A while ago I’ve looked into using Lightroom, Photoshop and ON1’s Perfect Photo Suite as a fast way to create an HDR image (A walk on the wild side). Since then Lightroom CC has entered the stage and now there are even fewer steps necessary to create an HDR.

In this tipp I’m using just the Perfect Photo Suite to boost up Lightroom’s HDR files. I’ve deliberately went a tiny bit over the top here to make the effects visible – you can get amazing results with a more natural feel if you just don’t drag out the sliders as much.

Creating an HDR in Lightroom

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Selecting the bracketed images
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I’m starting off in Lightroom selecting the bracketed shots for the HDR image. By selecting Photo > Photo Merge > HDR I’m starting the HDR conversion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Lightroom’s HDR Merge
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Lightroom pops up the HDR window and gives a preview of the HDR file. While this file doesn’t look like the tone mapped files you’re used from some dedicated HDR programs it allows for a relatively quick workflow and still is a RAW file, but in 32 bit. This allows for quite some image information to work on in the Develop module.

 

 

 

 

 

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Setting the camera profile
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In the Develop module I start with Camera Calibration. Here I select the Camera Profile. For our example I’ve chosen Camera Neutral.

 

 

 

 

 

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Activating the lens correction
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Further up in Lens Corrections I’m switching on the Profile Corrections. As we’re still working with a RAW file Lightroom still knows all these values and can automatically pick a matching lens profile.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Setting the black point
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I then start working on the image in the Basic panel. Usually I start with adjusting the Blacks. I press the Alt key while using the slider to see when the blacks start to appear in the image. With Blacks at -40 I’ve got a pretty decent starting point. Then I carry on adjusting the Whites the same way. Here -8 is sufficient.

 

 

 

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Adjusting the RAW HDR in the basic panel
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Then I work my way through the other sliders, adjusting them to taste.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sharpening the image
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Having set all the values in the Basic panel I go to Detail and add a little sharpening. Here the Masking slider is essential. Again I’m using the Alt key to see just the lines appearing I want to sharpen.

 

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Another HDR file (left: original Lightroom HDR; right: after enhancing in PPS 9.5)
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Refinement in the Perfect Photo Suite

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Sending the file to the Perfect Photo Suite
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Now its time to sed the image over to the Perfect Photo Suite Premium edition using File > Plug-in Extras.

The Suite asks if I want o use the Smart Photo Option which comes in handy should I want to adjust my settings later on.

 

 

 

 

 

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Using the filter layers
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I click on Effects to start editing my image. My very first filter usually is Dynamic Contrast, here in the Texture Enhancer option. Under Filter Options I fine-tune the filter, taking care to enhance details with the Shadows and Highlights sliders.

 

 

 

 

 

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More punch
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To create an even more stylized image I add another layer and chose HDR Looks in Surreal setting. The intensity of the overall effect can be adjusted by lowering the Layer Opacity to about 80%.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Adding sunshine
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To add a bit of a summer mood another layer is applied, this time Sunshine. Here I’ve enhanced the warmth slightly to give it an even warmer feel.

 

 

 

 

 

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Here comes the sun – sort of
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If you like to go a tiny bit overboard you can now add a Lens Flare and create your own sun. I’ve picked Tiny Red Dot and placed it up in the trees. Keeping the Amount fairly low and pulling up the Size it makes a nice artificial sun. I’ve also changed the Color Style to Warm, to match the mood.

 

 

 

 

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Darken the greens
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I’m not too happy with the bright greens yet, so I add a Tone Enhancer layer with the Darker preset. This pulls down the complete image. To keep the effect to the brighter parts I go to Mask > Create Luminosity Mask. This automatically keeps the effect from the darker parts of the image.

 

 

 

 

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Adding a vintage color mood
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To create an overall color mood I’ve added a layer of Vintage > Red – Yellow, with a fairly low Layer Opacity of about 20%.

 

 

 

 

 

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Using a vignette to focus the view
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As last step a Vignette is added. As usual I’m using Big Softy and adjust the Brightness to taste (here around -40).

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The final images has much more detail
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Back in Lightroom the final image appears as PSD file alongside the original HDR. Even if you usually don’ want to exaggerate the effect as much as I’ve done it here in my examples you can quickly get quite a lot of image detail by adding some of the filters.

 

 

 

 

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The Lightroom HDR (left) and the final image (right)
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