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Get the HDR Look on a Single Image in Camera Raw

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Excerpt from The Adobe Photoshop CC Book for Digital Photographers

If you didn’t take bracketed images in your camera, but you still want that HDR look, you can pretty much do the entire thing right in Camera Raw by pushing a few sliders to the max. Here’s how it’s done:

Step One: Here’s the original single-image exposure, and it’s the perfect kind of image to apply an HDR look to. There’s a wide tonal gap between the bright light coming in from the windows and the dark shadows in the rest of the image; plus, things with lots of texture and detail tend to look great as HDR images, and if they look great as HDR, they’ll look great with an HDR effect applied, even though we’re applying it to a single image. Start by opening the image in Camera Raw. Here’s the basic recipe we follow: crank up the Shadows all the way, crush down the Highlights all the way, add lots of Contrast (all the way), max out the Clarity. To finish off: add some sharpening and maybe a dark edge vignette. Okay, let’s try it.


Step Two: Drag the Contrast slider all the way to the right (to +100). Then, drag the Shadows slider all the way to the right, which tends to make the image look washed out. So, then, drag the Clarity slider to +100. If it wasn’t already blown-out outside the windows (or if your room has visible lights), it probably is now, so we always drag the Highlights slider all the way to the left (to –100). So, it’s Contrast, Shadows, and Clarity to +100, and Highlights to –100. That’s the recipe (save it as a preset in the Presets panel and then it’s a one-click effect, right?). And, of course, you could also add the standard finishing effects, like vignetting and a soft glow.

Here are some other examples:

Learn how to do more with HDR in The Adobe Photoshop CC Book for Digital Photographers.