of those grayscale masks, just right click the layer and make sure Edit Layer Mask is checked. Select that layer and have at it... :-)</p>
in Gimp 2.8.4 &quot;Colors&quot; is in a separate menu. Instead of Layer -&gt; Colors -&gt; Desaturate, it's Colors -&gt; Desaturate.
I don't want to be rude or mean but gosh this was confusing! It took me 4 hours, perhaps I'm just a dummy with this stuff and unfortunately my finished photo is rather lackluster, nearly the same.
This tutorial is completely unclear from step to step, in particular from step 8 to 9 where there seems to be a step missing!
For those having issues using GIMP see this MOD of Gimp .. it makes it more like Photoshop's interface....<br> <br> http://www.gimpshop.com/<br> <br> <em>&quot;GIMPshop is a modification of the free/open source GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP), intended to replicate the feel of Adobe Photoshop. Its primary purpose is to make users of Photoshop feel comfortable using GIMP. It shares all GIMP's advantages, including the long feature list and customisability, while addressing some common criticisms regarding the program's interface: GIMPshop modifies the menu structure to closely match Photoshop's, adjusts the program's terminology to match Adobe's, and, in the Windows version, uses a plugin called 'Deweirdifier' to combine the application's numerous windows in a similar manner to the MDI system used by most Windows graphics packages. While GIMPshop does not support Photoshop plugins, all GIMP's own plugins, filters, brushes, etc. remain available. Host Unlimited Domains on 1 Account Due to the changes to the interface, many Photoshop tutorials can be followed in GIMPshop unchanged, and most others can be adapted for GIMPshop users with minimal effort.&quot;</em>
Well, now that I have tried this technique with GIMP on many photos I have set up for this, I am disappointed. The final image looked roughly the same, although some dark and light spots had changed, and I can see the exact changes from the layer masks. I have no idea if this is truly HDR or not, but certainly none of the final images I ended up with were anything much better than what I started with. Even in your example image, the picture is still very poor, although you now have some really bright spots around one tree. When I search around or HDR photos, they all look amazingly vibrant and surreal, and this effect is no where to be found on my photos or your example. It doesn't help that there are no other comments from people ere who have tried it. Has anyone else tried this? It would be good to find out if I am just doing something wrong, or if this instructable is not really making an HDR image. Thanks Andy
As far as I know, most of the HDR pictures posted in the web are made using software or plugins that use edge detection and do a lot of fairly involved maths and very complex manipulation that is out of the scope of using the GIMP by hand. Your HDR will only be as good as the stock images- are they taken from a stable point so they all line up, and with a large enough range of exposures? You want as large a range of exposures as you can reasonably take, but +1EV to -1EV from the best balanced exposure is a minimum. My examples weren't great because they were hurriedly hacked together on a very, very old and underpowered PC, and involve moving trees taken at long intervals because I hadn't worked out bracketing on my camera at that point. The bright spots are an unavoidable consequence of parts of the subject moving between shots, so parts of the image that were tree in one shot are sky in another, which messes up the layering. If you want the very vibrant surreal pictures like the ones on the Flickr HDR pool etc., I suggest you download some HDR software or experiment with tone mapping as described above. I do state in the Instructable that this is a subtle effect, better for evening out the range of exposures in a photo than creating an artistic or surreal feel. Other than that I'm not sure what to suggest, but if you linked me to your source images and the finished image I could hazard a guess at ways to improve it?
Ok, so I messed around with it more and figured out some other issues with the pictures I am using. I need to try a new set up I think. The light seemed great for a regular shot today, so I took 3 different angles for attempts with this HDR, but one was too hard to line up, and another was just too poor color to start with. But I'll try to paste the image of before/after of the one I had the best luck with. Problems: 1) It is incredibly hard to line up pixels. I tried using HDRAlignmentTool which does a reasonably good job at getting the photos in line, but only handles 3 shots to a screen. I then put in the layers and their masks, and found that images were still 1-3 pixels off which creates odd gray ghosting all over the place. So I manually moved them until it appeared to line up. Still though, when I zoom in to a far edge, I can see ghosted outlines (rotational translation maybe?) 2) The color curves were just plain bad to start with. Without changing anything on them, I end up with very gray images. I think crummy parts just added up in the layers to make blobs of gray. I went to colors > curves and pulled the right side lower, the left side higher (not technical I know, but this was after playing around with many configurations and it seemed best). This helped a lot in removing the gray blobs and making the overall color much better. 3) The color in the final image is better, but I think due to the small 1-2 pixel translations the sharpness decreased for the HDR image. Even with a tripod, a program to line up photos, and manually trying to move them, it seems almost impossible to get them exact to the pixel. Maybe a remote on the camera would help, but I don't know if my camera can change shutter speed by remote (I have a Canon Powershot S5 IS). Anyway, the sky added real texture, the underside of the kiosk is visible, and the grass is more vibrant. The tree edges and the gravel in the road are blurrier though.
