25 Beautiful HDR Photoshop Actions for Dramatic Effects

In the past, we compiled a showcase of beautiful HDR photography. True HDR photography involves taking multiple shots of the same subject with different exposures and combining them, which can be done in Photoshop, in the latest version of Lightroom (LR 6 or CC), or in standalone software for HDR processing and tone mapping.

HDR processing is helpful for increasing the dynamic range (HDR is short for High Dynamic Range) of the photo to lighten the shadows and avoid lost detail in blown-out highlights. This is useful for capturing scenes that include a dynamic range that is too large for the camera sensor to handle in one exposure. A common example would be a landscape scene that includes dark foreground in the shadows and a bright sky. HDR processing allows you to merge or blend multiple exposures to effectively capture all areas of the scene.

Other characteristics that are commonly associated with HDR images include vibrant colors and a sharpened look. Photoshop allows you to mimic the HDR effects with just one image. You can adjust highlights and shadows to impact the dynamic range, and then work with colors and sharpness as needed. Going through these steps in Photoshop with a single image is not a replacement for HDR or exposure blending, but it does allow you to accomplish a similar look in situations where you don’t have multiple exposures of the same scene for blending.

While you can always go through this process manually in Photoshop, there are also a number of Photoshop actions that can do the work for you very quickly. In this post, we’ll highlight some of the best HDR Photoshop actions that will make it easy for you to create your own HDR images. This collection includes some free actions, as well as others that must be purchased. At the end of the article, I’ll also list some alternatives for Lightroom users, as Lightroom presets can also accomplish basically the same thing.

HDR photography is very popular, but extreme looks won’t work well with every photograph. Some of the HDR actions featured in this post will give you a more realistic or natural look, and others will give you more intensive, dramatic, and extreme looks.

Premium HDR Photoshop Actions:

Faux HDR Actions $19

Faux HDR Photoshop Actions

Faux HDR Actions Vol. 2 $19

Faux HDR Photoshop Actions Vol. 2

HDR Photoshop Actions $13

HDR Photoshop Actions

HDR Legendary Image Action by mrcharlesbrown $5

HDR Legendary Image Action by mrcharlesbrown

Surreal HDR Actions by mudi $4

Surreal HDR Actions by mudi

HDR Legendary Image Action Series 2 by mrcharlesbrown $5

HDR Legendary Image Action Series 2 by mrcharlesbrown

HDR Legendary Image Action Series 3 by mrcharlesbrown $5

HDR Legendary Image Action Series 3 by mrcharlesbrown

Dramatic Effect with False HDR by pastela $5

Dramatic Effect with False HDR by pastela

Supreme HDR Image Action by applelucero $5

Supreme HDR Image Action by applelucero

Free HDR Photoshop Actions:

Want to try the HDR effects with out buying Photoshop actions? No problem! Here are some excellent free options to get started.

Free Faux HDR Action by PhotographyPla.net

Free Faux HDR Photoshop Action

Free HDR Photoshop Action by Loaded Landscapes

HDR Photoshop Action

HDR Photoshop Action by Shutter Pulse

HDR Photoshop Action by Shutter Pulse

Black & White HDR Photoshop Action by Shutter Pulse

B&W HDR Photoshop Action

Fake HDR Photoshop Action by 2KOOL4U

Fake HDR Photoshop Action

Pseudo HDR by FinesseFX

Pseudo HDR by FinesseFX

Alternatives for Lightroom Users:

While Photoshop is a great option for replicating the HDR look, you can also accomplish the same thing with Lightroom. So if you are already using Lightroom you can use one of many HDR presets.

HDR Lightroom Presets by PhotographyPla.net $29

PhotographyPla.net Lightroom Presets

Free HDR Lightroom Preset by PhotographyPla.net

Free HDR Lightroom Preset

Free HDR Presets at Loaded Landscapes

Loaded Landscapes

Lightroom Presets by Shutter Pulse $19

Shutter Pulse Lightroom Presets

Free HDR Lightroom Preset by Shutter Pulse

Free Shutter Pulse Lightroom  Preset

Free Realistic HDR Lightroom Preset by Exposure School

Realistic HDR

HDR Lightroom Presets by Preset Kingdom $29

Preset Kingdom

Free Vibrant HDR Lightroom Preset by Preset Kingdom

Vibrant HDR Lightroom Preset

For more Photoshop resources please see:

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6 Responses

Comments are now closed on this post.

  • Rajan Arora, February 15, 2012

    Nice collection.

  • Troy, January 12, 2012

    Most of these samples looks like they just played with contrast and sharpening. Seems to me like there is a lack of range in there, where High Dynamic Range is what HDR is. True HDR starts and ends with good source files, not a filter fix.

    • Vandelay Website Design, January 12, 2012

      You’re right, the effects shown here are not true HDR, which is stated in the opening paragraph. The point is only to mimic HDR effects in situations where you may not have multiple photos with different exposures to create a true HDR.

  • Doly, January 10, 2012

    Adept Manual process can supplement it but it is time consuming. Well collection of HDR Photoshop. I like forfie, superszajs.

  • Courtney, January 10, 2012

    I agree with aledesign… It shouldn’t be overused… Photoshop has incredible tools.. Thanks for the images..

  • aledesign.it, January 9, 2012

    In some case is not a bad effect..I think is important use with intelligence..and not often. i like the cover by Hancock!