How to Use HDR Effect in Lightroom

HDR stands for High Dynamic Range; it is an excellent way to get more shadows and highlight details in your photographs that come closer to the human eyes. It has been around for a long time now. Photographers frequently use it to show cloud details in the sky, interior details in buildings and through windows simultaneously, and surreal photographs with textures and reflections.

For achieving the HDR effect, multiple photos are shot and then combined in Photoshop. The last step is to “tone map,” where you decide whether you want your photographs to be realistic or hyper-realistic. 

You can process the HDR pictures in Lightroom by combining photos and toning maps without leaving the software.

Steps for Adding HDR Effect

1. Gathering Your Photos

First, you need to go out and take photographs of the scene that you want to capture. You will need to snap several frames with varying levels of exposure that you can combine later. The key to creating detailed and crisp HDR images is to use the smallest number of photos possible, as it allows you to get rid of the need for ghosting later on. Less is more in this case.

With that being said, sometimes it is not possible to use 2-3 images, but it’s alright because HDR images typically make up of 3-7 photos, so try to use the best judgment for determining the number of photos you need. 

However, in some cases, you will have no choice but to take numerous pictures to achieve the best dynamic range. It changes depending on the situation, so you need to experiment with several exposures to get the right balance.

2. Selecting HDR Options in the Lightroom

Once you have taken the shots, it’s time to import your RAW files into Lightroom Classic. Don’t try to edit yet. Cmd/Ctrl+click all of the photographs that you want to use to make your first HDR Photo. Then select photo> Photo Merge > HDR or hit Ctrl+H to use the shortcut. 

It might take a moment for the procedure to complete, and then after that, you will get an HDR Merge Preview. If it doesn’t seem right to you, you can go back and select more or fewer photographs until you get the results you want. From there on, you can choose to enable or disable Auto Align or Auto Tone and apply de-ghosting.

3. Auto-Align

Auto-Align is designed for handheld exposures, but if it’s a windy day or you are bracketing manually, you can use it to ensure that all of your shots are correctly aligned. You probably wouldn’t need to use this option if you used a tripod, but it’s worth trying in case if you missed a few details.

4. Auto Tone

Auto Tone helps with color correction. If you are photographing a beautiful scene of dawn, for instance, the sky may have changed its color; that is why it is essential to color correct the photographs now to avoid strange tones backward.

5. De-ghosting

Ghosting occurs when there is a movement between exposures, and your final image appears to have transparent layers. De-ghosting is a great tool to use if the auto-align doesn’t fix some of the movements. 

Situations that require more photos, handheld shooting, or windy conditions increase the chance of ghosting. Besides Photoshop and trying to put bits into pieces, you can save a lot of your time, effort, and learning by using this feature.

Thankfully, there are options in Lightroom for reducing ghosting or de-ghosting during the process. You can remove ghosting using various options in the HDR Merge Preview, depending on how much there is on your photograph. 

If you don’t have any ghosting, select None and move on, but if you spot ghosting and want to remove it, you have several options, including low, medium, or high levels of de-ghosting. 

6. Merging Your Photos

Click on the merge option, and you can merge two pictures together. Lightroom will now create your HDR image as a separate file with a DNG extension.

7. Organizing Photos Using Photo Stacks

Making an HDR merge requires you to take multiple photos of the same scene to create one stunning final image. Making a stack is the best way to stay organized in your Lightroom catalog. It organizes your images into groups based on the time they were captured. 

You wouldn’t usually be shooting quickly enough for your photos to be automatically stacked; that is why you have the option to do it manually. Making a stack was introduced in Lightroom Classic CC 7.4 and has been included in all the subsequent versions. It is a fantastic feature for HDR photography because it allows you to organize and track which shots belong to which image. 

You will undoubtedly be making sure that you have several pictures to choose from, but organizing all those identical photos can be a bit difficult for you. To make a stack, Ctrl+click each image, then right-click to see the dropdown menu and choose to create a stack.

Advantages of Using Lightroom’s HDR Effect

1. It’s Easier to Use

The interface of Lightroom is very user-friendly; anyone can use and get the hang of it, as opposed to other editing software, such as Photoshop or Illustrator.

2. It Creates Natural-Looking HDR Images

Not everyone will see this as an advantage, but if you want to add garnish, over-saturated photographs, the HDR plug-ins can help greatly.

3. No Need For a Lot of Bracketed Images

You won’t need a lot of bracketed images; just two bracketed images are enough. One exposed at -2 stops while the other at +2 stops.

4. The Final Image Can Be Saved as a DNG File

These are not only smaller than a TIFF file; you can even process it in Lightroom just like any other DNG or Raw file. The most significant difference is that the exposure slider ranges from -10 to +10 stops instead of the standard -4 to +4. There are a ton of things in Lightroom you can work with when you make adjustments, such as the Shadows and Highlights slider.

5. Lightroom Aligns the Bracketed Sequence Automatically

If you have a handheld bracketed sequence, Lightroom can automatically align it. You can get the best result from bracketed photos with the help of a tripod.

6. Has Less Noise In the Shadow Areas

It creates less noise in the shadow areas than you expect from the regular single photo.


HDR is a great feature that allows you to get more details (shadows and highlights) in your photographs. It is pretty easy to create stunning HDR photos. To get this effect on your photos, you need to capture multiple images and combine them in Photoshop.