Try using a 2-3 second delay with your tripod that way the vibrations from you hitting the shutter button have time to die down before your exposure.
Having looked into HDR on the net for a bit, I have discovered this plugin for GIMP which seems to automate a lot of the process and I think would come up with better results than doing it manually.<br/><br/><a rel="nofollow" href="http://turtle.as.arizona.edu/jdsmith/exposure_blend.php">ExposureBlend</a><br/><br/>There are instructions on the site- seems to include more options for tweaking as well. It's quite a powerful tool from what I can make out after 5 minutes of playing about!<br/><br/>I was looking at this tut to see if I could create a faux-HDR image from a single photo. I'll give it a go now!<br/>
This plugin is amazing, thanks for sharing it!
Geekguyandy, it looks from that sample like you've got the technique right. For a dramatic effect you will need a large spread of exposures (at least 4 EV stops). My approach to lining up the images was to set one to 50% opacity and line up a spot in the centre of the image, then if the corners are out there must be a rotation, and a little trial and error with small-angle rotations should even it out a little.<br/>Your camera will probably not have remote shutter speed control but it may well have <em>bracketing</em>- you set it to take a range of exposures and it takes them one after the other from one button press or remote click. Have a play with your camera to see if you can find bracketing, because it's a great improvement over adjusting the exposure by hand, meaning you jog the camera between each shot.<br/><br/>ScaryDave: I'll look into that plugin, it looks like it's doing pretty much the same as my technique but automating it. Call me a purist but I like the ability to tweak the curves on my images and layer masks myself.. but I will download the plugin and play with it to see if it makes the process quicker.<br/>
Agreed, PKM, I like to have control too. However, the plugin does seem to be doing some other stuff to the images like applying gaussian blurs- not that that's too hard anyway.<br/><br/>The other sweet feature is the exposure alignment which is probably the only reason for using this plugin rather than doing it manually.<br/><br/>Thanks for the guide by the way- was very helpful =]<br/>
I am amazed how much stuff one has to wiggle through just to get to be making a HDR image!! Or" To just to make a Colour Photo to be partly Black and White. Trying to follow some of these instructions are just plain difficult. This is mainly because it is often assumed that one knows where to look for what button or icon to press when an insttructions says; Paste image on to layer" Ok" Sounds simple. But wait! Now show me where to go to do this and what sequence to follow instead of just written basic intructions. They are ok if you know the Gimp program. What about the ones who are trying to make sense as to where everything is and what sequence to follow! Gimp is obviously a fairly loaded Software with all sorts of goodies. Just not user friendly. No wonder it is Free! I have a paid version i use to do HDR images with and it works great. Easy to follow and simple! It aslo has all the funtions one needs to make great HDR images. I was curious to see how Gimp would be for me. I'll stick to my paid Program. As i always say" Keep it simple. The world is complex enough as it is. Cheers" I have a HDR
<em>No wonder it is Free!</em><br/><br/>Yeah, cause professional-grade, feature-rich programs that took years of volunteer time to develop are obviously worthless!<br/>
Like linux, drupal, php and almost all programming languages?<br /> <br /> Gimp might be free but it only needs a&nbsp;skilful&nbsp;OP to produce good work.<br />
&quot;Skillful OP&quot; is someone who takes time to learn to use any programe. I believe GIMP is a masterful piece of software, made an enthusiastic community, and most of the beau tiful creativity comes from tenacious people.<br><br>If you're used to eat only steaks, you will never understand the healthy fish for your diet.
gimp is awsome, but this new version kills me, idk where half the stuff are :S
I would love to be nice about these directions, but I cannot be constructive because I did not find them useful. I have effectively produced an image worse than the 3 I started out with using your directions, because they are not clear.
Its a poor workman who blames his tools...
