On the left (click for the full size dialog box), you can see the adjustments I've made for the following image. As with the Shadow/Highlight control in Photoshop, I don't find the defaults to be particularly good ones, but with some careful tweaking, the HDR Toning function can make some fairly subtle and natural looking adjustments, although over-the-top settings are readily available for those who really like the obvious "HDR Look" that seems so popular these days.
This photo was taken at Chaco Culture National Historical Park in New Mexico and came from a single raw photo, not an HDR blend. I love the amazing stone work that was done but felt it needed a little more pop to bring out the texture of the walls. First up, here is the original unadjusted (and slightly flat) version:
Next up, here is the one adjusted using CS5 HDR Toning:
Finally, here is an alternative version adjusted using a Photoshop plugin from Topaz Labs, Adjust v4.01:
Remember that you can click on any of the above images to see them larger and then just click the "back" on your browser to return to the blog. HDR Toning in CS5 will give similar results to a "local contrast adjustment" sharpening that you might do with USM, but it does off much more control over the result.
I included a version of the same image from Topaz Adjust since it is an extremely versatile plugin that goes well beyond even what CS5 offers. Here is a screenshot of the Topaz plugin where you can see some of the many controls on the right, as well as a ton of predefined presets on the left:
Of course you can go from subtle to completely over-the-top adjustments with Topaz Adjust as well. One advantage of Topaz Adjust is that it will work on a layer, whereas the new HDR Toning in CS5 will unfortunately insist that it has to flatten your image if it is layered. I find Topaz Labs to have some excellent (and reasonably priced) plugins, especially DeNoise v4.1 (which I have been using since v2.0) and of note is that they just updated all their plugins to work in full 64-bit mode in Photoshop CS5. They can also work with Lightroom, Aperture and even iPhoto with a free "Topaz Fusion" add on.
So in closing, Photoshop CS5's new HDR Toning control can be a very useful tool to explore, even on regular images. I skipped Photoshop CS4 since I felt it offered too few improvements over CS3, but the more I use CS5, the more I feel this is definitely a worthwhile upgrade! It is also worth looking at the plugins from Topaz Labs and I will likely cover DeNoise v4 in a future blog entry.