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High Dynamic Range (HDR) Photography

With Lightroom

What's HDR Photography?

HDR allows you to merge multiple exposures into one photograph.

Go to High Dynamic Range (HDR) Photography.

The Basic Process

Let's say you're at Zion National Park.

It's a sunny day, so the light is contrasty.

Your camera can't record both the bright sky and what's in the shadows of the rock formations.

With HDR photography, you take several photographs of the same scene at different exposures, using exposure compensation.

Do the following.

1) Photograph the above scene.

The rocks look fine, but the sky is washed out and the shadows are too dark.

2) Set the exposure compensation to –2 and photograph the scene again.

The sky looks great—but the shadows are too dark.

3) Set the exposure compensation to +2 and photograph the scene.

The sky is washed out—but the shadows are brighter.

4) Later, the best parts of the the three photographs are merged into a single photograph.

If There's No Movement in the Scene

You may be able to set your camera to take several bracketed exposures rapidly.

Use a tripod if possible.

If you can't use a tripod, try to frame each exposure identically.

Lightroom 6, and HDR plug-ins used with Lightroom 5, can align these hand-held photographs.

Occasionally, however, hand-held photographs can't be merged successfully.

If There's Movement in the Scene

Photograph the scene—once.

For the best result, save as a raw file.

Do the following in Lightroom.

1) Go to the Develop module.

2) Make a virtual copy of the photograph.

3) Edit the virtual copy to make the sky look good.

4) Make another virtual copy.

5) Edit it to make the shadows look good.

You now have three versions of the photograph.

Lightroom 5

Lightroom 5 can't merge photographs.

You have to use a plug-in.

A plug-in does the following.

1) Imports photographs from Lightroom to the plug-in.

2) Does something to the photographs.

3) Exports them back to Lightroom.

Download LR/Enfuse or another Lightroom HDR plug-in and install it in Lightroom.

LR/Enfuse is donation-ware.

Pay what you want.

The trial version limits the output size to 500px, and donating towards this project will give you a registration code that will remove this restriction. All future updates are free.

Using LR/Enfuse

Scene with No Movement

Do the following.

1) Go to the Library module.

2) Select all three photographs.

3) In the Library module, go to File > Plug-in Extras > LR/Enfuse > Blend exposures using LR/Enfuse.

The LR/Enfuse window will open.

4) Click on the tabs and set the preferences.

In the Output tab, by default, the photograph is saved as a 16-bit TIF file.

TIF files are similar to Photoshop files.

Photoshop Elements users will need to convert the 16-bit file into an 8-bit file.

A window will prompt you to do so when you open the file in Photoshop Elements.

5) LR/Enfuse will create the merged photograph in the folder that you designated in the Output tab.

6) Import the merged photograph into Lightroom.

7) Edit the merged version, as needed, in Lightroom.

Scene with Movement

Do the following.

1) Go to the Library module.

2) Export the original—and the two two virtual copies you made—of a scene with movement.

Export them to a folder on your Desktop called HDRs.

The three files have the same name.

Lightroom will append a number to the file name of the second and third photographs.

DSC_1234.jpg

DSC_1234-2.jpg

DSC_1234-3.jpg

3) Import the three JPEGs from the above folder into Lightroom.

4) Put them in a collection called HDRs.

5) Select all three photographs.

6) In the Library module, go to File > Plug-in Extras > LR/Enfuse > Blend exposures using LR/Enfuse.

The LR/Enfuse window will open.

7) Click on the tabs, and set the preferences.

In the Output tab, by default, the photograph is saved as a 16-bit TIF file.

TIF files are similar to Photoshop files.

Photoshop Elements users will need to convert the 16-bit file into an 8-bit file.

A window will prompt you to do so when you open the file in Photoshop Elements.

8) LR/Enfuse will create the merged photograph in the folder that you designated in the Output tab.

9) Import the merged photograph into Lightroom.

10) Edit the merged version, as needed, in Lightroom.

Lightroom 6

Lightroom 6 is able to merge photographs.

Do the following.

1) Go to the Library module.

2) Select all three photographs.

3) Press Ctrl + h.

4) In the upper-right corner, select:

• Auto Align if a tripod wasn't used.

• Auto Tone.

• The amount of deghosting if there was movement in the scene.

5) Click Merge.

The merged photograph is added to your catalog with -HDR appended to its file name.