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“HDR Lightroom Workflow” is part of the HDR Photography series on PhotoTraces. You can find the rest of the articles here: HDR Photography.
Sunset at Moonstone Beach (California)
I took the featured image three years ago on the same evening I took photo below.
I published it three years ago immediately after I returned from my driving trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco.
The photo became my signature capture because I used it to illustrate my complete HDR workflow using Photomatix as the main HDR tool.
A lot has changed in my photography over the last three years. My workflow is completely different now, not to mention that I shoot and process photos differently as well.
Today, I decided to use the photo I took during the same sunset three years ago to demonstrate the HDR workflow that I use today.
Two big changes contributed to the evolution of my HDR workflow. The first was the introduction of the HDR Photo Merge module in Lightroom allowing me to bypass dedicated HDR programs like Photomatix in my editing process. The second was the development of Lightroom Rapid Editing, which simplified and streamlined both my entire workflow and HDR.
If I started my editing in Lightroom three years ago, I would quickly jump to Photomatix. Next, I made additional adjustments in Lightroom and, in the final steps, I did some serious cleaning in Photoshop to remove any HDR artifacts introduced by Photomatix.
As a result of these changes, my workflow is much faster—I spend less time editing photos likely by a factor of three. Plus, the final image I create is much cleaner and sharper. I call this a “win-win” solution.
It was a typical sunset shooting setup. I used a tripod and took a series of bracketed shots, 5 shots in total at 1EV (one stop) intervals.
Camera: Canon 60D
Lens: Sigma 10-18mm
Focal Length: 10mm
Shooting Mode: Aperture Priority (A)
Shutter Speed: 1/30s
Bracketing: 3 (-1, 0, 1)
Tripod: FEISOL Tournament CT-3442 – Check my FEISOL Tournament CT-3442 ReviewBallhead: FEISOL CB-40D
HDR Lightroom Processing
It was an HDR processing workflow when I take a multiple bracketed shots and merge them into an HDR image with the extended dynamic range.
I used the Photo Merge for HDR module of Lightroom, which was introduced in version 6 to combine bracketed shots into an HDR image in DNG format.
Here is the first change in my new HDR workflow; I do not have to use all 5 bracketed images to produce a clean HDR image. Now I only take 3 brackets at 2EV (two stops) intervals and Lightroom does not have any problems to merge them together.
This change allowed me to take less photos.
I used the Crop tool and the Lens Correction adjustments to improve the composition. I straightened the horizon, fixed the barrel distortion and made the composition tighter.
I used the Lightroom Rapid Editing workflow next.
The Lightroom Preset Editing Formula: Sunrise (9, 13, 16, 21, 32)
Normally, I would jump to Photoshop for some cleaning and noise reduction with Topaz DeNoise, but I wanted to demonstrate that Photoshop is optional in this case and you can start and finish the entire HDR workflow in Lightroom.