The Shanghai Himalayas Centre is a unique architecture that hosts the Jumeirah 5 star hotel.Designed by architect Arata Isozaki the ispiration to this was The Red Mountains in Mustang, Napal.It’s exterior like no other building in Shanghai makes it a landmark. Although for the purpose of this tutorial I will be focusing on the interior of this building.
Any Architectural Photographers dream to walk around and photograph this building but it goes not without it’s challenges. The cave like design means that the large windows mean that there are large areas of highlights and very dark shadows on the inside of the rooms.
In This tutorial I will explain how I go about photographing such an environment and later blend the required areas of the image together to try and achieve a result similar to what our eye sees. I want to add that I do not see this as HDR as HDR is associated with the tone mapping tool from PS. I suppose it does an ok job at getting rid of the shadows but the end result is really unpleasing to the eye with grungy looking effects and hard unflattering lines.
How to Shoot:
A tripod is a must, as you will be taking several exposures in the exact same frame.
The first and most important thing is to take your time and select the best composition you can possibly find. The two most important things in shooting architecture is lines and material used to create unique effects. Make sure you show this especially if the material shows a special texture; light falling from the right angle can help showing of texture.
Now that you are happy with your frame or composition, set your Camera on a steady tripod (heavy tripods are good for this) as each frame needs to line up exactly. I keep my F-stop the same and change exposure using my shutter speed.
If you know the lens you are using well you will already know what it’s soft spot is; I prefer using F8 on a 24mm. This gives me the sharpest image with little to no chromatic aberration (colour fringing) especially when shooting towards a window with bright light entering.
Take you first shot at about 3 stops under exposed as this should be enough to cater for the out side blue skies. Take 6 to 7 shots through to 3 stops over exposed to make sure you have the shadows covered.
Don’t take my word for it that 3 stops over and under exposed will do the job getting the out side skies as well as the darkest of shadows, this you have to make sure when shooting, Even though you can still retrieve these sorts of detail afterwards I recommend getting the detail in camera.
Editing Work Flow:
Start by opening your different exposures in Bridge
- You’ll see the selected images displayed down the left side of Bridge select the natural exposure, in other words the one that has not been over nor under exposed. Click on this image so to display it as the visible canvas you will make basic changes on.
- Click select all to make sure that any changes you make will be synchronized through all of the images.
- Go to Lens Correction; first click on color and check the block that reads “Remove Chromatic Aberration”. Then Click on Profile and check “Enable lens Profile Correction”, Bridge should automatically detect your lens but if not just go below to “make” and “ model” and find your lens. This will get rid of any distortion in the image.
- Now go back to the basic icon where you will first start with adjusting Contrast. Play around with the contrast slider until you are happy with the result. Too much contrast will easily change the colours to an un-natural tint so take it easy with the slider “Less Is More” I took mine to about +38
- Next; go to the Clarity; the same thing here, too much of this will cause harsh lines so gently play around until you find a good balance between lines being too soft for your liking and lines creating grungy effects. I set mine at + 38
- Now go to the Highlights bar and drag the slider to the left until the red indicating clipped areas disappear. (Make sure the little triangle on the top right of your histogram is clicked to show the areas in red)
- All Done and click “Open Image”
Your images are now open in PS and you’re ready to start blending the desired areas together.
Again start by selecting one image you want to use as your master canvas to work on. Keep in mind here that things like cutting out and making fine detail selections is time consuming work, so wisely select the one image with most of the image information already visible. Drag the selected image to either side to not get confused and have to look for it the whole time.
- You chosen you master canvas (image) and the first thing you want to do is to duplicate it and create a layer mask.
- Let’s start with the window, so go to the darkest of your exposures and hold command A (ctrl A for PC) to select the entire image and again command C (ctrl C for PC) to copy the image.
- Go back to you master canvas and hold command V (ctrl V for PC) to paste the image.
- The image will by default paste above you masked image so click and hold to drag it below the masked image.
- Now use the “Quick Selection Tool” to make a selection of the window, make sure the selection is exact to avoid residue from the contrasting exposures.
- Instead of using your brush to simply brush out the highlighted window I prefer to use the Gradient tool. With the gradient tool in Linear mode drag it from the left side inwards across the window still leaving some highlights there as an indication that warm light is entering the room. A perfectly cut out window is boring , leaves nothing for the imagination and ads no emotion.
Once you are done with the first image, right click on the top layer and select “Merge Down”
The 2nd layer I will still be underexposed from the master image we are working on. This layer will contain the detail we need to show of the texture of the material used for this interior. Repeat the process of copying the image, pasting it and dragging it to below the master image, again with adding a layer mask to the master image.
Use a soft brush with a lowered opacity to start brushing back the details that is slightly blown out by the brighter exposure.
Again being effecting with this I like using the Gradient Tool to avoid obvious brush strokes and un-natural highlights.
Gradient Tool technique:
You can also see this in the YouTube demonstration I posted.
Select the area of highlight you want to enhance and feather the edges until they show a soft line (not too much). Selecting the gradient tool you will see at the top of your Photoshop screen 5 Options of Gradient effects (Linear; radial; Angle; Reflected and Diamond)
For this example I used the Reflected gradient, place the curse in what you would like as the brightest part of the highlight and drag the gradient out to create a balanced highlight falling of evenly to both sides.
Continue doing this with the highlights or shows you want to add in with out creating smudges of unwanted brushstrokes. You can use this technique with all of the smaller details in the images such as furniture or leading lines of shadows and highlights giving the image depth and a sense of space.
Creating Filters or Adjustment layers:
At the bottom right of you PS screen you will see some icons. Click on “Fills and Adjustment layers to open a selection of layers you can add.
- The first I open is levels, I only do this to ensure that there is not too big of a gap on either the highlight or shadow side of the histogram; I do not use this layer to make a difference to the actual look and feel of the image.
- I then Open the first of my Curves layers to simply add a touch of highlights and bring the shadow back down creating a slight s curve. I now open a 2nd Curves layer with which I will add some colour to the image. Playing around with the RGB colours I manage to warm up the image as if to illustrate warm morning sunlight coming through the window and filling the interior with that colour of light. “Again the adjustments here are tiny shifts of the curve. Too much will leave an obvious “This image had been PS’d “
- Next I choose the gradient mapping. I set my mode to “Soft Light” and pick the colour bar opening at the top of the side bar. Fill the shadows with an even grey and the highlights with a warm orange. The effects will seem extreme now so slide the opacity down to where it riches a sense of normality but still keeping the new colour quality.
- The last filter I create is something I do not always do, but in the case of this example working with an image that offers high contrast I feel it is necessary. Since this image consists of 6 different exposures you should keep in mind that the more you underexpose an image the more saturated the colours are and in turn the more you overexpose the colours become less saturated. To make sure that the image has an even look and feel in terms of colour, we nee to create a filter to achieve this. For this I choose “Solid color” with my mode this time set on screen. Since we want to enhance the early morning sunrise through the window effect we again choose a warm shade somewhere between Yellow and Orange and I have selected the screen mode to create that hazy look in the air. You will nee to drag the Opacity all the way down to 6%
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