Lightroom Video: A New HDR Feature in Lightroom 4.1

There’s a little feature in Lightroom 4.1 (the latest update to Lightroom 4) that lets you take a full 32-bit image (basically, an image with crazy amounts of tonal range in it) right into Lightroom. So instead of tonemapping your HDR image in Photoshop, you can use the controls you’re already used to in Lightroom to do it. It’s pretty amazing when you see it in action and just how far you can push the image to get the most range and depth from it. Plus, it’s kinda cool to think where the technology can go from here. Enjoy!

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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68 Comments

  1. “all of that was done in lightroom”
    ??? really ?? … so when you go perform HDR in photoshop, that’s lightroom ?!
    I don’t have photoshop but I have lightroom. I doubt I can follow your tutorial since it’s not all in lightroom and part of it in photoshop.
    so please explain me how.

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    • Try any HDR software. There should be several Open Source alternatives to PS. You just need to save them as tiff so you can use lightroom. Luminance HDR should be able to use raw Files and to Output “.tif” from what I can see. (I didn’t try it myself though.) http://qtpfsgui.sourceforge.net/

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  2. One minor correction. Normal Exposure range in Lightroom 4.x is plus or minus 5 stops – not 4 as mentioned. This was an enhancement of LR 4

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  3. There’s only one part of this tutorial that I had a problem with. When I highlight my images and select merge to HDR Pro in Photoshop, the next thing Photoshop wants me to do is to manually set exposure or EV value. I don’t really know how this step equates into your tutorial but I’d be interested to hear your advice on that.

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  4. Does this trick work with Lightroom and Photoshop Elements?
    It’s very neat with CS6.
    Thank you for the information.

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  5. That’s interesting, but misleading. This tip still requires Photoshop, which I didn’t expect when I read the title.

    Since I have Lightroom, but I don’t have Photoshop, I guess I’ll just forget about this tip.

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      • what versions of photoshop does this applie to?

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    • I don´t see anything misleading here, as it refers to HDR.
      If you are not into HDR-Photography, which usually requires additional software like photoshop, photomatix or others that process your bracketed shots into HDR-Images, then this tip is obviously not to helpful for you.

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  6. Matt. Great tip. Thanks for doing this, as well as all the others.

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  7. Once I edit an HDR image in LR, it will not open in CS5.

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  8. CS5 says Could not complete your request because the file-format module cannot parse the file. So the image does not seem to be able to open.

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    • did you use the ‘edit in photoshop’ option? For some reason, that doesn’t work. you have to export the photo, and then open it manually.

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      • in lightroom go to>edit>preferences..a dialog box will open go to>file handling>down to
        addtional external editor:right below preset: it says application:to the right go to choose its where you opton for photoshop cs5/6.
        back to lightroom 4.1>photo>edit IN >merge to HDR PRO in photoshop…

        I HOPE I HELPED A LITTLE:THANKS FOR LISTENING,

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      • IT WILL OPEN AUTOMATICALLY.

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  9. Now if only they’d put the HDR module into lightroom!

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  10. Hi Matt – does that mean we don’t need Photomatix anymore? Would you go that far?

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  11. Holy Cow, Matt. That was cool. Will have to watch this a few times more to get it down. Thanks a bunch.

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  12. Hi Matt, really cool tip – but that does mean that we can do all tonemapping in LR and that Photomatix becomes irrelevant?

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      • Hi, I have been watching your great work at all places. Can you please let us know what is the best freeware HDR software that I can use with LR4. In addition, would the outputs of different HDR software differ if similar process is used across all software. In that case, would the freeware be comparable to any extent to the outputs of software such as Photomatics etc. Thanks a lot in advance.

        Best, Prabhakar

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    • Photomatix does still automatically align the images and reduce ghosts so there is still some need beyond the file merging.
      I wonder, though, if and when Lightroom gets the HDR features from PhotoShop. That would indeed be some hefty competition for Photomatix…

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  13. Hi Matt,

    Does that mean that you would stop using Photomatix in your HDR workflow?

    Best,

    Stephane

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  14. Matt, That is just plain AWESOME! Thanks a bunch for bring that to our attention! I’ll be using this technique a lot!

