Everyone loves Comic Con and everyone (okay most people) love HDR. So why not combine the two in a fusion of cosplayers, HDR and compositing. Here are a few of the photos I’ve combined so far. I love the work that Joel Grimes and others have done with HDR portraits and I’ve only seen a few cosplay HDR combinations out there.
See the full Comic Con HDR Fustion gallery.
Star Wars Comic Con HDR Fusion
These were all taken from the Minneapolis Wizard World Comic Cons from 2014 & 2015. Looking forward to possibly visiting some of the other sites like Chicago, Madison in 2016 and maybe even the San Diego Comic Con someday.
Black Widow in the Skyway
The biggest challenge with using the Comic Con photos is the lighting. Lots of overhead lights beaming down at bad angles. You’ll also need to adjust the color temperatures and exposures of the two photos. In a studio you could control the light much better of course. It’s just maybe harder to get a whole bunch of characters assembled in one place like a Comic Con convention.
Scorpion from Mortal Kombat!
I plan on combining and sharing a more of these. Check out the gallery here Comic Con HDR Fusion Gallery.
In this tutorial I’ll give you the basic adjustments to make awesome photos using Snapseed on your phone. If you haven’t tried Snapseed you’re missing out. The best part of Snapseed is the interface works extremely well with your mobile device and as you’ll see it’s a very powerful photo editing tool.
Here’s our image straight out of the camera. Kind of an interesting tree stump overlooking the river. Probably not going to win any awards especially with terribly flat mid day light. Let’s see if we can spice this up a bit. Click on the edit button to bring up the adjustments.
Start with the “Tune Image” adjustments from the Tools section. These may be the basic adjustments but they are also very powerful and will get your image 80-90% of the way to your masterpiece or at least a few ooohs and ahhhs from your friends.
Basic adjustments applied. Not a bad start!
Now let’s look at the detail adjustments. You can add a touch of Sharpening but the real meat is with the Structure slider. Kick up the slider to +50 or so and you’re adding a lot of character to the textures like the tree stump in the image.
Watch out! If you have a really detailed area in your photo adding more structure can cause those areas to become overwhelming. You might think you’re adding more awesomeness but you can quickly overdo it. It’s like adding too much salt to your food. The first bites taste good but then it can become unbearable as your senses are overloaded. The same will go for HDR adjustment in the next section.
Next choose the HDR Scape from the Filters menu. You can adjust the filter strength to your liking. Watch out for halos and again don’t create a scene that’s way too busy. An adjustment of +25 to +75 is probably a good range for most photos like this.
Note: It’s worth going back to the basic tuning adjustments after applying the HDR to add back Contrast and adjust the brightness/exposure. One of the big mistakes people make with HDR is losing the contrast in an image so be sure to punch it back up if necessary.
Finishing Touch: Glamour Glow
Don’t miss this last adjustment. It’s similar to one of my favorite plugins in Color Efex Pro called Glamour Glow. It’s a great way to reduce noise, add some warmth and give a bit of a dreamy feel to your photo. Something that’s hard to duplicate straight out of the camera.
After adding some glow (or a lot) you may want to back off a bit on the Saturation and Warmth. That’s precisely why those adjustments are present in that filter section. That goes for all of the filters and tuning adjustments. Snapseed does a great job putting the adjustments that interact with one another together. Keep that in mind when making adjustments.
Remember these are adjustments for a bland photo that needs some life breathed into it. If you go back and look at the screenshots you’ll see how the histogram is stretched into almost a bell curve. Mid tones are expanded yet there are still bright whites and dark shadow areas. My histograms are usually centered just left of center.
I hope this has helped you add some punch to your bland photos and have fun playing with Snapseed and developing your signature look!
Final image using Snapseed.
Here’s a good article on HDR and how it relates to photography and even storm and news reporting. A pretty balanced and informative article. Give it a read.
Below is an example HDR in the article.
It wouldn’t be Comic Con without girls in sometimes revealing and other times just plain awesome costumes. The Wizard World Minneapolis Comic Con was no different with a mix of great costumes. The most popular costumes seem to be Black Widow and Harley Quinn usually with a Joker in tow.
Check out the Girls of Comic Con Gallery for more and higher resolution photos.
Squish You Were Here
Here’s one of the Harley Quinn cosplayers at the costume contest. The roller skates are a nice touch and the hammer might be the best part with “Squish You Were Here” written on it. We’ll see more Harley Quinn in the upcoming Suicide Squad movie that’s in production with Jared Let, Will Smith and Margot Robbie as Harley.
