We’ve all seen HDR photography by now. Some of it looks absolutely awesome, while a lot is ridiculously over-processed. Many photographers actually put time and effort into getting multiple exposures, while a lot of others (me) just take one shot and then fake it. Why? ‘Cause fuck it, that’s why. I don’t have all day to edit a single photo, and I often take 10s or 100s at a time. Fortunately, I just accidentally figured out a way to get more dynamic range, without the photo looking too horribly over-processed (in some cases).
When editing my photos, I typically use the Smart Sharpen tool in Photoshop, set to a value of 20, while leaving all other settings at default. It works well for its intended purpose of compensating for a digital camera’s inherent lack of sharpness. Then the other day, I decided to change a single value: Radius. I don’t remember the default setting, but it was fairly low. I adjusted the slider to a value of 50.0, and suddenly my photo looked a crap-ton better.
I didn’t mess with brightness or contrast, curves, or even adjust colors. I was so pleased with the results, I made a default action, so now I can just apply it to any photo with one click. However, today I discovered something else… what if I do it a second time to the same photo? The result is an HDR-ish(y) look, without all the effort.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t work equally well for all photos; in fact, many come out looking completely retarded. But for some, it works extremely well, without the super-over-processed look that some HDR photos end up with. Obviously, opinions and results will vary, so use it at your own risk.