Lightroom Rapid Editing Plus for HDR

After I completed the development of Lightroom Rapid Editing PLUS for Landscapes, Cityscapes and People, it was time to focus on the HDR Collection.

Lightroom Rapid Editing PLUS for People

Lightroom Rapid Editing PLUS addresses the deficiency in Lightroom’s functionality. Due to the complexity of RAW processing, Lightroom lacks one of the most valuable functionalities of any editing program—the ability to change opacity.


In one of my earlier posts, I shared my method on how to overcome Lightroom’s deficiency and hack the opacity functionality.

The concept is simple: for each preset in the HDR Collection, I created six additional versions by generating different opacity versions in 10% increments. I started with 40% because the versions where the opacity range was between 10% and 30% were too subtle to see any effects and produced totally useless results.

Lightroom Rapid Editing PLUS for HDR will be a very valuable addition when editing scenes with a wide dynamic range.

Let me explain.

I started using the HDR photography technique about six years ago. It was a time consuming, complex and sometimes confusing process especially since I had to use a dedicated HDR software like Photomatix.

The biggest drawbacks of earlier HDR programs was the high amount of digital noise they produced and the way they contributed to the degradation of the images. To compensate for the excess digital noise, I had to use a very aggressive setting in noise reduction programs to produce a final HDR image that, ultimately, was a “soft,” lower quality photo.

The big change happened when Adobe introduced their Photo Merge for HDR module in Lightroom 6. The new process allowed photographers to create HDR images directly in Lightroom, producing a final HDR image in a RAW format without losing any quality or modifying any pixels of the source images.

It was a huge development for photographers regularly using HDR technology in their photography.

In general, it allowed us to be aggressive and push the RAW files further and further when editing HDR images.

For me in particular, the introduction of Photo Merge for HDR allowed me to adopt the Lightroom Rapid Editing for HDR workflow, making it both seamless and straightforward.

Today, the HDR workflow is fairly similar to traditional RAW editing with only one extra step in the whole process. When dealing with HDR images, before you can progress to RAW editing you have to merge multiple files in Lightroom. The process takes 1-2 minutes at most.

Now, HDR photography is accessible to everybody, even to the most amateur beginners.

But, we all know that when we push HDR images hard during the editing process, it is easy to over process them. This is where Lightroom Rapid Editing PLUS comes into play. It lets us dial down the editing effect to make it milder and more pleasing.

The ability to dial down the effect of any preset from the HDR collection gives us unprecedented flexibility when editing high contrast scenes.

Let me show you what I mean.

Lightroom Rapid Editing PLUS Workflow for HDR Photograpy

For the demonstration of the proposed workflow, I purposely selected a photo with a high dynamic range. I took it before sunset in the Valley of the Gods in Utah.

The image features a dark foreground and an extremely bright sky in the background. From the very beginning, I knew I had to use HDR to cover the entire range of light.

I took three bracketed shots with 1EV intervals.


Step 1: HDR Merge

The first step of the HDR Plus workflow is to combine three bracketed shots into HDR image using Photo Merge to HDR functionality of Lightroom.

Lightroom Rapid Editing PLUS for People

Step 2: Exposure Adjustment

Select the image and evaluate the exposure value. If it needs any adjustment, use the TOOLKIT or the Lightroom Exposure slider in the Basic Panel to set the exposure value to achieve the desired result.

Rapid Editing TOOLKIT Exposure Adjustment

Lightroom Basic Panel Exposure Adjustment


Step 3: Style Preset

Open the preset folder PhotoTraces Vol.4 - HDR PLUS  and start applying the presets to the selected photo. The goal here is to find an interesting look, something you can improve upon later.

I suggest starting with the 100% versions because that is how it was intended to work when the effect was first created.

In my case, I selected the preset (Photomatix 4) which produces the very strong editing effect on purpose, to better demonstrate the workflow.

As you can see the image at the present state is not usable. It is too saturated and too contrasted. We have to dial down the effect by using Rapid Editing PLUS.​


Step 4: Setting Up Interface

Open the Navigator window above the Presets panel if it is not already open.

Drag the Lightroom left panel boundary all the way to the right, making it as wide as possible. The goal is to have the biggest possible preview in the Navigator panel.

Lightroom Rapid Editing PLUS for People

Step 5: Playing With the Opacity

Move the mouse over the Happy Morning preset versions with the various opacity values without clicking on them. By doing this, you can see a real-time preview of the effects in the Navigator window, which will help you identify the editing effect you like the most.


Step 6: Standard Rapid Editing

When you see the version you like the best, click on it to apply the effect on the main image.

In this particular case I selected Photomatix 4 70% version.​

From that point, you can use a combination of TOOLKIT adjustments to fine tune the photo using the standard Lightroom Rapid Editing approach

I applied the following TOOLKIT adjustments:  

9. Open Shadow +++
21 Vibrance ++
31 Vignetting
39 Sky Blue Darker ++ +

And here is the Lightroom Rapid Editing Formula: Photomatix 4 70%(9, 21, 31, 39)

Lightroom Rapid Editing PLUS for People

I created three more versions of the same capture using Rapid Editing PLUS Workflow I outlined earlier.

Under each final photo you can find the Lightroom Rapid Editing formula.

Lightroom Rapid Editing PLUS for People

HDR Base 1 90% (9, 17, 21, 24, 31)

Lightroom Rapid Editing PLUS for People

Shining Diamonds 80% (8, 17, 22, 31)

Lightroom Rapid Editing PLUS for People

Sedona 90% (1, 9, 22, 31)


by Viktor Elizarov
I am a travel photographer and educator from Montreal, Canada, and a founder of PhotoTraces. I travel around the world and share my experiences here. Feel free to check my Travel Portfolio and download Free Lightroom Presets.

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