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Is it just me or is the LRc HDR functionality useless?

Engaged ,
Oct 04, 2021 Oct 04, 2021

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I pretty much never use LR's hdr merge function. I shoot a lot of bracketed images and it's just too clunky to work with lots of bracketed shots in LR. But occasionally I just have 1 or 2 sets of brackets. And once in a while I'll let LR take a crack at merging them. And everything time it does it seems completely useless to me. Because to my eyes, the merged image looks almost exactly the same as the middle bracketed shot. Maybe the highlights are just slightly turned down, or shadows turned up just a tiny bit. But it's such a small difference that it's useless. I always use a 3rd party HDR app.

 

Is the HDR functionality in LR just completely useless? Or am I doing something wrong?

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LEGEND ,
Oct 04, 2021 Oct 04, 2021

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Nope. I do not aggree. 

 

LrC Photo Merge to HDR, is conservative in tonality adjustments. Actually I should say strength. This is to keep it from going bokers/crazy on HDR as to not create that over HDR that so many people treat with absolute hatrid

 

Point is to have a higher dynamic range that you can take to your advantage. 

 

A few things to notice

 

Many Develop module sliders have more space, try out the white slider, see how it can be adjusted further, etc.

 

 

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New Here ,
May 02, 2023 May 02, 2023

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hello, i have similar problems, when i HDR merge the dng file generated doesnt have the dynamic range that the original file has, for example the overexposed area cannot be recovered while the original underexposed file(bracket) can, is that because of the DNG could not contain that much info?

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Mentor ,
Oct 04, 2021 Oct 04, 2021

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Have you read the help files or watched any of the tutorials? 

Perhaps you're more interested in tone-mapping than your are hdr?

 

Your complaint here is also mostly useless, since you haven't shared any of the results that you believe are unsatisfactory.

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Community Expert ,
Oct 04, 2021 Oct 04, 2021

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Maybe you are indeed doing something wrong. If you bracket a scene that your camera could cope with in one single exposure anyway, then merging these brackets to HDR will not really add anything. That's because a single exposure (usually the middle one) already contains all the tones of that scene. Sounds exactly like what you are complaining about...

 

-- Johan W. Elzenga

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LEGEND ,
Oct 04, 2021 Oct 04, 2021

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Oh, and how large of an exposure bracket are you using?

Might be within your cametas dynamic range.

 

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Community Expert ,
Oct 04, 2021 Oct 04, 2021

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No, Not completely useless, but rather very helpful when needed.

ie. In situations where the Range of brightness in a scene exceeds the dynamic range of the camera sensor-

Combining two different exposures,  one for highlight detail, one for shadow detail, will result in an HDR (DNG) image that allows greater latitude in editing adjustments in LrC.

And you may not even need a "Middle" exposure frame.

My example-

Frame 1-  Exposed for interior: over-exposes the exterior

Frame 2- Exposed for Exterior: under-exposes interior

Frame 3-  The HDR produced by LrC- combining 1&2- (and some Develop adjustments)

2021-10-05 07_03_53-Clipboard.jpg

The "greater latitude" will also be evident in the slider adjustments of the Develop module-

eg. The NEF Frame#1 has  10 stops of slider adjustment  -5 <> +5

2021-10-05 07_14_29-Roberts Catalog-v10 - Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Classic - Develop.jpg

The DNG Frame#3 has 20 stops of adjustment  -10 <> +10

2021-10-05 07_26_51-Roberts Catalog-v10 - Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Classic - Develop.jpg

I frequently use 'Under/Over' frames where the 'light' is very contrasty and a HDR will result in a better image.-

2021-10-05 07_32_09-Roberts Catalog-v10 - Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Classic - Library.jpg

Regards. My System: Lightroom-Classic 13.3.1 Photoshop 25.9, ACR 16.3.1, Lightroom 7.3, Lr-iOS 9.0.1, Bridge 14.1.0, Windows-11.

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LEGEND ,
Oct 04, 2021 Oct 04, 2021

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@Rob_Cullen 

The -10<>+10 range is useless and only serves to make the slider more sensitive and harder to use.  I have asked many times for someone to provide a LrC HDR that needed the larger range for Exposure and have yet to see one.  I have created a Profile using ACR to increase the range of Highlights/Shadows for HDR and found that to be useful on a few occasions.

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Community Expert ,
Oct 04, 2021 Oct 04, 2021

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The -10<>+10 range is useless- Rethinking my post- 'Exposure' was possibly the wrong point to discuss.

Nevertheless- The concept of an image with greater dynamic range is very useful for me.

I am curious about your 'Profile'. Presuming that you would apply the profile to the created HDR image file?

 

Regards. My System: Lightroom-Classic 13.3.1 Photoshop 25.9, ACR 16.3.1, Lightroom 7.3, Lr-iOS 9.0.1, Bridge 14.1.0, Windows-11.

