How To Combine Bracketed Images For HDR

By Caroline Schmidt. Posted

There are dedicated HDR software packages out there that offer no end of presets and controls. Some are fantastic, and some are overly complicated for a beginner or HDR layman. To be honest, most of the time the results from the presets can look jarring and are part of the reason why HDR ended up with a bit of a bad name for itself. Done well and tastefully, a successful HDR image shouldn’t look like it was captured in HDR at all.

Rather than use one of the dedicated HDR packages here, I’m going to stick to Adobe Lightroom. The built-in HDR Photo Merge feature (Lightroom 6 and Lightroom Classic CC ) is easy to use, and provides
you with a simple HDR base file from which you can apply your own
edits – essentially it uses the bracketed sequence to create one file with vast dynamic range, all within the familiarity of Lightroom.


Here is a representation of the five different exposures that went into creating the final image. While the darkest and lightest frames probably aren't needed, they offer a bit of a safety net when it comes to recovering highlights and drawing out shadow detail without loss of quality. If you missed out on our blog post on how to capture these images, click here

1. Select the exposures

Import your images into Lightroom, as you usually would. Identify the bracketed sequence in the Library module. Then click on the first image of your bracketed set and, holding down the Shift key, click on the last image in your bracketed set to select them all.


2. Merge settings

With the full bracket selected, right-click on any of the selected images and go to Photo Merge>HDR…. In the Photo Merge window that opens check Auto Align. You can leave Auto Settings checked, but I like to uncheck it and apply my own edits.

2 merge

3. Deghosting

The Deghost Amount tells Lightroom how much ghosting it attempts to fix. I’ll either use None or Low here, as some movement is to be expected in the reflection. The Create Stack option simply stacks the images together in the Library module to keep them neat.


4. Editing controls

Once LR has finished, take your HDR image into the Develop module and adjust the settings as normal. The Exposure slider now goes from -10 to +10 rather than -5 to +5, and the Highlights/Shadows sliders work with far less loss in image quality.


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