True HDR photography involves taking multiple shots of the same subject with different exposures and combining them. This can be done in Photoshop, Lightroom, and other photo editing applications. However, there may be times when you want to get an HDR-like appearance by you only have a single photo, not a set of bracketed exposures. That’s where these HDR Photoshop Actions come in.
You may have seen these beautiful, vibrant photos on photography websites and wondered how you can create this look for your own photos.
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 high contrast 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.
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While you can always go through this process manually in Adobe Photoshop, there are also a number of Photoshop actions that do the work for you very quickly. These actions will usually create multiple layers that you can save as a PSD file to preserve editing capabilities, or simply save the image as a JPG file.
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 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.
HDR Photoshop Actions from Envato Elements
If you’re not familiar with Envato Elements, it’s a membership-based website. With an active subscription starting at just $16.50 per month, you can download and use an unlimited number of creative resources. You’ll find an awesome collection of HDR Photoshop actions at Envato Elements, so it’s our top recommendation. Of course, they also have much more to offer like fonts, stock photos, graphic templates, logos, other Photoshop actions, Lightroom presets, and more.
The action packs (current with the latest version of Photoshop CC) in this section are all available at Envato Elements. With a subscription, you’ll be able to use any and all of them and create an HDR effect any time you want. You’ll see why photographers love Envato Elements.
Other Premium HDR Photoshop Actions:
While the massive collection available at Envato Elements is our top recommendation, there are also many other outstanding packs for Photoshop HDR effects.
Free HDR Photoshop Actions:
Want to try the Photoshop HDR effect without buying actions? No problem! Here are some excellent free options to get started.
Alternatives for Lightroom Users:
While HDR in Photoshop is a great option, you can also accomplish the same thing with Adobe Lightroom. So if you are already using Lightroom you can use one of many HDR presets.
Final Thoughts on HDR Photoshop Actions
If you’re looking to create dramatic effects with your photos, you’ll love the possibilities with the best HDR Photoshop actions that create professional results. They’re quick and easy to use and can transform your photos. Be sure to try some of the actions showcased here (compatible with the latest Creative Cloud version), and grab a subscription to Envato Elements if you want to get the best deal available.
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