Video – HDR and Lightroom

Lately I’ve really been into shooting HDR images. I bracket just about everything that I can. Why? Not because I like the fantasy-like effect that’s been popular. Honestly, it’s just not my style but I can definitely appreciate it for certain photos. For me though, it’s more about having real world HDR. It saves me time in Photoshop and I’m amazed that I’ve never explored HDR for my landscape and interior photos until now. I’ll explain how, why, and how I’ve incorporated Lightroom into my HDR workflow as well as what I use to process my HDR images in this week’s video. Oh yeah, if you’ve got any cool HDR links, galleries, or tutorials out there make sure you mention them in the comments section. Thanks!

Click here to watch the video. (24MB)

Author: Matt K

Matt is a full time Education Director for the NAPP and Kelby Training. He's a best-selling author of various books on Photoshop and Photography co-hosts the live weekly photography talk show "The Grid" and is co-host of "Photoshop User TV". In his spare time he practices as a 1st degree black belt in Taekwondo and enjoys spending time with his family in Tampa, FL.

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33 Comments

  1. Hey Matt! Great to see some HDR tips. I’ve been doing the same as you for a while, bracketing everything and just peaking into photomatix to see if I can recover anything that might have been over or under exposed.

    I was curious, when generating the HDR image in photomatix, it has the option to specify a white balance. Do you ever try setting this in photomatix? I was always curious that setting it afterwards might be tricky since some exposures may have been over or under exposed, setting a proper white balance on the final image might be hard. Just curious what route you take. Cheers and keep up the good work.

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  2. What do you recommend for the distance between stops in your bracketing? If you are taking 5 shots for example, what exposure difference between each of the shots? I have experimented a little with this, but not really given it enough effort to incorporate the technique into my regular shooting.

    Also, have you done much of this with exporting different lightroom adjusted exposures from one original image? Obviously not the ideal situation, but is an improved HDR-esque image feasible in your opinion to make it worth trying?

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  3. I’ve been doing HDR for a while now… Using Photomatix Pro for processing. Love the newest version…allows me to drag thumbnails right from Bridge into the Photomatix window!

    One thing I’ve always wondered though. Some folks suggest you only need three images: exposed for highlights, average, and shadows. While I tend to shoot 5-7 images in a bracketed sequence anyway, I’ve not found that it offers much advantage over just 3 images. i.e., using 5 images doesn’t seem to generate much different a result from just 3 images. Granted, I’ve not done any scientific tests, but do you know off hand if there’s any reason to use more than 3 images from the sequence?

    Love your stuff, Matt. I visit every day!

    My HDR gallery: http://www.pbase.com/haverstick/hdr

    Thanks!

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  4. Hello Matt,

    I’ve been using photomatix pro for a few years, like you, not for a warped view of reality but to get the whole dynamic range available. Here are a couple of photographs from a recent trip to Spain. These were in bright sunlight, so I was able to bracket 3 shots hand held.
    http://www.21parkavenue.com/pixelpost/index.php?showimage=390
    http://www.21parkavenue.com/pixelpost/index.php?showimage=389
    http://www.21parkavenue.com/pixelpost/index.php?showimage=393

    Joel

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  5. I’m loving HDR. I use it for portraits and weddings as well, and it works great. I’ve recently been experimenting with what we can to with HDR right inside LR. Thanks for the additional tips. The effect is more mild in LR than the fantasy look HDR used with, but that can be a good thing. One problem I fond with HDR is that it’s often overdone.

    Since you asked for links I’ll mention that there a whole HDR section over on Pro Photo Show, that talks about technique, and methods of using HDR with people. There’s also have a HDR section on the PPS forums….

    Keep it up Matt… Gav

    http://www.prophotoshow.net/blog/category/high-dynamic-range-photography/

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  6. Matt;

    Discovered your site a while back and have found myself studying your work, tips and tutorials on a nightly basis. For example – Synchronizing the folders….WHO KNEW!

    I too have dabbled in HDR, but noticed that your version of Photomatix Pro looks a little different and more streamlined with the tabs to the left – i’ll assume that you’re using an updated version? If so – which one??

    You touched on a great way to process HDR – and that’s by leaving the light smoothing alone. I’ve just finished a commissioned shoot of a church – the HDR really brought it to life – but increasing the light smoothing made it creepy!

    Keep up the great work sir, I really appreciate the tools and resources – its made a huge difference in my workflow and final product.

    Thanks!

    JO

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  7. Hi!

    About the number of exposures. I think that we shouldn’t think in term of number of exposure, but in EV offset between shots.

    I often do my captures separated by 2 EVs. 2EVs is a good compromise, making you sure that you don’t miss anything between shots.

    Then, the number of exposure only rely on the scene contrast. A very contrasted scene showing for example 8 EVs between the darkest shadow and the brightest spot would then need 5 shots. a 4 EVs scene would need only 3 captures.

    Thanks for your work!

    Potoche

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  8. great tip this week. normally I dont even come to the site, just watch the show. I’ve used photomatix a couple times haven’t had much success with it, after seeing your video I’m going to give it another go.

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  9. This is interesting. I agree, I have never really liked PS-HDR. I have tried Enfuse plugin for LR. I didn’t know about Photomatix but I have down loaded it and am doing some testing. The question I have for the users is do you use Detail Enhancer, like Matt, or Tone compressor? With my limited testing I have achieved acceptable results with TC but horrid results with DE. What is your recommendation. I have been testing on a very high contrast scene with 5 stop bracketing.
    Robin

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  10. Pretty nice results. I’ve been using DP-HDR (it’s $30 or $40) and I’ve been pretty happy with it but I really like the easy of use in your video.

