Lightroom Videos

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!



  1. Audrey 20 October, 2012 at 15:11 Reply

    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!

  2. Max 27 September, 2012 at 22:12 Reply

    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.

  3. Ben Elliott 2 August, 2012 at 16:13 Reply

    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!

    • Audrey 20 October, 2012 at 15:18 Reply

      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.

  4. Garry 19 July, 2012 at 14:36 Reply

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

  5. silver price 17 July, 2012 at 22:41 Reply

    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.

  6. Mike 11 July, 2012 at 13:10 Reply

    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!! 😀

  7. Gary Annett 5 July, 2012 at 21:58 Reply

    (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.

    Gary Irish

    • Calibrator 2 July, 2012 at 12:55 Reply

      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.

  8. Vinnie 26 June, 2012 at 13:39 Reply

    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.

  9. Oliver 26 June, 2012 at 02:51 Reply

    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!

  10. Susan Koppel 25 June, 2012 at 16:11 Reply

    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!

  11. Thomas Churchwell 24 June, 2012 at 23:22 Reply

    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

  12. James A. B. 23 June, 2012 at 12:24 Reply

    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!!

  13. Bas 23 June, 2012 at 10:14 Reply

    @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.

  14. donn miertl 22 June, 2012 at 21:08 Reply



    • Calibrator 1 July, 2012 at 03:35 Reply


      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!

  15. Paul Pokrywka 22 June, 2012 at 15:07 Reply

    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!

  16. Bill Mueller 22 June, 2012 at 09:06 Reply

    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?

  17. Dennis Zito 22 June, 2012 at 08:38 Reply

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


  18. Stephane 22 June, 2012 at 02:05 Reply

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

      • SVRK Prabhakar 6 August, 2012 at 21:25 Reply

        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

    • Calibrator 1 July, 2012 at 03:55 Reply

      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…

  19. David Schmidt 21 June, 2012 at 14:03 Reply

    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.

    • Ted Gore 26 June, 2012 at 18:56 Reply

      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.

      • rodney 2 July, 2012 at 00:15 Reply

        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…


  20. Brian 21 June, 2012 at 13:25 Reply

    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.

  21. Steve 21 June, 2012 at 12:48 Reply

    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.

  22. Chris 21 June, 2012 at 12:24 Reply

    “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.

    • Twinelens 21 July, 2012 at 12:15 Reply

      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.)

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