    Dennis

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  15. Hey Matt, I can create the file in Photoshop and send it back to Lightroom but Lightroom says it can’t read the file. I’m running 4.1 with 8GB of memory. Any thoughts of what could be the problem?

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    • It has to be tiff not photoshop file , wich does automatically so you choose tiff before saving and it works , then open in lr

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  16. Great tip.. Way to go Skiiiii

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  17. I noticed you went from LR4.1 to Photoshop CS6. Will this work with LR4.1 and CS5?

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    • Yup, works fine in CS5. I updated camera raw to 6.7 just to get rid of the warning message.

      Great tip, thanks.

      Mike

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    • I just tried it and it works fine with LR 4.1 and CS 5. Try it, the results are fantastic.

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  18. Matt, that was great. Can I go from LR4 to Photomatix and back? And the last question is do you include as part of your workflow a process to register your images with the copywrite office?

    Your LR4 class in SF was great!

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    • I haven’t tried Photomatix but I’m guessing it should work too. And yes, I register with the copyright office. Thanks for coming to SF! :)

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  19. I see this is done with CS6.

    Do you know if this can also be done with Photomatix?

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    • Hi,

      this also works with Photomatix – so you if you don’t have PhotoShop but Photomatix you can indeed use the feature. Probably only the Pro version of Photomatix but I’m not sure of this.

      There are a few things you have to keep in mind:

      – When you export your images from Lightroom you have to click the option “Show intermediary 32-bit HDR image” in the requester Photomatix pops up to ask the import settings! (If you don’t use the English version of Photomatix simply use the option with “32-bit” in it ;-)).

      – When Photomatix has imported the images you DON’T tonemap etc. but directly SAVE the image (“Save as”) – but: You NEED to select the file format “Floating Point TIFF (.tif)”!

      – After you have saved the image you don’t use the automatic import into Lightroom from Photomatix but manually (!) import the image from where you saved it! In fact you can close the image in Photomatix at this point to save resources.

      Now you can use all the regular Lightroom controls to work with the image.
      While Photomatix mostly works as an image file converter here you have to remember that you can still eliminate ghosts etc. with it so it’s still plenty of use, IMHO.

      Hope this helps!

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  20. One of the best tips I’ve learned in a LOOONNNGGG time.
    Awesome work Matt! Thank you very much :)

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  21. I HAVE TRIED VARIATIONS OF THIS CONCEPT, BUT THIS IS THE BEST I HAVE SEEN. I LIKE USING LIGHT ROOM ADJ.
    I AM SURE YOU CAN USE PS6 TO DO THE SME ADJUSTMENTS

    THANKS GREAT TIP

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  22. @Scott – Yup, got it working with LR4.1 and CS4 so I assume it will work with CS5, too. However, PS will give you a warning about having to use at least Camera RAW 6.7 but it seems to work just fine with (in my case) 5.7 as well.

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  23. Removing ghosts from a church can come in very handy ;-)

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  24. Oh my gosh!! Matt! I’ve been doing HDR for a while now but somewhat new to watching you… and this is probably the Best tip I have received in a VERY long time… So cool! I did not know you could merge that type of exposure capability into one file!! Needless to say, I am ecstatic about This Real Killer Tip.. Way to go buddy!!

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  25. Matt, I found that it after bringing it back into LR 4.1 you can change it to a DNG and it will still have the HDR abilities with the sliders

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  26. Thanks, very clearly presented.

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  27. I notice you didn’t post my comment about changing the TIFF to a DNG and you will have the same dynamic range. Would your not posting my comment men I am wrong? Please let me know if I an wrong

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      • Smells like I am still in that spam folder but if anyone can read this you are not stuck with large TIFF files you can convert them to DNG and still have the dynamic range

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  28. Matt, this is AWESOME! This almost caused me to buy Lightroom, but I thought “well if it works in Lightroom, maybe it will work in Camera Raw”. Sure enough, it does! I’ve yet to find an HDR program I really understand, and I have most of them (like Photomatix the best), but I really like the new ACR, and this is great. Thank you so much!

