How to Create an HDR Effect in Photoshop

The HDR effect refers to shooting images using the High Dynamic Range technique. HDR images are created from a number of images that have been taken under different exposure values, which are then merged together using Adobe Photoshop or any HDR image processing tool.

In order to create an HDR effect, you need to shoot the exact same scene using different camera exposure settings. For example, you need to take one version of the shot in an underexposed setting, such as -2 EV, a second version [MP3] with normal exposure values, and third one with an overexposed setting, such as +2 EV. You can even use more images with a wider range of exposure, but you need a minimum of three images in order to create a proper HDR effect.

Then, you need to post-process the shots using the Merge to HDR Pro command from File>Automate in Adobe Photoshop. You can also use other HDR image processing tools, such as easyHDR, Artizen HDR, and DynamicPhoto HDR, etc.

In many situations, you need to apply an HDR effect on a single image that has been taken under a given exposure, or one that has been taken using your mobile device, such as an iPhone. There is no real problem here, as you can still apply an HDR effect or, as some people know it, a pseudo- HDR effect in Photoshop. With this effect, we try to create HDR-like images using only one shot and apply different Photoshop adjustments and filters to it, as we will see in this tutorial. I hope you will find this tutorial on how to create an HDR effect in Photoshop helpful, and share it with your friends. Do not forget to check these Photoshop actions for photographers.

Here is a comparison of the original image and the final image after applying the HDR effect to it in Photoshop:

Now let us follow the steps below to create an HDR effect in Photoshop:

Step 1

Open The image in Photoshop. In this tutorial, I am using a shot of the River Nile in the south of Egypt.

How to Create an HDR Effect in Photoshop

Step2

From the Image menu, choose Adjustment> Shadow/Highlights. This command will help us edit the lights and shadows in the image.

Step 3

The Shadow/Highlights dialog box appears. Make sure the Preview checkbox is selected, and set its values as follows:

  • In the Shadows section, set the Amount to 25%, the Tonal Width to 0%, and the Radius to 500px.
  • In the Highlights section, set the Amount to 30%, the Tonal Width to 75%, Jerseys and the Radius to 600px.
  • In the Adjustments section, set the Color Correction to +25 and Midtone Contrast to +10.

Leave the rest of the settings as default and click Ok.

How to Create an HDR Effect in Photoshop

Step 4

Duplicate the layer by dragging it to the New Layer icon in the Layers panel. Set the blending mode of the top layer to Overlay.

How to Create an HDR Effect in Photoshop

Step 5

From the Filter menu, choose Other> High Pass, set it to 1000 px, and click Ok.

How to Create an HDR Effect in Photoshop

Step 6

Flatten the layers by choosing Flatten Image from the Layer menu.

How to Create an HDR Effect in Photoshop

Step 7

Duplicate the flattened layer again, and covert it to black and white by selecting the Desaturate command from Image> Adjustments.

How to Create an HDR Effect in Photoshop

Step 8

Press Cmd+ I (Ctrl+I in Windows) to invert the black and white colors. Set the layer blending mode to Overlay and the opacity to 50%.

How to Create an HDR Effect in Photoshop

Step 9

From the Filter menu, choose Blur> Gaussian Blur. When the dialog box appears, set its value to 1000 pixels. This will create a shade around the images.

How to Create an HDR Effect in Photoshop

Step 10

Click on the Create new fill or adjustment layer icon at the bottom of the Layers panel, and choose Curves.

How to Create an HDR Effect in Photoshop

Step 11

The Curves Properties panel appears, click and drag on the curve shape to look like the figure below, and set the opacity of the adjustment layer to 25%.

How to Create an HDR Effect in Photoshop

The final results of the HDR effect should be like this:

How to Create an HDR Effect in Photoshop

The results may vary from one image to another, based on the colors of the image, its shadows and highlights. You can always try to change the values until you get the HDR effect you are satisfied with.

Finally, I hope you have enjoyed this tutorial on how to create an HDR effect in Photoshop.


About Rafiq Elmansy

Rafiq Elmansy is a worldwide author in the field of graphic design, photography, and web. He is Adobe community professional and manage for Adobe user group. He is one of the founders of Photographytuts.com. Rafiq is a public speaker and lecturer in the design and photography related topics. Get in touch with him through Facebook

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