HDR, which stands for ‘High Dynamic Range imaging’, is a method of adding more dynamic range to your images. Check out the this article here to really understand the concept of dynamic range in more detail: http://www.cambridgeincolour.com/tutorials/dynamic-range.htm  

This effect is usually created in photoshop by using three different images at different exposures  (high, medium and low) taken using exposure bracketing, and combining them together into one single picture. Mobile devices that have an HDR option in it’s camera settings also uses that same method, which is why it usually takes longer for those images to process.

In Lightroom, we are not able to use layers to combine images, but we can still create a similar effect using just one image and the tool bar options.

Before I get into the tutorial, I’d like to remind you that the values I used for the example image below may not be the best values for your own image. Remember to use your own judgement and adjust the values according to your picture and your own taste.

The image that I will be using was taken at The University of Guelph Arboretum, in Guelph, Ontario.

Here is the image before adding any HDR effects:


The first step to creating an HDR look is to decrease the highlights all the way to -100 and increase the shadow bar all the way to +100.


This gives us the following image:


As you can see the shadows in the fence and the grass underneath have become lighter in the picture, and the trees in the background pop out more. Overall it just looks so much more defined. There’s such a huge difference already with just adjusting two bars. (The magic of lightroom ;D )

Next, we’re going to bump up the whites and bring down the blacks. The trick to getting this part at the perfect spot is by pressing the option key on Mac while clicking on the slider (in Windows I believe you would use the alt key, but I could be wrong). This causes the entire image to turn black. While continuously pressing down on the alt key, move your slider to the right until you start seeing specks of white or colour. As soon as you see those specks, move your slider back to the left just a tad to get to the spot where the image stays all black. (I hope this makes sense.) For the blacks, you do the same thing but in the opposite direction and opposite colours. So instead of black, you will see a white image and as you go further left you will see specks of black. However, for the blacks, you want to stop the little pointer at a spot where there is still some black on the image. Unfortunately I couldn’t print screen it, but I did take a picture of my screen with my phone.


I hope it is clear enough for you to see. If you notice, there is some black in the fence. This, to me, seemed like the perfect amount to give it just enough detail. For this picture, my whites were at +44 and blacks at -38.



After adjusting both the blacks and whites, we get this result:
The next step is to bump up the clarity to +100. This adds more detail and sharpness into the image and makes it look clear and crisp.
This gives us the following image:
For this particular image, I would stop right here and make this my final product, because personally I’m satisfied with the outcome.
However, if you wanted to go further and create a more dramatic HDR look, you can add additional clarity by using the adjustment brush tool.
Click on the adjustment brush tool and ensure that all values are at zero. Next bump up the clarity to +100 and sharpness to +25. Ensure that your brush size is large enough so that you can easily cover the entire image, and also make sure that auto flow is checked off, and that density and flow are both at 100.
Paint the brush over your entire image, and you end up with the following:
You could also choose to only increase clarity in certain areas of the image, such as the fence. Feel free to experiment with your image and find what works the best. 🙂
If you wanted to go even further and add even more clarity, you can simply duplicate the last step instead of painting over the entire image again and again. In order to do this, you want to go back into the adjustment brush tool, but instead of creating a new brush, bring your cursor into the image so that you see the dot, which shows you where your last brush started. Then, right click on the dot and hit duplicate as many times as you wish in order to get the look that you are aiming for.
The reason my image looks red in the above picture is because I have the ‘show selected mask overlay’ option checked in the bar below the image in Lightroom. This just shows me where the brush is applied on the picture, which in this case, is everywhere.
After duplicating the brush effect once, I end up with the following image.
You can continue to duplicate it as many times as you wish until you get the desired look that you want.
And there you have it! HDR using Lightroom 5! 😀
Here’s a quick look at all three states again, the first being what we started with, the second image is where I personally decided to stop, and the third image is with the adjustment brush additions.
I hope you found this tutorial helpful, and if you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below!  🙂

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