Tips for Creating Raw HDR Images in Lightroom CC

Adobe Lightroom Classic

Click here to watch  how to create raw HDR images in Lightroom CC. 

Below are additional tips for creating raw HDR imagse in Lightroom CC.

• Not all adjustments that you make to individual images will carry over when selecting Photo > Photo Merge > HDR. For example, if you have made local adjustments on individual exposures using the radial filter or the adjustment brush, those adjustments will not be applied to the merged file. Because of this, I would suggest that you don’t spend a great deal of time making adjustments to each of the individual exposures but, instead, merge the images and then make adjustments to the resulting HDR image. The settings that are NOT copied over from individual exposures to the merged file are:

– The primary tone settings in the Basic panel including: Exposure, Contrast, Highlights, Shadows, Whites, and Blacks (since the merge is expanding tonal range using its own calculations).

– Tone Curve

– Local Corrections

– Red Eye

– Spot Healing

– Upright

– Crop

– Process Version (if set to anything other than the most recent, Lightroom will automatically update it)

• If you make adjustments to an individual exposures that can be copied over to the merged file (such as conversion to B/W or Split Toning adjustments) , make sure that the exposure with the adjustments is the “most selected” image.

• Merging HDR images requires exposure metadata. If aperture and ISO information is available, then it is used as well.

• Lightroom will  show an error if you try to merge photos of different sizes, focal lengths, etc.

• Option + Shift + H (Mac) | Alt + Shift + H (Win) will run Photo Merge > HDR based on the last used Merge settings (without displaying the Merge preview window).

• The merged HDR images is 16-bit due to the significant (and painful) file size that would result if the HDR merge was 32 bit.

• By default Lightroom appends the file name with -HDR. Although you cannot change the default file naming convention, you can always rename files after they are created.

• The resulting (merged) DNG files will always default to Process Version (PV) 2012, despite any differing PV settings applied to the source images. This is because PV2012 is required for the extended Exposure range (+/- 10 stops) of 16 & 32bit files, where as PV2003 & PV2010 are restricted to (+/- 4 stops).

Adobe Lightroom Classic

Posted on 04-23-2015


  • By Nils Öhman - 5:26 AM on April 23, 2015  

    What’s best practise to make a HDR Panorama?

    • By Jeffrey Tranberry - 6:59 AM on April 23, 2015  

      Create the HDR files from your brackets. Then stitch together the HDR files.

  • By allen furst - 6:29 AM on April 23, 2015  

    This is very nice.
    Option Shift H has no effect on my Mac (10.9.5).
    Would be nice to be able to zoom in on the preview to be able to monitor details of de-ghosting.

    • By Tony - 9:25 AM on May 2, 2015  

      Try control-shift-H instead. Works for me on a Mac.

  • By Peter - 7:43 AM on April 23, 2015  

    Thank you for providing all this invaluable information!

    Three short questions about the HDR process:

    – Is the resulting HDR DNG a demosaiced image, or is the original CFA pattern from the camera maintained?

    – Does a 16 bit result file mean 16 bit integer data, 15 bits stored as 16 bit integer like in Photoshop’s 16 bit mode, or 16 bit float (ILM Half)?

    – Do any camera calibration profiles selected on the source images affect the resulting HDR image data? Or will they just be copied to the result as a non-destructive metadata setting?

  • By Eliot Nierman - 11:22 PM on April 26, 2015  

    1. Since this is 16 bit will the other way of doing this, creating a 32 bit file in photoshop that is then developed in lightroom, provide more editing flexibility?

    2. There seems to be a mention of using using fewer files than traditionally used for HDR. For example, is it recommended to use 3 files of -2, 0, +2 rather than 5 files with 1 stop bracketing (-2, -1, 0, +1, +2)? Or if even more extreme bracketing of 7 to 9 stops is needed should be only use 3 files (-3, 0, +3 for 7 stops for example) rather than all 7 or 9?

    • By Jeffrey Tranberry - 10:05 AM on April 27, 2015  

      We’ve found that using fewer images usually produces just as good of results. The nice thing about using fewer shots in the bracket sequence, is there’s less chance of ghosting. For example, I have a set that’s just two images (-3 and +3) and it produces a great result.

  • By Jeremy - 1:43 AM on May 1, 2015  

    I’ve got to disagree with Jeffrey regarding using only 2 images for HDR. A quick check shows considerable noise in the two image result. This noise is not present in the three image one. All settings in LR were exactly the same (Auto Align=ON, Auto Tone=ON,Deghost=MEDIUM) and the photos were taken varying shutter speed only. Exposure-wise they appear identical, but viewing at 2:1 shows a lot of noise.