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HDR in Lightroom – How to Get the HDR Look You Want

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So you have a great shot, but in your my mind’s eye you’re really picturing it as a super cool HDR image.  So what’s a photo editor to do when you don’t have multiple exposures of the same photo? It’s actually easy to create an HDR effect in Lightroom with the right tools.

As an example, I have a shot I took while on safari with my family (don’t ask), and I couldn’t help but imagine what it would look like with an HDR effect.

DISCLAIMER:

Creating an HDR effect is a slippery slope. It’s really easy to get carried away (ahem … I’m totally guilty of this) and before you know it, your original photo is unrecognizable. The ultimate goal of this edit is a tasteful image that really pops … not an explosive, uncontrolled display of high dynamic range.

Here is the original shot:

CAMERA SETTINGS FOR THIS IMAGE:

ISO250, Speed of 1/500, focal length of 25mm, aperture of f/7.1

Camera used: Panasonic GH4 with Olympus 25 1.8

MCP Actions Lightroom Presets used in this edit: MCP™ HDR QUICK CLICK LIGHTROOM PRESETS  & QUICK CLICKS COLLECTION™ LIGHTROOM PRESETS

elephant-before-lightroom-resized HDR in Lightroom - How to Get the HDR Look You Want Uncategorized

 

After loading the photo into Lightroom, I cropped the image to my liking, rotating to level the landscape and solidify the elephant as the focal point. I used a low density brush to add a blue tint to water. I followed that with the brush tool for some dodge and burn on the landscape and tree, then I corrected the imperfections in water with a heal brush for a nice clear, glass-like surface. 

elephantbefore1 HDR in Lightroom - How to Get the HDR Look You Want Uncategorized

 

Now for the easiest part! I applied MCP HDR K Lightroom Preset to get the HDR look I’m going for.

Elephant-before2 HDR in Lightroom - How to Get the HDR Look You Want Uncategorized

 

As you can see, the results are immediate and it took way less time to apply the preset than it does to create the HDR edits manually. However, the look was bit over-the-top on this image for my personal taste so I followed up with a few easy adjustments. I used the Auto (Best Guess) Lightroom Preset for a quick white balance adjustment, and in the green color only I decreased the Saturation to -72 and the Luminance to -50, which gave the image a warmer, more subdued feel. 

elephant-before3 HDR in Lightroom - How to Get the HDR Look You Want Uncategorized

 

Finally, I used the brush tool again to dodge and burn the cloud, ground, and tree for even more definition, and adjusted Noise Reduction Luminance to 28.

 

Elephant-before4 HDR in Lightroom - How to Get the HDR Look You Want Uncategorized

 

And here’s the final image in all its HDR-esque glory!

elephant-lightroom-hdr-resized HDR in Lightroom - How to Get the HDR Look You Want Uncategorized

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