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Adobe Photoshop CS5 and HDRI

Adobe Photoshop CS5 and HDRI

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HDR functions of Photoshop have been upgraded significantly for the first time since CS2

By Jack Howard

April 12, 2010

Today’s launch of Photoshop CS5 is great news for photographers of all stripes. HDRI photographers in particular are going to love the upgrades and improvements for HDR photography. That’s right—CS5. Not CS5 extended.

Editor’s note: Adorama’s Jack Howard has been a beta tester for Adobe Photoshop CS5 for the past several months. He takes a break from caring from his new baby to let us know all about HDRI in Adobe Photoshop CS5.

Adobe has significantly improved the HDRI functionality in Photoshop CS5 with the most significant upgrades since HDR in 32 bit file types were added to CS2. This is a fantastic upgrade for HDRI photographers. Adobe is really a leader in the HDRI space as of today with this launch.

So, what's new?

What’s new in CS5 for HDRI photographers? First, there’s de-ghosting. This is something that was significantly missing from earlier builds. Also, when working off RAW or DNG file types, through HDR merge, is tied to the Adobe Camera RAW converter and the Adobe lens database for making high-quality HDRI images from very high quality RAW-decoded data. This is great.

The most obvious improvement is in the HDRI local adaptation tone-mapping interface. In versions CS2-CS4, this was a curves with corners only control, which was powerful, but very challenging to use. The new slider-based controls, with detail, exposure, gamma, saturation, clarity, and edge glow adjustments, are very intuitive and can make very professional-quality results right off the bat, without a lot of pushing and pulling directly on the curves. People who love the curves dialog box will be happy to know that the curves with corners is still there. But the slider-based system, with much more control, is a friendlier interface.

There’s also a ton of presets, ranging from photorealistic to grunge-o-matic. It’s a good addition.





Jack Howard has been beta testing Adobe Photoshop CS5 for the past few months while working on the 2nd Edition of his book, Practical HDRI, High Dynamic Range Photography using Photoshop CS5 and other tools.  Here is an image from his book showing the new, much improved Local Adaptation Tone Map interface.

Lots of new tools for serious HDRI geeks

If you’re a serious HDRI geek, you’re going to love the fact that adjustment layers, layer files, and brushes are now available in Adobe Photoshop CS5. We’re not talking extended here. This is just plain ole’ Photoshop CS5. You’ve got adjustment layers, local selections on adjustment layers, and brushes for light painting, dodging and burning of your 32-bit files. This makes Adobe Photoshop unique among HDRI image editors right now because you have layered images with local adjustments. There are a number of tools to help you make local selections and adjust using the soft tone map technique. See my video tutorial on mapping for HDRI.


All in all, the HDRI process in Adobe Photoshop CS5 is a significant improvement over earlier versions, and HDR photographers are going to have a great time with this. Adobe has not only gotten themselves back into the game. They’ve raised the bar with the local adjustments in their core product.

Stay tuned for more about Adobe Photoshop CS5 when Jack gets back in a few weeks!

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