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


Updated: 09/09/21, & still relevant today! – BONUS: See my short video from YouTube below:




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, click here: https://blog.main.wattsdigital.com/the-philosophy-of-raw/ – or better yet, buy my Photoshop Book at Amazon 🙂


•  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:

Please note:  The video above was recorded in 2015, and the procedure has changed
a bit since then – the current (09/21) & 
correct procedure is shown below …


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 a merged File in ACR

•  Make all necessary RAW adjustments (more here), then …

  1. Save settings: Your settings are NOT automatically saved, so once all of your adjustments are made, go to “More Image Settings” (the 3 dots on the right), and choose “Save Settings …”.   
  2. Leave all of the checkboxes in the next screen at the default settings, and click on “Save …”.
  3. Save in the desired location – it’ll be saved 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 …”)
  4. Press “OK” button in ACR
  5. Your blended image opens as a 16 bit file in Photoshop – enjoy!




•  AVAILABLE NATIONWIDE!  Want to see Photoshop in action?  Check out my “Photoshop 101” series of FREE online & live Photoshop Meetups – available nationwide:



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•  By the way, this is all based on my Photoshop book designed for photographers, “Not just another Photoshop Book”, available exclusively on Amazon:



Questions? Please contact me – also, feel free to comment and tell your photography friends!


Thx again, and cheers,


John Watts 🙂




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