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 with Photoshop Actions, 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
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.
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.
For more Photoshop resources please see:
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