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Tips & Tricks

How To Create An HDR Image Using Simple Photoshop Layering

By Matthew Saville on February 18th 2013

Most of today’s latest and greatest cameras have incredible amounts of dynamic range, however that doesn’t mean you should just go blasting away at your shadows with recovery sliders and brushes.  The best image quality from a camera still comes from proper exposures.  So if you have a scene that is almost manageable within a single capture, but you’d still like to reduce noise in shadow areas or improve your highlight preservation, you can do so without having to set up more than just two photos with separate exposures.

Especially with older cameras, and in this case a camera as old as the Nikon D70!  In this video, we will process two images made on a Nikon D70, and merge them to create a simple HDR effect.  This doesn’t always work and sometimes more complex HDR processes are necessary, but if the image is a simple composition such as this one, you could finish the whole process in just a few minutes.

In this video, we are going to use basic HDR techniques from the SLR Lounge HDR Photography Workshop DVD.  Enjoy!


The Original Frames



The Final Image


The Difference

SLR-Lounge-HDR-Tutorial-Simple-Merge-001(Here is what the shadows would have looked like using a single exposure and shadow recovery)


SLR-Lounge-HDR-Tutorial-Simple-Merge-002(Here is what the shadows look like when “borrowed” from a diferent exposure)

Processing Notes

Even though the highlights in one image are going to be ruined as well as the shadows in the other image, I still try to process those “bad” highlights and shadows to roughly match the “good” highlights and shadows of the other images.  Why?  Because this makes the blending easier to perform.  At all times, my goal in using brushes in Lightroom and Photoshop is to avoid having to get too intricate.  If I have to intricately brush a complex edge, a 10 minute edit can turn into a 30 minute edit very quickly.  Bringing the total images closer together overall will often cut down the blending time by a significant amount.

Take care,
=Matthew Saville=

For more HDR education, be sure to check out HDR Tutorial by SLR Lounge. This comprehensive “gold standard” guide will give you a mastery of HDR photography, from the scene considerations to the actual shooting to the post production. Click here for more info.

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Matthew Saville is a full-time wedding photographer at Lin & Jirsa Photography, and a senior editor & writer at SLR Lounge.

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Q&A Discussions

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  1. Basit Zargar

    love it

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    […] the image in Photoshop using a simple layer mask; for a video demonstration of this technique please click HERE!  Before the merge however, I started by applying the SLR Lounge Lightroom 4 preset “Vivid […]

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    […] dynamic range and merge two exposures.  I did so using techniques that are explained briefly in this Youtube video HERE, and of course expounded in our HDR workshop DVD which you can read more about HERE.  Essentially, […]

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  4. Pixyst

    I started with the D70, it still works!

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  5. Guest

    Why don’t you just darker the brighter image in LR? 

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    • Matthew Saville

      In the bright image the highlights are severely clipped, and in the dark image the shadows are very noisy.  Otherwise I certainly wouldn’t have needed two images!  :-)

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