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Making fake HDR images in Adobe Lightroom

HDR photography has become quite popular recently.  Even the new iPhones will produce stunning HDR images.  If you are unfamiliar with this style of photography, the HDR stands for High Dynamic Range.  Traditionally to create these types of images you would be required to take at least 3 identical images at different exposure settings, and those photos would be combined into a single image using special software.  The reason for this is because an HDR is taking the areas from each photo that are perfectly exposed and combining them into one image.  Typically, when you take a photo of a scene not everything in the image is at its optimum exposure.  For example, one area might be in a shadow and another area could be over exposed by the sun, but an object elsewhere in the image is perfectly exposed.

Now lets say we didn’t think to take 3+ images when we were out shooting but we still want a beautiful HDR image of the scene.  That’s were this Lightroom technique for fake HDRs comes in to play.

Lets start with the original image:

As you can see, the image is fairly drab, the colors are not vibrant, and the front of the gas pump is under exposed compared to the rest of the scene.

The image to the left illustrates the Lightroom settings I used to obtain our effect.  The first step is to get everything properly exposed, you can do this by fidgeting with the “Fill Light” and “Recovery” settings in Lightroom.  Add more fill light to brighten up dark areas, and more recovery to restore details to over exposed areas.

Personally, I’m a contrast junkie so I like to bump my clarity all the way up and add contrast to taste. This will create a sharp, crisp image.  And lastly, you will want to bring your vibrance and saturation up.  This will help make those colors bright and vibrant just like you see in many HDR images.

And that’s it, you have your High Dynamic Range image. You can download the lightroom preset I created to make this image right click on this link and choose save as.

Filed under: New Media, Technology

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