HDR Lightroom presets

When you look at a landscape, an architecture picture, or any picture that just seems to glow, chances are you are looking at a picture that has been taken and edited using HDR techniques. HDR stands for “High Dynamic Range.” The basic theory behind HDR is that our eyes can see a much wider range of lights and darks than the camera sensor can. Try standing outside on a bright, sunny day. You can see the clouds in the sky, and you can also see the bench under the tree. Now try taking a picture of that scene. If you expose for the bench, the sky will be blown out and you won’t be able to see the clouds. If you expose for the clouds, the area under the tree will be black and you won’t be able to see the bench. So what do you do? You take multiple images at different exposures and merge them in Lightroom. This gives you an image that has the clouds and the bench both properly exposed. Because the image more closely represents what the human eye can see, it is more emotionally satisfying to look at as well. The image seems to glow.

HDR Compiling in Lightroom

When you compile an HDR image in Lightroom, you still have to edit it. The computer how has a massive amount of data for each pixel. You need to tell it what you want it to do with it. This is called tone mapping. You decide how deep the shadows are, how bright the highlights are, and how much detail you want. You decide if you want a very flat image, where all parts of the image have approximately the same tone level, or an image with high contrast.

You can do this with presets in Lightroom. You can choose presets for your post-compilation editing to give you the magical look you are going for. With Lightroom HDR presets, you can edit your HDR images better and faster than ever before.

HDR Images From Just One Picture

Traditionally, HDR means that you have to have multiple pictures at different exposures that you are compiling. So what happens if you only took one picture? Are you forever doomed to not have a gorgeous HDR edit of that image? No!

You can use HDR Lightroom presets to turn any picture into a jaw-dropping HDR picture. It’s all an issue of adjusting your highlights, shadows, whites, blacks, overall exposure, clarity, and contrast – basically, all of your main sliders and more – to bring out as much detail as possible in both the overexposed and underexposed areas, and to make the image pop. With our Lightroom HDR presets, you don’t have to spend ages fiddling with your controls to get the image you want – you can see an amazing HDR transformation on your picture with just a click.

Tips for doing HDR editing on single images

Obviously, the amount of detail you are going to be able to bring out in your picture depends on the amount of data there is in the picture. To get the most out of your HDR preset edits (and any edits, whether you use presets or not), follow these helpful tips:

  • Always shoot in RAW. The files are bigger and there is so much more data than in a JPG file. In RAW, you can pull details out of areas that would have been hopelessly underexposed or blown out if you had been shooting in JPEG.
  • Err on the side of underexposed. Especially if you’re shooting in RAW. It is actually a lot easier to pull details from a black area than from a blown out area. There is nothing more frustrating than editing a spectacular landscape and discovering that you have a massive white space in the sky that got blown out.
  • Use matrix metering for HDR landscapes. This gives you the best overall exposure for the image. Again, dial it down a stop or so to make sure you’re not blowing out your sky.
  • When in doubt, take multiple exposures. You can pick the best one, and you might be surprised which exposure looks the best on your computer.
  • Change shutter speed, not aperture. If you take multiple exposures, you have the option to merge the images in HDR if you want. If you change your aperture, the change in focal depth will make the merged image wonky. Always change the shutter speed and keep the aperture the same.