Ace HDR Photography with Lightroom-Tutorial

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HDR is short for High Dynamic Range and can be defined as a set of techniques used to produce an image with greater dynamic range of luminosity than what is achievable with standard digital photography techniques. This very pleasant effect has become so popular that even now, most modern cameras and high-end smartphones provide (among many features) the capacity of shooting in HDR format. Not so long ago, the only way to achieve this effect was to take a certain number of pictures, varying the exposure values, and then to process them using software like Adobe Photoshop in order to get the HDR effect.

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Modern times means new techniques, so even if cameras actually do handle HDR mode, software tools also needs to adapt in order to make the HDR workflow an easier task for the user, as well as providing the space to go even further with extra postproduction of the already processed HDR file.

Lightroom now offers a native possibility of merging several pictures into an HDR file via the Photomerge command, which was a noticeable improvement in Lightroom 5, which also features an option for Panoramic merge. After selecting your pictures and enabling the Photomerge to HDR mode, Lightroom will pop up a new window with very few options available in order to create the HDR file. In my personal opinion, Lightroom still has a ways to go in order to be considered a rival to Photoshop’s HDR mode, although this new HDR mode in Lightroom is so easy to use that even first time users can achieve great results without even knowing how Lightroom works.

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Consider also the fact that Lightroom will notify you if it encounters errors between the images for the HDR merge. Such errors may be as simple as Lightroom not recognizing the pictures as being part of the same scene but with differences in lighting to much more complicated errors that can be labeled as development bugs since this mode still has room to grow. The old fashioned method for doing HDR is also available via the command “Edit in” and selecting “Merge to HDR Pro in Photoshop”.

Creating HDR Photos inside Lightroom

One very cool feature of Lightroom is the possibility of creating our own HDR images with only one picture and the help of the always useful Presets. How can this be possible? Well, presets are our best buddies inside Lightroom, giving us a broad range of possible effects, which are achievable in only a few seconds. Preset bundles, such as HDR Visions from Sleeklens, can turn your unremarkable image into a stunning HDR in only a single click.

Such a feature can be extremely useful if, by chance, we were only able to take one picture instead of a set of them, as would be required for like conventional HDR. This could happen if our camera is not HDR compatible, or if we have a picture that we took a while back and wonder how that scene might look as an HDR.

Let’s assume I want to turn this picture into an HDR image. All I need to do in this case, is to open the picture inside the Develop Module and move to my presets panel.

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I’m going to enable the Before/After mode to compare in real-time how the adjustment is going to look. In my case, the HDR-Vintage2 preset of the HDR Visions bundle will be applied to this image, transforming it into the picture we see now.

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Next, add more Contrast with the HDR-AddContrast preset in order to bring more feeling to this image.

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And finally since it looks just about done, add an HRD-AddStrongVignette to it as a final touch.

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Here is our final result, and as you can see, in only a few clicks we fully adapted a traditional HDR effect to the picture we wanted to edit.

Final Result

Final Result

Conventional photography doesn’t mean boring photography. With such a wide range of tools available for users to experiment with, all that is needed is a basic knowledge of the way the software works in order to produce beautiful works of art. With the workflow illustrated in this guide, you can now turn even great photographs, such as action sport photography, into HDR files, for which using traditional methods was once completely out of the question.

I hope this guide was useful in adding a new skill to your digital portfolio. Please follow up on these links in order to get a hold of products made by Sleeklens – professional handmade presets made for and by photographers.

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