Paint Shop HDR

Paint Shop HDR is a method used to convert images to a full dynamic range.  The setup can be one RAW image or three images taken with different exposure values at one time.

What this procedure will do is produce a final image that will far surpass the original single RAW image or any of the original sequential images.

The high dynamic range conversion in Paint Shop HDR produces images that conform quite closely to the original scene rather than being limited by the ability of your camera to faithfully capture the full range of information.  Interestingly, the conversion is exactly the same for both Paint Shop Pro and AfterShot Pro 3 (which is a Corel product).

The end result can be either natural or very creative - the end is up to you.

The set-up to create the sequential images is detailed here and if you are not sure how to do it then check it out ...

Paint Shop HDR

Using a Single Raw File

A single raw file contains an enormous amount of information and because of this is can be used for a Paint Shop HDR by splitting one image to act like three different exposures in the exact same way you would get with three sequential images, that is ...

  • one exposed normally,
  • one exposed one or two exposure values below normal and
  • one exposed one or two exposure values above normal).

If you've only got one RAW image of a particular scene and the image isn't quite up to your standards then creating and HDR from that one single RAW file may save the image.

Using Sequential Images

This is done by taking at least three images at one time with the camera set to APERTURE Priority, the exposure set to Bracketing and the camera set on a tripod.  The exposure brackets are generally set to plus or minus one exposure value.

Single Raw File

In the Manage tab or the Edit screen go to File > HDR > Single Raw Photo ...

This will bring up this screen ...

This dialogue tells you exactly how to get started with a Paint Shop HDR using one RAW file.  When you click Close the following screen appears ...

  1. The first choice is to set the Camera Response curve for your camera - in my case the curve is for a Nikon.
  2. Next select the EV (Exposure Value) interval.  The default is one stop plus and one stop  minus.  This adjustment can be changed with the EV Interval Slider.
  3. Finally, set the Center Exposure.  The default is at 0 and it can be moved up or down depending on the exposure of the original RAW file you're using.
  4. When you're done click on the Split Photo Button and two more images will be added according to the settings you've set.
  5. The three images will appear at the bottom of the screen, allowing you to review them and to change the settings as necessary.
  6. When the three images meet your requirements then go to the bottom of the page and click Process.

The three image split with no adjustment to the center exposure.

The three image split with the center image increased by two stops.

When you're happy with the three image split click the Process button at the bottom of the page to go tho the next step in the Paint Shop HDR.

Paint Shop HDR Step 2

Paint Shop HDR
Three Sequential Images Set Up

  1. Multiple images of the exact same scene taken one right after the other are necessary to do the conversion which means ...

  2. You need a camera that's capable of taking at least three Bracketed shots with different Exposure Values (EV) which probably means you need a Digital SLR but there are a few high end Point and Shoot cameras that will take Bracketed shots.. Check your camera manual if you are not sure.  If your camera is not capable of Bracketing (like my Nikon D3400) then the three (or more) shots need to be taken manually.
    What I did to get the initial good shot was to set the Nikon to the Program setting and then choose the scene noting the suggested f-stop and shutter speed value.
    I put the camera on a tripod and set it manual.  The f-stop (which will not change) was set to the f-stop suggested in Program mode and then lowered the camera speed the equivalent of one stop.  The second shot was taken at the suggested Program settings and the third was taken with the shutter speed increased the equivalent of one stop.  The changes in shutter speed had to be done very gently to avoid shaking the camera.

    (Terry of Terrys Tutorials adds - the best aperture is about 3 stops down from the maximum stop - so for an f/4 lens - f/11 is about best - the exposures should be set so that in the darkest one there is detail in the highlights AND in the brightest one there should be detail in the shadows - THEN you have the true range available.)

  3. The shots should be taken with the camera set to Aperture Priority (which means the Aperture is set to one opening - say f 8.0 for example - and the shutter speed changes - the Aperture that is set is given Priority and the shutter speed will depend on what the camera light meter reads). Aperture Priority is generally indicated by the letter or Av on the camera's selection dial.

    The reason for setting the camera in Aperture Priority is that the aperture will remain the same for the three shots and always have the same depth of field.  If the Aperture changes thos changes may mess up the depth of field.

    (Additional comments from Terry - because the various auto functions in a camera can change each others' settings you are best setting the focus to manual AND setting the vibration reduction OR image stabilisation to OFF and setting the flash to OFF AND setting the ISO to the base level AND setting the white balance to a setting of your own choice otherwise the merge functions in say PSP will not do the job properly.  The more complex the image the more critical these settings become.)

  4. The camera should absolutely be mounted on a good, sturdy tripod.  Any motion of the camera during the bracketed shots will cause problems during the conversion stage.  
    As a last resort simply jam your camera up against something that doesn't move, lean into it to keep it motionless and take your shots.  Maybe do two or three sequences to insure that one set has no motion.

    (Terry's final thought - not only is a tripod essential but some authors advise a remote shutter release because even the slightest movement in the images sequences can confuse the merge.)

  5. The subject matter needs to be perfectly still because any motion will be visible when the three shots are combined with your software.

And that's only the set-up for the Paint Shop HDR!  

Those five points lead to one conclusion and that is - converting to HDR requires some planning.

