25 Beautiful HDR Photoshop Actions for Dramatic Effects

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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.

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.

HDR Photoshop Actions from presetsch

Preview of HDR Photoshop Actions from presetsch

50 HDR Photoshop Actions by Eldamar Studio

Preview of 50 HDR Actions by Eldamar Studio

Pro HDR Photoshop Actions by 2lagus

Preview of Pro HDR Photoshop Actions by 2lagus

HDR Action by betoalanis

Preview of HDR Action by Betoalanis

HDR Portrait by nmc2010

Preview of HDR Portrait by nmc2010

HDR Fashion by 2lagus

Preview of HDR Fashion Photoshop Actions by 2lagus

HDR Stock by Contrastly

Preview of HDR Stock by Contrastly

HDR Fitness by 2lagus

Preview of HDR Fitness Actions by 2lagus

HDR Gym by nmc2010

Preview of HDR Gym by nmc2010

Darkness HDR by SupremeTones

Preview of Darkness HDR Photoshop Actions by SupremeTones

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.

Faux HDR Photoshop Actions $19

Preview of Faux HDR Photoshop Actions

Faux HDR Actions Vol. 2 $19

Preview of Faux HDR Photoshop Actions - Vol 2.

HDR Photoshop Actions $13

Preview of HDR Photoshop Actions by Shutter Pulse

HDR Legendary Image Action by mrcharlesbrown $5

Preview of HDR Legendary Photoshop Actions

Surreal HDR Actions by mudi $4

Preview of Surreal HDR Photoshop Actions

HDR Legendary Image Action Series 2 by mrcharlesbrown $5

Preview of Legendary HDR Photoshop Actions Vol. 2

HDR Legendary Image Action Series 3 by mrcharlesbrown $5

Preview of HDR Legendary Photoshop Actions Vol. 3

Dramatic Effect with False HDR by pastela $5

Preview of Dramatic Effect with False HDR by pastela

Supreme HDR Image Action by applelucero $5

Preview of Supreme HDR Photoshop Actions

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.

Free Faux HDR Action by PhotographyPla.net

Free Faux HDR Photoshop Action

Free HDR Photoshop Action by Shutter Pulse

Preview of HDR Photoshop Action by Shutter Pulse

Black & White Photoshop HDR Action by Shutter Pulse

Preview of B&W HDR Photoshop Action

Fake HDR Effect Photoshop Action by 2KOOL4U

Preview of Fake HDR Photoshop Action

Pseudo HDR by FinesseFX

Preview of Pseudo HDR by FinesseFX

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.

HDR Lightroom Presets by PhotographyPla.net $29

Preview of PhotographyPla.net HDR Lightroom Presets

Free HDR Lightroom Preset by PhotographyPla.net

Preview of Free HDR Lightroom Preset from PhotographyPla.net

Lightroom Presets by Shutter Pulse $19

Preview of Shutter Pulse HDR Lightroom Presets

Free HDR Lightroom Preset by Shutter Pulse

Preview of Free Shutter Pulse HDR Lightroom Preset

Free Realistic HDR Lightroom Preset by Exposure School

Preview of Realistic HDR Lightroom Preset from Exposure School

HDR Lightroom Presets by Preset Kingdom $29

Preview of HDR Lightroom Preset by Preset Kingdom

Free Vibrant HDR Lightroom Preset by Preset Kingdom

Preview of Vibrant HDR Lightroom Preset by Preset Kingdom

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.

For more Adobe Photoshop resources please see:

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