HDR workflow with hugin
Still here? There are two basic ways of creating an HDR panorama:
- Stitch several panoramas of the same scene, each one at a different exposure, and merge them together into a single HDR file.
- Create a set of HDR shots of the scene and then stitch them together.
Each has advantages and disadvantages: The first technique is simpler and has the advantage that the final HDR step can be skipped and substituted with a Contrast Blending approach, but has the potential for misalignments causing ghosting problems. The second technique is presented here since it involves a greater range of tools.
- 1 Quick and easy technique
- 2 Laborious and difficult technique
- 2.1 Preparing the HDR images
- 2.2 Stitching with hugin
- 2.3 Post processing
Quick and easy technique
The rest of this tutorial describes generating high quality output using command-line tools. However it is now possible to complete the workflow entirely with GUI tools, something like this:
- Take bracketed shots of your scene.
- Open bracketed images in Hugin. Align - let's say - the middle exposures together and set the stacks in the Images tab.
- If your stacks don't align (shot hand-held, sloppy panohead, etc.), set some control points inside stacks and align them too.
- Stitch the panorama with hugin and enblend to HDR file.
- Optionally tonemap the result with qtpfsgui.
Laborious and difficult technique
Preparing the HDR images
Taking bracketed shots
The number of shots required depends on the dynamic range of the scene you need to capture and the capabilities of your camera.
Many cameras have an auto-bracketing mode that takes three or five shots two stops apart with one press of the button. This may be adequate, though a typical outdoor scene might have a dynamic range of eighteen stops which would require eight shots two stops apart.
Whatever method you choose, it should be obvious that you need a good tripod to keep the camera steady.
Correcting chromatic aberration
Merging bracketed shots with PFScalibration
There are other tools for merging bracketed images, but PFScalibration is Free Software and does the job.
Calibrating the camera response curve
Generally when a digital camera creates a JPEG or TIFF file, it takes a 12bit per-channel dynamic range image captured by the CCD and compresses it using a camera response curve into a 8bit output file.
If you are working with RAW images, the camera response is generally linear and doesn't need calibrating, so you can skip this step.
A quick way to derive the response curve for later use is to take a series of five bracketed JPEG shots, slightly out of focus and one stop apart. eg. 2, 1, 0.5, 0.25 & 0.125 seconds exposure. First extract the exposure times from the EXIF data:
jpeg2hdrgen *.jpg > mycamera.hdrgen
Then extract the response curve, by comparing the photos, and save it:
pfsinhdrgen mycamera.hdrgen | pfshdrcalibrate -v -g 6 -s mycamera.response
Aligning the shots
If the pictures were taken hand-held you will need to align the stack of photos using hugin.
Alternatively the hdrprep tool can be used to do all this automatically and save a lot of time.
Merging the bracketed images to Radiance RGBE .hdr format
Create a hdrgen file listing each of your bracketed photos and their exposure times, you can base this on the mycamera.hdrgen file created earlier.
Then use this and your camera response file to create an RGBE file:
pfsinhdrgen mypicture.hdrgen | pfshdrcalibrate -v -f mycamera.response | pfsoutrgbe mypicture.hdr
Check the output with pfsview:
pfsinrgbe mypicture.hdr | pfsview
Stitching with hugin
- Everything may appear very dark since our images represent linear sensor data. The display of HDR images can be configured in the Hugin Preferences.
- Information about the Field of View was lost, so this will need to be re-entered manually or re-optimised.
This TIFF file is in floating-point 32bit per channel IEEE format. This is impossible to display on a normal monitor in its entirety at once, so you possibly want to create final 8bit per channel human-readable images.
Adjusting in a GUI tool
An HDR image can be viewed using pfstools using:
pfsintiff stitch.tif | pfsview
A quick way to create a good usable 8bit per channel image is to select logarithmic mapping, adjust the exposure slider until you see a good range of shadows and highlights, zoom 1:1 and save as PNG.
A related package to pfstools called pfstmo can do automatic tone mapping of an HDR image and compress it into a low dynamic range output. There are many options and techniques available, commands look like this:
pfsinrgbe stitch.hdr | pfstmo_drago03 | pfsgamma -g 2.2 | pfsout stitch.png
Photomatix also can perform tone mapping.