I wrote this Instructable ages ago, and coming back to it I sometimes think "How on earth did I write so much about such a simple process?" I'm probably going to strip out and rewrite the instructions, in a simpler manner.
These instructions are great for someone who is familiar with GIMP. Thank you. I think you should state that upfront, so people have their expectations set right. Thanks for taking the time. I found it very usefull.
Make sure you have the new layer mask selected in the layer window. Then paste the mask layer and hit anchor.
Just use <strong>File</strong> --&gt; <strong>Open as Layers</strong> and select all the pictures at once<br>
Photomatix is way easier than Gimp. In Photomatix it does everything for you. all you have to do is load the images and it blends the images together. Then you hit tone mapping. Just move the sliders backwards or forwards to change the image. I've even got it to work about 100% on Ubuntu 10.04. I just think it is better and easier and simpler than gimp or photoshop.
Perhaps- but buying a pre-built PC is easier than building one, getting takeout is easier than cooking, buying a postcards is easier than taking your own holiday photos. You might notice the &quot;getting one somebody else did vs. doing it myself&quot; mentality isn't that prevalent on this site :) I posted this because - doing it yourself is rewarding and fun - you have more control over the eventual result, which is important if something like Photomatix produces unwanted results that you want the ability to fix - it teaches some useful techniques (layer mapping etc.) Simpler, yes. Easier, yes. Better? I don't personally think so.
Many (even most?) digital cameras will do 'exposure bracketing'.&nbsp; They will automatically take three pictures; one at the [camera determined] optimal exposure, one over-exposed and one under-exposed.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> This is an easy way to get your shots without a lot of the work.<br />
You can also open as layers the three photos that will make up the composite.&nbsp; My camera (Canon Rebel DSLR) takes the pictures in the order of 0, -2, +2 so they open with the Original as Background layer, the Dark one as the next, and the Light one as top most layer.<br />
Perfect tutorial although did not understand the the other way that you described (tone mapping). I tested the procedure on some photos and works perfect.<br /> <br /> Thanks<br />
this is great, but you can do it in adobe cs3/4 in 2 steps.
that's great for commercial use but for home use gimp's free.
This is very well done. I will be attempting an HDR process in the next few days using these instructions. If I have problems following the instructions, I'll let you know. Thanks very much!
Right click on the layer in the layers window, make sure edit layer mask is selected, then go into the edit menu, paste into.
Comment about layer masks: When I was doing this at home, I experimented with one more step after desaturating the mask. I used a threshold filter on it so that I could get entire sections that were either opaque or transparent. This seemed to work when I had, for example, a cliff, part of a river, and a sky. Each one of those three items were exposed at different levels, and I wanted to get the best ones compiled into one picture. This gave me a more pronounced HDR effect, but not so much that it didn't look realistic. What are your thoughts on using the threshold filter after decomposing? BTW, this is a great tutorial, and one that has really got me going in HDR images. It's a great way to improve your own photographs.
Well, here's my attempt at it...it actually turned out pretty good.
Qtpfsgui is a great program for doing this, despite having the worst and least memorable of any software name ever. I would still rather do HDR in gimp, but I am not sure how to do the tone mapping. I think it is the tone mapping part that makes HDR images look so different.
I'm stuck here, I can't paste the mask layer :(
Your tutorial was perfect. Although my pictures didn't come out as HDR as I thought they would be, I still get the concept. Thanks! :D
What's the fill type for this layer?
It doesn't matter, as you are going to paste a non-transparent image straight into it as soon as you create it so the initial fill colour is unimportant.
Interesting. I shall try this soon I hope!
i've been using the GIMP for about 6 months now its an amazing piece of freeware
It is not a freeware is it Free Software . Confused ? Read <a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.fsf.org/licensing/essays/words-to-avoid.html#Freeware">this</a> and <a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.fsf.org/licensing/essays/free-sw.html">this</a> . And thanks for liking GIMP anyways. I too like it very much.<br/>
I think the term free-as-in-beer needs greater usage- it's a simple way of expressing how freeware is not necessarily free software. (I guess free software is a subset of freeware..?) But yes, you have a good point- the GIMP is not just free-as-in-beer, it's free as in the free software foundation.
it sure is :) It was originally a free Linux replacement of Adobe Photoshop, but the creators were nice enough to port it to Windows & Mac, too.
There is an option on the "add layer mask" dialog, "Grayscale copy of layer" which makes this a bit quicker.

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