The process of HDR, or High Dynamic Range, is relatively simple to learn because there are only a few steps to know. Basically it uses multiple photo frames at different exposures and blends them together. Super-saturated High Dynamic Range images were trending across the internet a year or two ago but are less in the news now.

While that trended toward use vibrant colors, HDR images don’t have to be about super-saturation either, which some consider unrealistic looking. Many of today’s HDR photographers use it to get accurate exposures in scenes that exceed a camera’s ability to capture all of the details in a single frame.

Equipment and setup

First of all, one thing to note is High Dynamic Range blending, and blending in general, doesn’t work if there is too much movement in your photos. Use a tripod and Auto Exposure Bracketing for the best results. It is possible to execute by hand but takes more work and time and sometimes results in some cropping where frames do not overlap.

Being by starting at one end of the desired exposure limit/range and work in f-stops until you get to the other end. This can two or more frames more depending on how many you want to try to process. I’ll typically use around 3 frames; one each at -1, 0 and +1.

use the dslr light meter for hdr.
Use the camera’s light meter for HDR.

Three images will work for most scenes. However, depending on the location and desired result, using 5, 7 or 9 might shots might be required to achieve dynamic results. Keep in mind that blending more frames together increases the information Photoshop has available, which may or may not be desirable for some lighting conditions. More images also means more storage space is needed and increases the amount of time creating an HDR image takes to process.

Processing in Photoshop

To start the process on the PC open Adobe Bridge, select your frames and use the Tools menu and choose Photoshop and HDR Merge Pro.

select frames in adobe bridge for hdr
Select frames in Adobe Bridge merge HDR images. Image by Gene Dianoski

This brings up the HDR Merge Pro dialog box. Check the box to remove ghosts. Ghosts are the result of areas where something has moved between frames. For example, a tree branch waving in the wind or a car driving through a frame will result in ghosting. Not using this option, or having frames with too much movement, results in weird looking image. I’ve tried doing High Dynamic Range blends with people in them and they are basically impossible to process.

The Photoshop HDR Merge Pro dialog box
The Photoshop HDR Merge Pro dialog box. Image by Gene Dianoski

Click Tone in Adobe Camera Raw. This will load the layers, merge them and open it in Adobe Camera Raw.

An HDR image processed with Photoshop
An HDR pre-sunrise image processed with Photoshop. Image by Gene Dianoski

After completing these few steps, process the newly merged image as you normally would in Photoshop or Lightroom. See how simple it is to execute and process? Give it a try!

What’s your favorite use of HDR? What kinds of projects have you been dreaming of shooting? Show off your High Dynamic Range ideas and images in the comment section below!


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.