Recently I was asked about the processing I do on my images, I have been asked about this several times, and to make it easy I thought it might be good to write up a small tutorial, and then I can point to this when needed.
I usually start with finding an f-stop that is sharpest for the lens I am using that day, this is habitually a 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM. I have heard two schools of thought on what is the sharpest stop,
One is that most lens are sharpest at f-8, a very boring f-stop, unless you are shooting something like the image above.
The other is that, at least for Canon, they try and get the lens to be sharpest about three stops down from wide open.
I find that mostly you just have to shoot and decide which is best for your camera lens combo.
So for this image I shot a 7 exposure bracket but did not use all of them when processing the HDR,
I did use tonemapping in Photomatics and adjusted things to where I liked them, once I have the file from Photomatics, I will bring it into Aperture and do a few minor adjustments, like white balance, adjust highlights, shadows, and mid-tone contrast if needed, Then the image goes out to Photoshop where the cool stuff happens.
In Photoshop I start by duplicating the layer and set the blending to overlay mode and reduce its opacity to 20% or so, then I blur this layer by as much as 12 – 25 pixels, just depends on taste, and the amount of detail in the image, this will give you a bit more contrast and will enhance the color. Toggle that layer off and on to check the effect.
The next thing I do is to flatten the image and duplicate the layer again, same as before set the blending to overlay and set the opacity to about 80% this time. I then do filter->other->high pass filter
and set the pixel value to anywhere from 4 – 7. This will give you a much cleaner and sharper looking image. Toggle this layer on and off and adjust the opacity as needed. Use these sparingly as you can go overboard pretty quickly and it will start to look bad if you go to far.