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  29. Great tip Matt. This seems like a way to get great dynamic range with having to go with the “HDR look.” Any suggestions on how to batch it? I’ve seen some suggestions that it might be possible by adding Bridge into the equation as it apparently has some sort of stacking feature for bracketed images, but it would sure be nice if there was a way to do it in lightroom!

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  30. Matt, I’m a big fan of the site and your videos showing how to take advantage of LR. You really helped me with LR3 but now I’ve upgraded and I could use some help. I would love the opportunity to see you in Boston.

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  31. It’s probably a control I’m overlooking but is there a way to watch this video full screen?

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    • Right mouseclick into video and selecting “Toggle Fullscreen” works for me.
      I need to switch to the “fullscreen task” (Adobe Flash Player) in the taskbar, though.

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  32. (sorry, posted this previosuly under wrong article)

    Hi Matt, Thanks for the HDR tip and video!

    Just wondering if you have run into any issues with re-opening that processed HDR file back into Photoshop from Lightroom once you have made your adjustments.

    I have followed your video step by step – Merged to HDR – saved as 32-Bit Tiff back into Lightroom & applied adjustments – and am now trying to Edit a Copy with Lightroom Adjustments in Photoshop. No matter how many times I select that command, or restart Lightroom/Photoshop, the file does not open. Similarly, selecting Edit Original does not open the file either. Weird! It seems my pretty HDR is trapped in Lightroom, unless I export it! Just thought I’d bring this to your attention in case you, or others, have encoubtered the same issue.

    Cheers!
    Gary Irish

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  33. That’s an awesome tip!!
    I remember playing with the Photoshop Merge to HDR years ago where you’d get your output 32 bit file and be able to adjust your exposure with a slider under the image in photoshop, but you couldn’t do anything with that 32 bit file, you always had to downsample to 16 to get your HDR tone mapping. This finally seems a practical and powerful use of 32 bit HDR files. Also I find lightroom’s interface far more intuitive than the photoshop HDR tone mapping. Thanks for the tip!! :D

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  34. Not really HDR in Lightroom as you still need Photoshop to achieve it :-(

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  35. For the development of this latest release, we’ve focused on further maximizing image quality and expanding output options. New tools let you extract more detail from highlights and shadows, make a wider range of targeted adjustments, and easily share your images and video clips on social media and photo sharing sites.

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  36. Awesome! I can’t wait to use this. It’s been awhile since I used bracketing and now I have a reason again. :p

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  37. Great video Matt, thanks! A question to you or anyone who can help me….once I go into HDR Pro in CS5, convert to 32-bit and then save it back into LR. Then, I do my edits in LR. However, when I want to edit the file back in CS5 (whether it be for sharpening, 3rd party plug-in edits or content aware work), my file doesn’t open up in CS5 i.e, in LR I go to the ‘Edit In’ and then ‘Edit in Photoshop CS5′, and then I just get a blank screen open up in CS5. Can anyone tell why this happens? Thanks!

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    • On that second pass – editing the Lightroom HDR file in Photoshop again – I had to select that Lightroom render the file, then it opened up fine in Photoshop, otherwise (choosing the open anyway option) no file is ever opened.

      Inconsistent with the first pass where you do choose open anyway after selecting merge to HDR pro, but it worked, and the Photoship (CS5.1) file looked identical to the one in Lightroom.

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  38. Great tutorial. All the other times I’ve tried HDR have always resulted in that overprocessed look that so many people like but I don’t care for. This is very quick and easy. Thanks.

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  39. I played around with this using Lightroom 4.2 and the HDR Pro Merge example files from Scott Kelby’s Lightroom 4 book, and sure enough, it works like you describe. But I noticed a major difference between Scott Kelby’s HDR Pro Merge tone mapping scenario and the Lightroom tone mapping. I think it must be the local adaptation feature.

    In fact I found it difficult in Lightroom to get the mid tone ranges with sufficient contrast, and also bring the highlights down and shadows up enough to get close to the HDR Pro tone mapping. I think it’s because all the tone mapping is global. So for this reason I can see going for more advanced tone mapping software. Otherwise, it certainly is nice manipulating the dynamic range in Lightroom!

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  40. The video link is broken… Super blog with good lightroom presets. Thanks a lot!

    Post a Reply

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