HDR Photos in Lightroom – Fact or Fiction

HDR photo?

So the question surrounding this week’s photo is – is it an HDR (High Dynamic Range) photo? With the advent of digital photography, HDR photography has always been a favorite topic. I personally love HDR photos when they are done correctly and not just for the WOW effect.

It always amazes me just how much of the tonal range that we see when taking the photo is lost in the inadequate technology of the day. Naturally, everyone wants to be able to recreate the scene that was seen at the time of shooting and this is why HDR photography has gained such a wide popularity.

There are many programs available and many techniques published through out the Internet on doing it just right. There are tricks and techniques to export photos to Photoshop for further HDR processing. There are even Lightroom export plugins to feed popular HDR software. But, is it possible to create the HDR effect solely in Lightroom?

Series of HDR Source Photos

Source Photo 1 Source Photo 2 Source Photo 3
Source Photo 1 (JPG) Source Photo 2 (JPG) Source Photo 3 (JPG)

The three photos above were combined and tone mapped in a popular HDR software package. The resultant photo was saved as a TIFF and imported into Lightroom. In Lightroom a few minor adjustments were made to compensate for the low contrast that is typical of an HDR photo.

The Results

HDR Photo Focus Beauty Photo
HDR Photo (JPG) Focus Beauty (JPG)

By building a preset specifically for this example, I was able to closely approximate the effect of an HDR photo in Lightroom 2. I started with the Source Photo #3 and used the “Focus – Center (Landscape)” preset as a template. I then manipulated pins and exposures until I came up with the new “Focus> HDR Landscape” preset. By nature of the fact that Focus Beauty presets typically give you a large degree of control, I was able to fine tune the photo to produce the dramatic effect you see above. I was pleased to see that the flexibility of the Focus Beauty system was up to the challenge.

This Week’s Lightroom 2 Presets

After completing the HDR preset, I built two additional Focus Beauty presets that will find a use in specific situations. In the near future, I will be offering a new release of Focus Beauty (Version 1.5) that will also include these three new presets. Until then, you can download them now and give them a try.

This week’s presets are;

  • Focus> HDR Landscape
  • Focus> Foreground Lite (Land)
  • Focus> Dark Skies (Land)

Installing the Presets

  • Installing Presets in Lightroom 2 – this video is for those people that haven’t done this before. It also gives you some tips for preset folder management and backing up your presets.

Downloads Here

Included in the first download is the Source Photo #3 (JPG) and the newly created Focus Beauty preset “Focus> HDR Landscape“. It was clear to me that this preset is very specific and tailored to the included photo. I am offering it for download as an example of what can be achieved in Lightroom. The photo and preset are being provided under the Creative Commons license which means you can freely use this photo for learning purposes but credit to the original photographer (me) must accompany the photo for any other use. This photo is not to be used for commercial purposes or passed off as your own. This is not a photo you can do with whatever you please – the copyright remains with me! Read the details of the Creative Commons license that apply to this photo and preset.


Download the Photo and Preset used – “Focus> HDR Landscape”

Collection:  Nov. 27 Photo and Preset
Version:  1.0
Updated:  27. November 2008
Size:  2.03 MB
Downloaded:  78,983 times.

Download the “Focus> Foreground Lite (Land)” Preset

Collection:  Foreground Lite Preset
Version:  1.0
Updated:  27. November 2008
Size:  1.5 KB
Downloaded:  37,273 times.

Download the “Focus> Dark Skies (Land)” Preset

Collection:  Dark Skies Preset
Version:  1.0
Updated:  27. November 2008
Size:  1.3 KB
Downloaded:  36,564 times.

The entire Focus Beauty Builder Collection of presets can also be downloaded by clicking on the link in the “Related Articles” below.

Your Comments Please

Why not take a moment and tell us what you think about this week’s post. It is being provided as a learning experience for those learning Lightroom and/or honing their skills with the software. Your feedback will help me determine if and how often I produce these free presets.

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