Beautiful HDR–Step 3

This is continuation of my HDR 101 tutorial, showing how I process most photos shown on my blog.

It is so easy, anyone can do it!

  1. The first step reviewed basic requirements and ways to shoot actual images that will be used to create final HDR. If you missed it or need a refresher, please go back and review it at Step 1: Go and Shoot Your Photopage.
  2. The second step provided instructions on how to use Photomatix Pro to process your bracketed photos and create HDR photo. If you missed it or need a refresher, please go back and review Step2: Take your photos into your HDR Digital Processing Room – Use HDR processing software to create initial HDR image.

The final step in making our HDR image is to give it final kick with CS5. This post will discuss main steps you can take to finalize image with extra little touches.

I start by opening created HDR file in Camera Raw.

In Camera RAW the first thing is to adjust clarity to somewhere between 20-30.


Under noise reduction:

  • Color between 20-30
  • Luminance between 20-30

Under Sharpening change Amount to be between 20-40.


Check Hue, Saturation and Luminance and adjust it if necessary.


Lens Vignetting can in many situations add more focus to the center of the image. Modify it as it fits your fancy.


If I was planning to do some Crop in Camera Raw and wanted to have Vignetting then will use Post Crop Vignetting feature, but not in this image.


As final step, switch back to main edit option and adjust Recovery to remove any clipping on the bright side. Sometimes add a little Black point to get those darks a bit more dark. Also, in some situation adjust Exposure if it is too much to the left or right and does not look natural.


After clicking on Open Image it will open this image in CS5.


In CS5, the first thing I’ll do is to duplicate current layer to have additional two on top of it. As you can see, I have three layers there:


Sharpening Your Image. While the top layer is selected, go to Filter, Other, High Pass.. which will open High Pass dialog box where you need to select the radius, I set it between 2-6. In this case it is 4. Click OK, and you’ll see this:


As you can see it is not very good looking, to get the final result of the high pass filter, click on Normal (highlighted in yellow above) and try three different choices: Soft Light, Hard Light and Vivid Light. Depending on the image you might like one over the other. For this image I’m going to choose Soft Light.


Next, I’m going to do a few adjustments to add additional clarity and kick to this image. First, add Levels and see if it requires any changes. I will bring the right handle from 255 to somewhere around 233:


I always add curves and see the kind of effect it will introduce. Going overboard is not good, my curves are very gentle. hehe.


There are a few other adjustments that I use, all depends on the mood and feel of the particular photo. Here I’m going to add Hue/Saturation and reduce Saturation by a few points:


Sometime I add different filter, again, this is up to my mood at the time of processing. This one seams to be a bit too blue and I’m going to try to change it a bit with a Warming Photo Filter:


I think at this point I spent enough time with this photo and need to just save it and publish on my blog.

Just for comparison, here is original image at normal exposure:


HDR image created via Photomatix by combining three bracketed images:


And final product:


Obviously, some folks will like one over the other. I’m happy with the final result and will stick by it!


  1. Show how to combine HDR image with original images via multiple layers and mask them to have one combined photo.
  2. I want to play a bit with video recording of actual process and post it here when available.

Thanks for stopping by and I hope you learned something valuable!

If you have suggestions on how to improve this tutorial please send it my way!


22 thoughts on “Beautiful HDR–Step 3

  1. Thank you for liking my blog, I like your HDR workflow. I have been thinking of doing HDR for awhile . Keep up the good work.. 🙂 Photos are inspiring.

  2. Dmitri
    I’m a little puzzled. HDR is done with multiple exposures that are sandwiched to produce the final image? In this case how did you take several images and get the breaking wave in the middle to be so sharp? Great photo no matter what the process. I can see the image is better than the original capture. The Nubble Light was a favorite spot for me while I was living in Maine.

    1. Hi Victor, thanks for stopping by. When you create HDR with right software toolls you have very good control over which frame will take presedence for different parts of the image – it is called deghosting. it is very useful for moving parts – cars, people etc, in this case it is waves. In part two of my workflow I provide an example of how to do deghosting for for moving bikers.

  3. Learned heaps, thanks. Great tutorials, have been looking at a lot and so far yours is the only one I’ve made it through to the end. I think sometimes people writing these things forget that we just want to know how to do it and don’t want all the technical jargon. I want tutorials written in my language. Thank yo.

  4. “It is so easy, anyone can do it!” Really?
    How long did it take you to get to the point where you felt you knew what you were doing and not just groping blindly? How long does it now take you to edit one photgraph (just a general idea)?
    Also, would this enable one to reduce or, preferably, remove reflections from windows? I have photos with clear and vivid reflections that are interesting in themselves but which do prevent a clear view of what I am photographing inside. Unfortunately, I cannot get the views I need from inside the buildings.

    1. hi, :-), it is not hard, but that is a realtive term. What I find is that HDR photos indoors are much easier than outdoors. Photos with plain blue skies are very hard. It took me a while to get to some consistency and establish working routine. If photo works well via my estiablished process then it probably takes about 15-20 minutes to process it. If it does not play well, then it can take hour or more to get it where I want it, and it is not super easy, actually can be very frastrating to get it look right, probably because I’m not a photoshop expert and do not know all the different tricks.

      I don’t know if it will do what you are trying to do. Photoshop might be your friend and will help to pull out details from inside.

  5. Noticed you liked my blog on October Frost so I thought I would check out your blog. Am I ever glad I did. A very good tutorial. I will be doing a lot of referring back to it. Thank you.

  6. Hey there, very nice tutorial and beautiful photo’s on you blog. Gratz.
    I just have 1 question. I always have learned that you sharpen your images, wether you use smart sharpening or High Pass filter, at the very end of post-processing. This would be because of the fact that some other things you do to the image have a negativ effect on the sharpness. I see you apllied some other finetuning, Hue/sat, levels, curves after the sharpening. So finally my question.Do you have a special reason for this sequence?

    1. well, the high pass filter is done over its own layer and you can turn it on and off to see the difference and adjust other settings after you do other change. with D90 the high pass is actually making a lot of difference, but not so much with D800, for the last few month I’m shooting with D800 and sharpening is almost not noticeable. this is of course because D800 produces super high resolution photos

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