Not since Milla Jovovich wore the “Bandage” in the Fifth Element has there been a more revealing costume! A brave girl although with the pose I wasn’t sure if she was a bit shy or even had second thoughts about the costume. In the next photo however she’s on stage at the costume contest and seems very comfortable.
Starfire taking a bow.
She probably had a few more requests for photos but for the most part didn’t seem to be flocked by guys. Maybe it’s a “Minnesota nice” thing and let’s hope Comic Con Minneapolis stays on the civil side. Some of the other Comic Cons have had some issues with people stepping over the line.
Girls in Action
I’m not sure what character she is supposed to be. If you know please comment so I can update the caption. I thought it was great how she got into character. That’s one of the best parts of Comic Con how the girls and guys all embrace the fun of it.
One of the most popular costumes…Black Widow.
Of course we can’t mention Black Widow without including one here. Here she is with guns blazing. Yes, I missed her face and no it wasn’t on purpose or because I was distracted. The lighting was terrible in the large conference room and I was just happy to get a shot in focus as she was moving.
There you have it. Another successful Wizard World Comic Con for Minneapolis. Check out the gallery for more photos of the Girls of Comic Con 2015.
Back with Part 3 of Comic Con and it’s time to summon the heroes…the dudes. To be honest it’s sometimes hard to find guys that aren’t in Star Wars costumes but here they are.
The Avengers rule these days. Here’s Thor on the opening weekend of the Avengers movie.
There were a surprising amount of Ghostbuster costumes at the Minneapolis Comic Con. Although hard to pass up the photo op with the car. Which reminds me the Batmobile was there from the old TV show but you had to pay to take a photo of or in it. I can understand paying if you want to be in it. I’d much rather photograph the Ghostbusters wagon or the Delorean.
Here’s drunk guy #1. Seriously though he does a great impression of Captain Jack!
Drunk guy #2. One of the best things about Comic Con is how people get into character and this guy was all over it as soon as he noticed I was taking his picture. Well done Captain Morgan!
It certainly wouldn’t be comic con without a bunch of Star Wars characters. This year it seemed to be mostly different varieties of troopers. Some from the old series and some from the new. I mean the old series being the newer series. Sorry we’ve just fallen into some sort of George Lucas paradox. Let’s not even mention the new new trilogy.
Well if you’re a steampunk fan don’t feel too bad. There’s nothing that can really beat Star Wars so this was inevitable. It was fun seeing all the people that wanted this photo op. If only there was someone with a Jar Jar costume!
Here’s your classic storm trooper pose. Well done!
It’s not often you see Padme in a Delorean ready to go back in time. I guess if she was to drive a car it would be the Delorean as it does bare a resemblance to her starship. See, we learn a lot at Comic Con!
Check out all the Comic Con galleries.
It’s that time of year again for Minneapolis to geek out. Yes, it’s none other than Wizard World Comic Con. May 1st through 3rd comic book, movie and pop culture fans descended on the Minneapolis Convention Center. There was plenty to see from celebrities, booths selling various wares and of course the costumes.
This will be a four part series looking at the best of the event. We’ll start with a general look and then take a closer look at the cosplayers including the ever present Star Wars costumes, heroes and dudes and last but not least the girls of Comic Con.
As a photographer Comic Con is a wonderful place. People are there to be seen and they not only welcome having their picture taken they usually jump into character. Like the guy below who decided to go to Comic Con after being locked out of his apartment ;)
Many people coordinate their costumes with one of the most popular being Harley Quinn and the Joker.
Here we have Harvey Two-Face, Dr. Venkman and Black Widow.
To view the general gallery or take a sneak peak at the other galleries follow the links below:
Star Wars at Comic Con
Heroes and Guys of Comic Con
Girls of Comic Con
I hope to take some of the characters and place them into other environments I’ve shot. Watch for that in the future as well.
My alternate title would be Stingray, Jelly Fish and Sharks, Oh My! See the full SEA LIFE gallery.
I enjoyed a return trip to SEA LIFE Aquarium in the Mall of America. As a photographer I often hope these places will be empty so I can get good shots without a mass of people. On a Friday it was pretty busy but not so much where I couldn’t maneuver.
Poseidon just hanging out in the deep end.
The underwater statues are really cool to see. I wish they had a few more. They really should have a guy in a diving bell suit.
The sharks, fish and even a sea turtle can swim direcly overhead too. You can see more photos in my previous gallery here Sea Life Aquarium.
