We don’t need no stinkin’ HDR Hassles!! – Use ACR instead …



Want to take advantage of the positives of High Dynamic Range (HDR) Photography, while bypassing all of those confusing HDR plug-ins and software (with their sometimes unpredictable and “plastic-looking” results)?

Then you’re going to love this – you can make all of your adjustments in the powerful Adobe Camera RAW (ACR) plug-in that comes with Photoshop, instead of confusing third-party software…

First, what is HDR? From Wikipedia“It’s a set of techniques used in photographic digital imaging to reproduce a greater dynamic range of luminosity than possible using standard digital imaging or photographic techniques.”

Here’s how this technique works:

Start by shooting your subject in RAW, with 3 or more bracketed exposures of the same subject, preferably using the Automatic Exposure Bracketing (AEB) function of your DSLR.  Then these exposures are merged together in the ACR plug-in, giving us increased Dynamic Range, resulting in quite a bit more digital information to work with.

•  What I’m going to show you in the accompanying video is mostly procedural, so you’ll need a working knowledge of ACR and AEB, plus the steps listed below.

•  For more on working with Adobe Camera RAW, here’s Part 1 of my 2-part Apogee Photo Magazine article on RAW fundamentals – or better yet, buy my Photoshop Book 🙂

•  For more on setting up your Automatic Exposure Bracketing, consult your camera’s user manual, or simply Google “Automatic Exposure Bracketing” and you camera model number.

Here are the steps, feel free to follow along in the video above:

1) “File” -> “Automate” -> “Merge to HDR Pro …”

  1. Browse for RAW Files
  2. Check: “Attempt to Automatically Align Source Images”
  3. Press “OK” button
  4. (Automation Begins)

2) “Merge to HDR Pro” Dialog Box Opens

  1. Check: “Remove Ghosts” (3 or more images)
  2. Choose “32 Bit” from the drop-down menu
  3. Check: “Complete Toning in Adobe Camera Raw”
  4. Press “Tone in ACR” button
  5. (Automation Begins)

3) Opens as 32-Bit merged File in ACRMake necessary RAW adjustments

  1. Save settings: Your settings are NOT automatically saved, so once all of your adjustments are made, go to the “Presets” tab in ACR, and choose “Save Settings …” under the “Options” drop -down menu – Save as a .XMP File (NOTE: Choose an appropriate name – If you need to reload the .XMP file , you will need to manually use “Load Settings …”)
  2. Press “OK” button in ACR

4) Opens as 32 bit file in Photoshop

  1. Flatten Image: “Layer” -> “Flatten Image”
  2. Convert to 16 Bit: “Image” -> “Mode” -> “16 Bits/Channel …”
  3. “HDR Toning” Dialog Box Opens
  4. Choose “Exposure and Gamma” from the Method” drop-down menu
  5. Press the “OK” button, save file as your 16-bit Master File (TIFF, PSD, PSB)

 Questions? Email me: john@wattsdigital.com  – Oh, and comments below are always welcome!

Thanks again, and cheers!

John 🙂


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