There was a question on Twitter today asking people about their favourite Lightroom plugin. While I have a few that I use (including Jeffrey Friedl’s export plugin for Flickr), one of the plugins I use the most is the LR/Enfuse plugin from Timothy Armes. In essence the LR/Enfuse plugin allows you to combine multiple exposures into one image, and I use it in three different ways:
HDR is an acronym for ‘High Dynamic Range‘ and essentially refers to making several images of the same scene at different exposures to capture detail in the highlights, midtones and shadows beyond what’s possible in a single exposure. For more on this you can read our ‘Why Use HDR‘ post. Many people associate HDR with images that have been greatly tonemapped, but HDR need not be used in that way. What the LR/Enfuse plugin allows you to do is to combine images made at various exposures into single-image composites, extracting the best detail from each base image. LR/Enfuse doesn’t have the tonemapping capabilities of HDR Efex Pro, Photomatix or PTGui for example, but it will allow you to create realistic-looking images with more dynamic range than you can get from a single capture. Here are a couple of images as examples:
LR/Enfuse also has a ‘batch’ feature, so by grouping the images for each composite into an image stack in Lightroom, one can select all of the stacks and process them at once.
I’ve done three blog posts now on ‘Photographing Moving Water‘, describing how I use LR/Enfuse to create an effect that is similar to but different than that created using very long exposure times. The image below, for example, was created using 20 images combined together using LR/Enfuse. NB: This is also an HDR image, so the individual exposures were made at varying shutter speeds. Often when doing this work I’m not sure how many images will be appropriate for a final composite so I usually begin by creating batches of four or five images, then comparing and selecting from those results, stacking them and running LR/Enfuse again on the previously-created composites until I get the look I want. It’s very much trial and error, as described in the second ‘Moving Water’ post.
3) Image Composites
Entire books have been written about creating image composites in Photoshop, and the LR/Enfuse plugin can’t begin to approach that. For example, there’s no masking feature per se and no layers, either in Lightroom or in the LR/Enfuse plugin (there is a Layers plugin for Lightroom from On One Software, but I haven’t yet tried it). However, back in the film days I would sometimes take two 35mm slides and simply sandwich them together in the same frame. LR/Enfuse can do the equivalent of this, with the advantage of selecting the ‘best’ pixels from each image at the same time. Here’s an example from a couple of images I made recently in a local park. I was making images of tree branches reflecting in the water of a pond, and was caught by the abstract quality of the images I made. I also made a series of exposures of fallen leaves that were floating in the water. Individually they look like this:
They’re not bad on their own, but they looked to me like good candidates to be combined together. The final result looks like this:
So, those are just a few ideas for you to play with. LR/Enfuse is ‘charged’ by donation, but remember that paying what you can gives independent developers a means of living and also encourages them to create new products. For me, the LR/Enfuse plugin is well worth it.
Now go out and make some pictures!!