How Do I Make an HDR Image in Photoshop?

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The dynamic range of a photograph refers to the range between the darkest shadow and the brightest highlight. Create an image with a high dynamic range by taking two or more photos of the same frame with different exposures and merging them in Photoshop to get the tonal details from each into a single HDR image.

Step 1: Prepare Your Exposures

When creating an HDR image in Adobe Photoshop, you have two options for selecting the exposures to be merged:

  • Files: Know the location and file names of each exposure.
  • Folder: Place all files to be merged into a single folder.

Tip

  • One each of a high, medium and low exposure is recommended for basic HDR merging, but the process can be completed with as few as two shots -- one with a high exposure that is brighter than normal and one with a low exposure that is darker than normal.

Step 2: Open HDR Dialog

(Image: Image courtesy of Adobe)

Go to the Photoshop File menu, select the Automate sub-menu and then click Merge to HDR Pro.

Step 3: Select the Images

(Image: Image courtesy of Adobe)

Select the digital images you want to merge in the Merge to HDR Pro dialog box. In the Use drop-down menu, choose whether you are selecting the images by Files or by Folder depending on how you prepared the images.

If you select images one by one, select the Files option from the Use drop-down menu and then click the Browse button to navigate to and select the files individually.

Tip

  • Use Ctrl-click in Windows or Cmd-click with a Mac to select more than one file at at time.

If you are using a folder that contains all the images, choose the Folder option from the Use drop-down menu, and then click the Browse button to navigate to and select the folder containing the images to be merged.

When all the images are shown in the files list, click OK to continue.

Step 4: Adjust HDR Settings

The Merge to HDR Pro dialog box
The Merge to HDR Pro dialog box (Image: Melissa Estuesta)

The more images you choose, the longer the processing time. When Photoshop finishes aligning and processing the images, the Merge to HDR Pro dialog box presents you with a preview of the image and several adjustment options:

  • Edge Glow:

  • Radius and Strength are used to control how sharp the overall image looks.* Tone and Detail:

  • Gamma is used to control the contrast between the shadows and highlights.
  • Exposure controls the total amount of overall perceived lightness or darkness.
  • The Detail slider further controls the perceived sharpness of the smaller details.* Advanced:

  • Shadow is used to adjust the lightness or darkness of the lower tones.
  • Highlight is used to adjust the lightness or darkness of the higher tones.
  • Vibrance controls the intensity of the neutral, muted colors without altering the already intense colors.
  • The Saturation slider controls the intensity of all colors.* Curve:

Tip

  • You can use the Preset drop-down menu first to explore different settings combinations and then manually adjust the settings to customize the HDR image.

When you are satisfied with the result, click OK to complete it. It is brought into Photoshop as a single image for further adjustments.

Step 5: Export Your Image

(Image: Image courtesy of Adobe)

To save the new HDR image, go the File menu and use the Save As option to save as the file type you require.

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