About Me

My photo
Spofford, New Hampshire, United States
Jeff Newcomer had been a physician practicing in New Hampshire and Vermont for over 30 years. Over that time, as a member of the Conservation Commission in his home of Chesterfield New Hampshire, he has used his photography to promote the protection and appreciation of the town's wild lands. In recent years he has been transitioning his focus from medicine to photography, writing and teaching. Jeff enjoys photographing throughout New England, but has concentrated on the Monadnock Region and southern Vermont and has had a long term artistic relationship with Mount Monadnock. He is a featured artist in a number of local galleries and his work is often seen in regional print, web publications and in business installations throughout the country. For years Jeff has published a calendar celebrating the beauty of The New England country-side in all seasons. All of the proceeds from his New England Reflections Calendar have gone to support the Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program at the Cheshire Medical Center. Jeff has a strong commitment to sharing his excitement about the special beauty of our region and publishes a blog about photography in New England.

Monday, March 14, 2016

HDR in Lightroom

Hubner Farm Sunset, Lightroom HDR

A couple of weeks ago I reviewed the Lightroom's new panorama tool which works with ease and precision. I have been impressed with this feature and, after trying it on new and reworked panoramas, Lightroom is now my location for rendering these dramatic images. This week I turn to the other function under Lightroom’s Photo Merge option and I believe the HDR tool will also become my preferred approach to natural appearing High Dynamic Range images. 

Dappled Light Tamed with HDR
Catsbane Brook, Chesterfield, NH
For some time, the ability to create High Dynamic Range images, with and without Tone Mapping, has been a unique advantage of digital editing. It started with a number of excellent stand-alone HDR programs. There were a number of choices, but my early favorite was Photomatix. They all provided the opportunity to blend multiple, variably exposed, images to display a broad, and sometimes unreal, range of brightness. It was easy to let things get out of hand, with bizarrely cartoonish results, but that fad seems to have mellowed. Like many I have tried to stick to creating HDR images that are designed to reproduce the natural range of brightness apparent to the human eye.

Photoshop’s early attempts at HDR were a bit awkward, but the tools have greatly improved in terms of both control and results, and now Lightroom has been added as a powerful option.

Start with the Images

Spofford Lake Sunset

HDR images start with capturing a set of images that cover a range of exposures. I most often grab three images, a standard balanced exposure and one about two stops above and below. I've always thought that more images, covering a wider range with smaller differences in exposure, would be better, but apparently three work fine and are recommended by Adobe. A tripod is helpful, but, given Lightroom's ability to align hand held shots, this is not required.

To Lightroom

The images can be placed in a collection or accessed directly from the source directory. After highlighting the series of images, the HDR Tool can be opened from "Photo Merge" in the Photo drop down menu or can be found by right clicking on the series. The menu is surprisingly simple. Immediately upon opening the tool, Lightroom creates a quick preview of the HDR image.

Lightroom HDR Tool
 If the images were hand held, the auto align box should be checked. Auto toning works on the final image by adjusting the sliders in the Toning section of the Develop module. It generally yields a preview closer to the appearance of the final merged image. Without Auto Toning the image can appear very dark, but all the adjustments can be easily modified.
Auto Tone Off


Auto Tone On, Medium Deghosting
Deghosting helps to correct areas in the image that may have moved between exposures. People walking by, or moving foliage can affect the final image and this is a major challenge for all HDR programs. By adjusting the amount of Deghosting Lightroom does a pretty good job reducing the problem. I only wish the program allowed a better assessment of the correction by permitting a closer zoom into the image. The Deghosting overlay shows what areas of the image have been affected by the corrections.

Merged HDR, Edited in Lightroom and Photoshop

 The Merge

Lightroom HDR Catsbane Falls

Each time a change is made in the settings, the preview must be remade, but this usually is not a long process. The final merge takes a bit longer, and when complete, the HDR image is placed in the same directory or Collection as the original series. For those familiar with the dramatic results of HDR/tone Mapped images the end-point of Lightroom's HDR may seem underwhelming. Lightroom creates a more natural appearing image which is a 32 bit RAW file. They contain greatly expanded dynamic range which can be used to dramatic effect as they are editing either in Lightroom or Photoshop. You don't get cartoons, but rather a natural appearing image with greatly expanded dynamic range.

Hubner Farm Sunset, Photoshop HDR and Tone Mapped

Hubner Farm Sunset, Lightroom HDR
I have been experimenting with Lightroom's HDR Tool on new, images as well as remaking some old High Dynamic Range favorites. I have been impressed with the results and the simplicity and speed of the process is refreshing. For most of my HDR this is fast becoming my first choice. Give it a try.

Jeffrey Newcomer


  1. Very helpful tutorial . Like and applaud this post .

  2. WOW! Absolutely this is fantastic. I love these HDR photos