Secrets of Creating a Fake HDR

Posted by Gary Ramey on July 28th, 2011
Faro Blanco HDR

Fake HDR

A real HDR is created by taking a series of photographs with different exposures then merging them together in software in order to tone map the separate exposures into one HDR image that has an extremely high dynamic range. Since the photographs used to create the HDR are separate shots, anything that is moving can be problematic because a moving object is in a different spot in each photograph. The HDR software can’t align a moving object. It is possible to remove the ghosts but I have experimented with creating fake HDR images of moving subjects such as water. Instead of using multiple exposures, I take one good exposure and create separate files from one RAW photograph then merge the files together into an HDR image. The resulting image does not have the same dynamic range as a real HDR but it does have the unique look of an HDR. Expect additional noise in the shadows. Click the image to the right to see what I mean. I have read that you can’t or shouldn’t create exposures from one file but I find that the process can create a compelling image out of a lackluster one. Take a look at the difference between these photos and judge for yourself.

Here are the steps that I took in order to create the HDR pictured in this post.

Save in camera RAW. I use camera RAW + JPEG. The reasons why is because Windows doesn’t show a camera RAW file as an icon for the file and because I don’t have to process all my files just to see what they look like.

Faro Blanco

Original Photograph

Compose your shot and take a good exposure of the subject. The original exposure is to the left. It was an extremely overcast day so the shot is a bit flat.

Open the camera RAW file in Adobe Photoshop and change the Exposure. There is an Exposure slider but I don’t use it because I know what values I want to use so I just type them in. You will need to create a file for each of the following exposures:

+ 4

Open the resulting five files in the program that you will use to create the HDR file. Your choices are the following:

I used Photomatix Pro to process the example HDR in this post. When I opened the five exposures, I was presented with the Exposure Value Settings dialog. Be sure to check to see if the program has assigned the correct exposure compensation values. If not, change the values before proceeding. I used the default settings for everything then selected Enhancer-Painterly preset. As you can see, the resulting HDR expanded the tonal range and contrast of the original. Click here to read my post and view an exclusive video about Photomatix Pro.

To find out more about using Photoshop, Photomatix Pro, and HDR Efex Pro to create HDR images, read The HDR Book: Unlocking the Pros’ Hottest Post-Processing Techniques by Rafael “RC” Concepcion.

Find out more about Photomatix Pro for Windows or Mac OS X. Use the Coupon Code: TrickPhotographyIdeas at checkout to receive 15% off your purchase.


Leave a Comment


2 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. Video: HDR & IR Photographs « Trick Photography Ideas
  2. Video: Photomatix Pro Tutorial | Trick Photography Ideas