HDR Cookbook – Introduction

Welcome to my little HDR Cookbook. This is a collection of recipes for processing photos, in particular HDR photos. In the menu at the right side, you see all the sections that are currently available (not too many yet as I am adding them incrementally, and I have only just started).

About Me

I started posting my photos on www.flickr.com in February 2010. At that time, I was taking photos seriously for about a year. Being a fan of a specific technique called HDR, I got particularly interested in post-processing since most HDR photos only just become an eye-catcher once you run them through a series of processing steps in your favorite photo editing tool.

Some people on flickr share information about how they created and processed their photos, and I enjoyed this information almost as much as viewing the resulting masterpieces. They offer a very good opportunity for learning new techniques and comparing your own techniques against those of others. Consequently, I also started offering detailed information on everything I do to a picture – not only because it adds some honesty to the photographic medium but also because my experience is that sharing information is the best way of getting feedback and engaging in discussions.

However, flickr and other photo sharing platforms do not really offer a lot of space for such information. Since some of the things I do to photos are somewhat complex, the information I am able to provide for each photo directly is only a coarse summary. Thankfully,  the other great photographers in flickr enjoy my work and I start getting a number of individual messages asking for advice and more detailed information on my techniques. Hence, it is a logical consequence to share such information with a broader public using other means.

So here you are in my HDR Cookbook! The purpose of this Blog is to share this information with anyone who is interested! Don’t get me wrong here. This is not my way of expressing that I am a master of photography or any better than, for example, you. I am not! My path has not been too long yet, I am still learning a lot every day. But I discovered that there are masses of people just like me who may find this information interesting and helpful.

How this Cookbook is Structured

This Blog is set up like a Cookbook. It contains a number of recipes for achieving different results and effects in your photos. All the tutorials are based on Photoshop CS4. Enjoy the information and comment if you have feedback or different opinions. This is a collection of living documents. It is probably never complete or finished. I will add new information as I discover new techniques or improve existing ones.

What this Cookbook is not

You will not find any lengthy explanations on how to shoot HDR images (setting exposure, autobracketing, camera settings etc). You can find tons of web pages explaining these things. I may include a list of the most useful pages in a future version.

What You Need to Cook with Me

I will not give you instructions on how to use 10 different alternative software tools (e.g. Photoshop and GIMP). I have found my own little collection of tools that does the job for me, and I am going to refer specifically to these tools. Having said that, however, these are the most widely used tools for this kind of work. You may also find that some of the techniques can be easily transferred to other (possibly free) tools.

I use the following software:

  1. Photomatix Pro (currently Version 4.0)
  2. Topaz Photoshop Bundle: This is a suite of different Photoshop filters that comes in very handy in a lot of occasions. You can download a test version for free, and the full version comes at an affordable cost. I heavily use Topaz Adjust, Topaz Denoise and Topaz ReMask. Some other filters are used occasionally.
  3. Photoshop CS4
  4. Geosetter – for geotagging
  5. exiftool – for copying EXIF data from one image to another included in Geosetter

Furthermore, the following hardware is used:

  1. Windows PC:
    1. 4 cores with 2,8 GHz
    2. 8 GB of memory (Photoshop eats up to 4,5 GB)
    3. Windows 7 64 bit
  2. Wacom Bamboo graphics tablet: This is a very important tool. Doing serious image editing with a mouse is not possible. We will be literally painting on the image (for masking and other tasks). If you enjoy the kind of post-processing discussed here, get a graphics tablet! It does not need to be big and expensive.

Do I Really Need All This Stuff???

Not necessarily! This cookbook explains a lot of principles that may also be applied using other hardware and software.

What’s Next?

If you are new to my cookbook, I suggest that you start reading about The General HDR Workflow first, or start with the overview page that categorizes the recipes and gives brief descriptions of each recipe. If you scroll up the start of the page again, you will also find a small menu on the right side listing all the sections in a useful order. You can start exploring the site from there.

Cheers and have fun!

32 Responses

  1. Hi,

    thank you for you comment on my “Girasole” photo on Flickr.
    I see your photos and they are OUTSTANDING… compliments indeed!


    PS:excuse me for my bad english…

  2. I wanted to stop by and say what a great technique you have . I couldnt believe how much detail that you apply in your work . To share that information with the general public I thought is a great act on your behalf .
    I am in awe with what some artist create and many times I am exhausted in trying to figure out certain techniques . I wish this was available to me 4 years ago when my interest in HDR started .
    You have created a great technique for some to emulate and some to learn and apply . I thank you for always leaving me a positive comment . I have become more than a friend but a fan .
    Keep up the fantastic work Klaus , I love it and continue to watch .

  3. Thanks a lot Innocenzo, for your great feedback! It’s wonderful to hear that you find my little recipes useful. Keep on using them and tell people about it. 🙂

    Keep up the good work, mate! I love your photos on flickr.

    Take care

  4. I see, you have very good recipe for cooking HDR tonemapped photos on your Flickr stream.
    Also hardware is very impressive, too. Thank you for sharing tips and techniques!

  5. Nice Klaus, excellent work!

  6. Hello-
    I have been working on my photo albums on Flickr and have finally bought a (decent) digital camera last year. I love the looks of the HDR images but never had the tools or knowledge to create them. I am excited to find your Cookbook and can’t wait to get started with my new project. Thanks for sharing your info and techniques!