    I tend to go for the natural look but on occasion I like to go a little out there.

    Here’s a link to some of my shots on flickr
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/thecraftons/sets/72157603126266978/

    but I love some of the shots from the link tyron posted. I’ll have to go out and check out Gavin’s site to see how he’s using it with people. I remember him talking about it on his podcast but I haven’t tried doing HDR with too many live subjects.

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  11. Completely unrelated to HDR — But your readers and you are the experts, so where better?

    Importing photos into Lightroom, when first viewing photo in Develop Module it looks like Lightroom adjusts brightness, contrast, exposure and miscellaneous tone adjustments — I liked the way it looks prior to these “auto” fixes — but can’t seem to stop it from happening! Sigh..

    Any help would be great! (and please folks – don’t flame me, I’m innocent!)

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  12. I’ve been going through my back catalogue using Photomatix to reprocess difficult images. From a single file I create 3-5 versions in Lightroom with different exposure values. I use the exposure value as the name of the file so I can tell Photomatix what the exposure should be for each file and then use it to blend the files together. I’ve rescued dozens of images in this way.

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  13. Matt,
    For some breathtaking HDR panos taken by Krzysztof Ratynski, go to the User Gallery on the Photomatix website — http://www.hdrsoft.com — and go to the bottom of the page where you’ll find Group Gallery 1. Go to the Group Gallery and click on the third picture down on the left — an HDR pano — and when this picture comes up, just beneath the picture, you’ll see a link (http://stores.ebay.com/Super-Photo) to a page on ebay where Ratynski sells his panos. As you look at each of these panos, be sure to click on the View Larger PIcture, or scroll to the bottom of the page. Some really neat views of western Canada.

    Clyde Wallin

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  14. Hi Matt,

    I have been using photomatix for a year now, I do bracketting almost all the time now, but I prefer a more natural look, most of the pictures from paris are HDR http://www.photoserge.com

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  15. Matt,

    I notice you use straight RAW files, I had been converting my files into 16-bit tiff in LR first, is this not necessary and does Photomatix support all RAW files then?

    I didn’t catch the output, but I pressume that was 16 bit tiff too?

    Thanks for all the great video tips

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  16. Matt,
    You got me to finally try HDR. Thanks, very impressed with the results. I do have a question. When I shoot in multi shot mode, lightroom seems to keep pictures in the order they were recorded, not in the order they were shot. The pictures are numbered correctly just not shown in sequence. This confused me until I figured it out. I shoot from dark to light and they were not always showing up in that order. Is there a way to get lightroom to show them in sequence. I looked for a sort but did not see one.
    Thanks,
    Woody

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  17. Matt, Have really wanted to find an HDR solution that helps avoid all the additional work of a Photoshop workflow. Photomatix looks like it has a lot of potential. Can you address however several issues I have found with it? Perhaps there are good work arounds for the following: 1. The processed image is less sharp than the originals that make it up. 2. Increased color noise in the shadow and dark areas of the image. 3. An increase in aliasing artifacts. 4. Increase in chromatic aberration. I have tried shooting both interiors and exteriors and see these issues with both. I have been able to correct some of these problems after the fact in Photoshop but was hoping you could suggest some ways to avoid them in the first place through selections in Photomatix. Any ideas?

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  18. Hey Matt. You could just drag and drop the photos from LR on to the Photomatix Pro icon in your dock=)

    Haade!

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  19. Hi, I have a fast one on bracketing exposures for HDR: My Canon 5D when set to autobracketing, is bracketing the exposure – not the shutterspeed. Is this not bad?? To my knowledge, DOF and other things change and as such the exposures will be different in more ways than just the exposure.

    Any hints?

    all the best
    Thomas

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  20. I’d love to watch this but I have no idea what an m4v file is. Have I missed something obvious?

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  21. Hey Matt

    I only discovered LR very recently and have just stumbled upon LR killer tips when looking for guidance on getting the most from LR. Great information, presented in a way that is so easy to follow even for a LR newbee like me.

    Thanks for re-inspiring me to get editing my stock properly and creating more images. Oh and I’d better do something with my rather neglected website too.
    Dave

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  22. Hi , hope you are fine. Why I cannot drag my pictures to Photomatix (I have them in Raw) clicking the mouse on the right side does appear “open file” as you have show us in the video , Thanks for your quick reply , best regards //Salvador
    P.S. I have LR 2

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  23. Yes, definetely, HDR is cool. I use mostly Bracketeer which is for Mac. It creates a more natural, less “fake” HDR look.

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  24. Hi Matt
    Just wanted to thank you for the HDR tutorial. It was very helpful for me. I was always a bit intimidated by this. Now I am keen on experimenting.
    Thanks again
    Cathy

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  25. Matt, When looking into the resource area of HDRsoft.com I find that there other softwareÂ’s that will help you enhance your photos such as light zone , DOP & Detail Plus can you tell me if these are indeed helpful and might also be worth looking into, and might there be other software that you could recommend. I would like to take my photography to the next level if possible.

    Thanks Mike

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  26. Matt, your infomercials always rock!

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  27. At that point a character designer comes in and begins to develop what the character will look like. ,

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  28. Nice with the HDR tips! Thank you for the good work!

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  29. Bill Webb: Thanks for the link to the tutorial site stuckincustoms.com This was just the sort of tutorial I had been looking for especially my interior work.

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