Lightroom: How do you HDR?

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  • Updated 7 years ago
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Just curious how people go about creating HDR composites in a Lightroom-centric workflow.

Me? I export tifs, then load into Photoshop to align, then save and load into DynamicHDR and tone-map, then save and re-sync folder in Lightroom to import result image...

I know Lr/Enfuse is an option but I haven't tried it.

I also see that onOne has a Lightroom helper plugin for their new HDR Express Photoshop plugin.

Anyway, 90% of my HDR needs could be handled by some sort of blending of just 2 exposures: normal for darks and mids, and underexposed for highlights, which could presumably bypass tone-mapping altogether.

I would love some sort of turn-key solution conveniently accessible in a Lightroom-centric workflow for combining these to satisfy the 90% cases.

Recomendations for the other 10% would also be appreciated...

Thanks in advance,
Rob
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Rob Cole

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  • not a Photoshop whiz, although I've created a layer or 2 in my time...

Posted 7 years ago

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Mark Sirota

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It's not exactly HDR, but LR/Enfuse works and is very very easy.
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Royi

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What's LR/Enfuse?
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Andrew Rodney

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+1 for Enfuse, its actually quite good and darn affordable.
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Chris Cox

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Please note that Enfuse is simple exposure blending -- it is not creating an HDR image.
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Rob Cole

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Thanks Chris - that's useful info...
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Sean Phillips

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I would bet that the vast majority of people using Lightroom actually want Exposure Blending, not true HDR.
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Royi

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Chris, what would be the difference by your definitions (HDR vs Exposure Blending).
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Chris Cox

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Kind of the difference between a toy car and a real car.

HDR is High Dynamic Range -- reconstructing the incident light with a high dynamic range (over 25 stops in some of my photos). HDR images can be used as accurate lightmaps, textures, backdrops, etc. for 3D rendering, can create more accurate bokeh (lens blur) images, more accurate motion blur, etc. The downside is then you have to choose HOW to tone the image back down to an LDR version for presentation -- you have lot of choices and flexibility.

Exposure Blending doesn't recover that extra information, it just tries to get a decent exposure in every area. It isn't accurate, can't do much more. You don't get many choices or flexibility. But it's quicker and easier, and doesn't require the original images to be as high quality as HDR techniques do.
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Rob Cole

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Drazick,

I think, from a practical standpoint, if what you want is a natural looking photograph, but without the clipping that occurs when one shot can't cover the exposure range, then exposure blending is often the shortest path to the goal.

True HDR methods tends to look hdr-ish, and naturalness is harder to come by. Conversely, if what you want is a more creative artistic hdr-ish look, then that is harder to achieve using exposure blending.

From a mathematical point of view, true HDR takes all your component photos in and creates a single 32-bit image which you have to map to 16 (or 8) bits to store/display. So you have more creative freedom but its also more unwieldy.

Conversely, exposure blending keeps all values in 16 (or 8) bits as it gets the lightest values from the darkest photo, and darkest values from the lightest photo - blending in between.

From a "how to" point of view, exposure blending allows you to specify some weightings and such stuff, but then you get what you get (polish to taste in Lightroom...), whereas hdr requires an intermediate "tone-mapping" step - there are presets for natural and gawdy, but often a fair bit of tweaking is required in my experience - to get color and tone right.

Perhaps those more skilled with HDR proper can create natural looking photographs more quickly than I (or whatever the goal...).

Rob
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Andrew Rodney

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True indeed Chris, I don’t think we were suggesting otherwise. But it does a very good job of exposure blending, solving an issue that many are looking for and automatically moving towards true HDR.
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Sean Phillips

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I LR/Enfuse exclusively to process my HDR images.
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Arne Keller

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I use NIK Software HDR Efex Pro

http://www.niksoftware.com/hdrefexpro...
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Rob Cole

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Do you use U-point selections much for mixing with non-HDR layer? Would U-points be enough reason to go with Nik (for HDR only, I mean), or is the HDR algorithm itself good enough on its own to warrant the premium price?
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Arne Keller

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The presets normally brings me close what I want. I find it straight forward and easy to use. Compared to other things related to photography, this is quite cheap :-)
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Rob Cole

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After having tried Lr/Enfuse, I have to say it seems to be exactly what I want for the 90% of cases, where I just want a natural photo with greater dynamic range (auto-alignment of hand-held shots so far perfect).

I guess I'll reserve the "true" HDR program(s) for the cases where au-naturale is not the watch-word.

Anybody have any experience with onOne's new HDR-Express? Its half the price of Nik's, but that doesn't necessarily mean its only half as good. - may just mean it can't be applied to U-point selections, but I'm not sure how much U-points would be the way to make selections for mixing/masking HDR layers(?)
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Gregg Kaysen

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Hi, Rob.

Just to clarify, HDR Express is not an OnOne product but is produced by our company, Unified Color. It's been described as the fastest and easiest HDR processing software. If you're interested in its features, here's a 30-day trial download (with no watermarks): http://www.unifiedcolor.com/download-...

Let me know what you think!

Thanks,
Gregg
Unified Color
www.twitter.com/unifiedcolor
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Rob Cole

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Thanks Gregg - I'll check it out...