    • Hi Tony,

      great to hear that you will be using the Cookbook. I hope you’lll find what you are looking for, and I am looking forward to seeing the results of your work.

      Thanks for the feedback!


  7. Seems you have the balance correct as the most common error is HDR is to overcook it in Photoshop! I use LR3 and Paintshop Pro. I have CS5 but havent really opened it yet. I have about 600 files to process in HDR and don’t know when I’ll get the time. Pre-HDR it was simple but then I can remember spending hours in a darkroom developing film!

    Great stuff.

    • Hi Jamie,

      thanks a lot for your feedback. Yep, the whole post-processing of HDR photos is equally easy to mess up an time-consuming! I have never gotten into photography when it was still analogue. But I can imagine that that was a whole different story “back then”.

      I wish you good luck and, most importantly, lots of fun with your 600 files.


  8. Great work and thorough. I too love looking at other artist’s processes. Look forward to more discussion!

  9. I have a friend who recommended to check out your work. i didnt expected that you are a very generous person, who like to share your knowledge and skills on HDR(cookbook). I like your work, their awesome!. thanks for sharing. i hope i will develop my skills in editing, which is fun to do.

    • Hi rod,

      Thanks very much for the great feedback. It feels good to hear that you and other people enjoy my work and find my information useful. I hope you are having fun here. Feel free to ask if you have a question.


  10. […] in that workflow would be able to reduce the effect. Then, as by accident, I came across the HDR Cookbook by another Flickr user called Farbspiel (he commented on the picture above too, so it was very […]

  11. Hi farbspiel!

    Thanks a lot for your blog and your
    videos, they are very nice and very

    I have one question related to
    graphics tablets:
    I think I will get the Bamboo “special
    edition” one:

    My screen is a 23 ” so comes
    my question :
    do I need a small one (248 x 176 mm)
    or a medium one ( 337 x 223 mm)
    which is twice as big at twice the

    I mean is it necessary to spend an
    additional hundred euros for doing
    photography post-processing?

    • Hi Zac,

      personally, I have a rather small graphics tablet (CTL-460-DE), and it works quite well. I never felt the need to get a really big one. I would suggest that you buy a reasonably-priced, not-too-large tablet and just try it out. I would not invest large amounts of money at the very start of your tablet adventures.

      Two additional tips:
      – I never use the touch option. I actually disabled it entirely. Maybe that is one area where you can save money.
      – Having a few configurable buttons on the tablet is a great bonus. It increases your efficiency a lot to have the most important functions right on the tablet.

      I hope this helps.


  12. I am greatfull for the information you have supplied. I’ve been looking for something that can get me over that next level. I know this is the missing piece I need. Can’t wait to try out your process. I know i will master it. Thanks for the precious info!

    • Hi Rick,

      thanks for the feedback! I am happy to hear that you found the “missing piece” here. I hope you will learn a lot. Feel free to ask questions if you have some.


      Visit me at facebook.com/farbspiel

  13. Ich bin begeistert von Ihren Arbeiten und vielen Dank für Ihr „Cookbook“. Ich versuche Ihnen zu folgen, so gut wie es geht, da ich endlich meine erste SLR-kamera habe. Noch mal vielen Dank und weiterhin viel Erfolg.

    • Vielen Dank, Tatjana!

      Viel Spaß mit der neuen SLR und beim Nachvollziehen der Rezepte.

      Visit me at facebook.com/farbspiel

  14. Superb workflow!

  15. Thanks for putting together this wonderful cookbook. I’ve been doing HDR for about half a year now but I’ve always thought there’s something missing in my HDR work. And I found my answer here. At the moment I’m just practicing your workflow on my old HDRs and I can already see the difference, even though I know I need more patience and practice. Thank you very much!

    • Thanks a lot for your feedback, Ken! I hope your are having fun with the recipes.

      Visit me at facebook.com/farbspiel

  16. i saw your posts in flcker and i am also newly trying (starting) HDR photography. i also post there some of my works and i find this blog of yours so very helpful! thanks!

    • You’re welcome!

      I hope you enjoy your stay here and take a lot of useful information with you.

      Visit me at facebook.com/farbspiel

  17. Hi Klaus,

    You’ve added so much more here since I last looked. It’s a really excellent resource! Keep up the good work mate.

    All the best,

    Chris Mitchell (J-C-M)

    • Thanks a lot, Chris!

      I will keep it up. It’s too much fun to stop. 🙂

      Visit me at facebook.com/farbspiel
      and Google+ gplus.to/farbspiel

  18. After reading your workflow I order the wacom! now I’m waiting for it. Just spend few time to adjust a photo of my XVI Æolia Room and here are my first work http://www.flickr.com/photos/luca-aka-zicco/5999007085/in/photostream

    Before & After

    • Good work, Capzicco!

      I hope the Wacom tablet works for you.

      I have a question: How do you create this kind of before and after view with the slider?


  19. […] eerste HDR Als je een beetje engels kunt, hier is wel een goede site om eens te bekijken. Hdr cookbook Groeten David __________________ Canon eos 400d, Tamron 55-200mm, canon EF 50mm 1.8 ||, Tamron […]

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