Moon Jelly Room
The Moon Jelly room is one of the coolest areas. The lights cycle through different colors illuminating the jelly fish in the tanks.
This guy in front was really hamming it up for the camera.
If you will be taking photos be sure to bring a fast lens and prepare to shoot at high ISO. It’s lower light than you realize and some of the fish and sharks move pretty fast. Also get your camera as close to the glass as possible to minimize reflections.
Here’s the link to the official site if you’re interested in visiting.
Lightroom 6 is out and one of the new features is the ability to merge photos to HDR within Lightroom. There’s a bit of controversy about this as many people consider the results to be pretty blah. Blah being the technical term for not the fuzzy, radioactive tone mapped tour de force that other programs employ (at least their presets).
Let’s compare the differences between the middle (correct?) exposure and a few different HDR merge methods and then I’ll tell you how to best use the function in Lightroom 6. These were all merged with what I would consider conservative settings to get a natural HDR look much like what I believe Lightroom is doing. I then applied my common starting point preset in Lightroom for HDR photos. The preset I use is Highlights -100, Shadows +100, Whites +15, Blacks -15, Clarity +15 and Vibrance +15.
Middle Exposure – I did need to bump up the exposure to match the output of the other methods. It was only about 1/3 of an EV bump. Not a bad starting point for a high dynamic range scene.
Lightroom 6 HDR – Here we have what people are talking about. If you compare this to the middle exposure above there’s really not much difference.
Photoshop HDR – Next is Photoshop. I suspect Photoshop and Lightroom are processing the same way and could give you the exact same results. Photoshop has more adjustments which I believe is why it looks a bit different from the Lightroom output. Photoshop has less contrast here and also notice the difference between the sun to that of Lightroom.
Photomatix – Contrast Optimizer (Vibrant) – It really flattens out the image and notice the exposure on the broken down dock shows more detail. It does have flaring issues shooting into the sun though.
Photomatix 32-bit HDR – This has been my go to method for awhile. Instead of tone mapping in Photomatix I reimport the 32-bit file to Lightroom and then adjust from there. In this case you see the dock has pretty good shadow detail but it doesn’t suffer from the splotchy sky of the Photomatix Contrast Optimizer version.
Conclusion: I have a more natural style of HDR and I try to avoid the artifacts in the over the top HDR you often see. For me the Photomatix 32-bit HDR is still the best option. It has good shadow detail without introducing a lot of splotchy banding, halos or reverse halos (black smudges). The Lightroom 6 HDR output didn’t seem to be much better than the middle exposure which is probably why people are underwhelmed.
How to use Lightroom 6 HDR (and Photomatix 32-bit HDR): These two methods, and maybe the Photoshop method depending on settings, are really a starting point for expanding the dynamic range. After that you can add more Clarity in Lightroom or export to programs like Topaz Clarity, Color Efex Pro or back to tone map in Photomatix. Hopefully Adobe will add more options to the Lightroom HDR function so we can tweak to our preferences.
Final Tip: If you’re not happy with how Lightroom adjusts the sliders after creating the HDR just turn off Auto Tone when creating the HDR. It will leave the sliders at the default position.
I think I’m hooked on chasing the Northern Lights now. Getting out of the urban sprawl and bright lights of Minneapolis/St. Paul is a good idea when trying to get a good shot. On a weeknight and with work the next day you can’t always drive an hour or two though. I decided to try to get some shots from the outer ring suburbs and Stillwater which is only 20 minutes from St. Paul.
The Northern Lights in the suburbs.
Seen above is the Northern Lights just 2 miles from my house. This is in Lake Elmo which is a short 20 minutes to St. Paul. There’s quite a bit of urban sprawl in the Twin Cities and therefore a lot of light pollution. This site has a bit of a gap in the lights looking north.
Stillwater Aurora Borealis
This location was a lot more difficult. Stillwater, MN is further away from Minneapolis/St. Paul but as you can see has many lights from the city. In order to deal with the city lights and try to gather enough light to get the Northern Lights I had to employ a little on the fly thinking.
As luck would have it I placed a small black cloth in the car for cleaning my car’s nav system earlier in the day. I went and grabbed the cloth and then it was mostly trial and error. I was using 8 second exposures and I held the cloth over the bottom to cover the city lights. I would count the number of seconds and right around .5 to 1 second remaining I’d remove the cloth. There was a clear break at the horizon so this worked nicely.
You could try to bracket exposures and composite later but you might still have flaring issues and probably a loss of contrast. Check out more images in the Northern Lights gallery.