To process your three awesome shots in Paint Shop HDR in either the Edit Tab (if all three are open) or highlight the three images in the Manage Tab and go to File > HDR > Exposure Merge ... 

This dialogue tells you exactly how to get started using sequential images.  When you click Close the following screen appears ...

Paint Shop HDR Multiple Images

This dialogue requires a bit more work than a single RAW file.

  1. Chose the camera response curve.

  2. Do an alignment - the choices are either Feature-based or Edge-based and then click the Align button.  For my sample images I selected Feature Based.  If the alignment produces some funny results with odd ghosts then it may be necessary to either Brush In or Brush Out some features that may have moved during the image capture.  After the Alignment finishes put a check in the Preview Alignment box.  This will show any ghosts.

  3. In my sample images one of them had a flag blowing in the wind, one had a droopy flag and one had a partially blowing flag.  If they were processed that way then there would be some ghosting.  In addition, the searchlight is visible in one image and not in the other two images.  Put a check in the Show Brushstrokes box so you can see what you've done!

  4. To deal with the flags I selected the Brush In brush and painted Green over the flag I wanted to keep on one of the images.  Doing this automatically painted Brush Out Red on the other two images.

  5. With the search light I opened the image with the light visible and used the Brush In brush to paint over the part I wanted to keep.  This caused the Red Brush Out to show up in the same place on the other two images.

This is how the three images look after Brushing ...

Minus one stop with Flag painted Green.  On the other two version in the three shots Red was automatically added.

The Red in the Lighthouse appeared when it was painted on another version of the plus one version of the three shots.

The middle, or correct exposure has no green and two Red Areas.

To keep the light in the lighthouse visible it was painted Green (green) which will keep it visible in the final Processed version.  

The Red in the Plus One (overexposed version) appeared when Green was painted on the Minus One (underexposed version).

If all this is making your head spin the get three shots and paint Green on one of them  Check the other two versions and the same spot will be red and you'll have no ghosting.

Hit the Process key to move to the next step in the Paint Shop HDR procedure.

From this point forward the procedure for either a Single RAW file or sequential images is exactly the same.

The combined image can be adjusted as it is presented or one of the 12 Presets can be chosen.  Clicking on each Preset will apply that adjustment to the image in the center window.

Below the Presents are two buttons - Color and B&W.  Be sure to check the B&W setting for each Preset because you may find an awesome black and white under the color image.


There are six built in Presets included with Paint Shop HDR and they range from natural to very creative.  This is a good starting point for the rest of the adjustments in this panel.

On the top right are two icons - one to Save your very own, and probably awesome, preset and another for Preset Options.  Any Presets that are saved will be at the bottom of the built-in Preset list.

Below the Preset thumbnails you can choose to either work with Color or Black and White.

HDR Adjustments

There are a lot of adjustments on this Paint Shop HDR panel.  From top to bottom ...

There really are no guidelines at this point because all of the adjustments are to your taste.

The first three are White Balance, Temperature and Tint.

Contrast - move the slider to the right to increase the contrast and to the left to decrease the contrast.

Highlights, Midtones and Shadows - adjusting each one of them will make an overall adjustment to the specific portion of the Curves dialogue.  Highlights will raise or lower the top part of the Curve, Midtones will modify the middle part of the Curve and Shadows affect the lower part of the Curve.

Vibrancy - move to the left to remove the affect of color and to the right to make the colors more intense.

Detail (Natural or Creative) - each one provides a unique appearance.  If you select normal you can adjust the highlights, midtones and shadows.  If you select Creative then the next adjustments are Strength and Block size.

Reset - zeros out all of the adjustments.

Back - takes you back one screen.

Create HDR File - saves the image as it is at this point.

Process - loads the Fine Tuning page.

Fine Tune

The Fine Tune panel in Paint Shop HDR lets you do just that - apply some fine tuning adjustments to your image and all of these adjustments can be found in the main Edit screen of Paint Shop Pro.

Histogram - is modified as the rest of the adjustments are changed.  Shows red, green and blue component and greyscale.

Basic Tools - Crop, Straighten, Red Eye, Makeover and Clone.

Smart Photo Fix - modify the sliders are choos Select Settings.

White Balance - adjust the temperature and the tint in the photograph.

Brightness/Contrast - as described and not often used.

Fill LIght/Clarity - fill light (like a fill flash) and Clarity. the level of datail in an image.

Vibrancy - boosts the color of the least saturated color in an image.

Local Tone Mapping - enhances details in an image.

High Pass Sharpen - adjust the radius (the specific distance within which dissimilar pixels are selected) and the strength of the adjustment.

Digital Noise Removal - remove small specs that interfere with image clarity.

At the bottom of the screen are three buttons - Back, Edit and Save and Close

Back - takes you back to the previous screen if you're not satisfied with what you see.

Edit - takes you into the Paint Shop Pro Editor allowing for additiona adjustments.

Save and Close - saves the image as a jpeg (or any format you wish) wherever you want and closed the program.

The new, and improved, Paint Shop HDR conversion with Paint Shop Pro is excellent.  The procedure is exactly the same with both Paint Shop and AfterShot Pro 3.

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