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LEGEND ,
Oct 04, 2021 Oct 04, 2021

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@Rob_Cullen 

 

Download the Profiles SDK here

https://helpx.adobe.com/camera-raw/digital-negative.html?mv=affiliate&mv2=red#resources 

 

The following paragraph is in the documentation where you can create the higher Shadows/Highlights profile

 

Screen Shot 2021-10-04 at 4.47.38 PM.jpg

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Community Expert ,
Oct 04, 2021 Oct 04, 2021

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My recommendation is, not to forget about the Contrast adjustment as well as Exposure: these two are effective at doing the "heavy" input related tonal work especially when it is from a HDR source.

 

Contrast adjustment is weakly image adaptive and well behaved in that role.

 

And then it's best IMO to treat Shadows and Highlights, Whites and Blacks as output related, dependent "tweaking" adjustments. Used this way, IOW not asking them to do the main tone mapping, their local-contrast intensifying aspect will accordingly not get out of hand - and nor will they "run out of power". To the contrary, one may even find that after setting Contrast suitably, the needed Shadows adjustment may be a darkening one (if not a lightening one, or nothing); and vice versa for Highlights, etc. 

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New Here ,
May 02, 2023 May 02, 2023

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hello, i have similar problems, when i HDR merge the dng file generated doesnt have the dynamic range that the original file has, for example the overexposed area cannot be recovered while the original underexposed file(bracket) can, is that because of the DNG could not contain that much info?

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Community Expert ,
Oct 04, 2021 Oct 04, 2021

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I use it a lot, and find it generally does a good job; however I usually tweak the sliders a bit after the HDR is generated to reduce the highlights and lighten the shadows. It does NOT provide that over-processed grungy effect that was so popular a few years ago. In fact, I've re-edited many of the HDR's that I previously processed using Photomatix and have deleted the Photomatix version.

 

Jill C., Forum Volunteer

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Community Expert ,
Oct 05, 2021 Oct 05, 2021

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There has to be a substantial difference in exposure between the shots, see post by @JohanElzenga .

I find LR's HDR function excellent, here's a typical example of an interior with a window.

 

image_2021-10-05_104405.png

 

image_2021-10-05_105043.png

 

image_2021-10-05_104504.png

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New Here ,
May 02, 2023 May 02, 2023

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hello, I have similar problems, when i HDR merge the dng file generated doesnt have the dynamic range that the original file has, for example the overexposed area cannot be recovered while the original underexposed file(bracket) can, is that because of the DNG could not contain that much info? Thank you!

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Community Expert ,
May 03, 2023 May 03, 2023

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In my experience the LrC merged file allows good recovery of bright detail provided at least one of the included source photos has included that detail. Some people recommend merging several quite close-bracketed exposures for HDR, just 1 or 2 stops separated - but I suggest merging fewer exposures that are quite widely spaced in their exposure bracketing, will usually work at least as well, sometimes better. 

 

When adjusting an HDR, the Exposure and the Contrast adjustments become much 'stronger' with more stops of range. Contrast (in particular) is I think often largely forgotten about, but with HDR becomes more primary IMO. Only once that basic tonality has been established (sliders at top of Basic panel) can such adjustments as Shadows and Highlights lower down, operate to the intended effect. The latter sliders are not really meant for the heavy tonal "lifting" in my opinion.

 

Thinking of this HDR processing as involving a "re-exposure" is not too far off the mark, as I see it.

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LEGEND ,
May 03, 2023 May 03, 2023

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I have yet to see a LrC HDR image that requires the increased range of the Exposure Slider.  I have requested an example several times.  All the increased range does is make the slider more "touchy" where it is much more difficult to do precise adjustments.  

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Community Expert ,
May 03, 2023 May 03, 2023

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I resort to the scrubby slider or the numbers sometimes in such cases. I guess this must depend on the bias of your input photos' bracketing, vs the desired output tonality. If it's bracketed equally both ways more or less, there would be less need for adjustment range. I'll dig out some examples later, review what actual Exposure values I have needed in practice. My main thought was really, that Exposure and Contrast have got slightly different roles to play in this usage.

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New Here ,
May 03, 2023 May 03, 2023

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i shot 3 photos wiht 1 ev between each, the hdr merge used to be working, not anymore for some reason

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Community Expert ,
May 03, 2023 May 03, 2023

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Adobe recommends three images with 2EV in between. HDR still works fine for me and nothing has changed in Lightroom Classic 12.3 in this respect.

 

-- Johan W. Elzenga

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New Here ,
May 04, 2023 May 04, 2023

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it doesnt work still, even after i reinstalled lrc

 

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Community Expert ,
Oct 05, 2021 Oct 05, 2021

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Yes, I think that must be emphasized. HDR is not a gimmick to get grungy pictures. That has nothing to do with HDR, but with (bad) tone mapping. Tone mapping is also used in HDR after images are merged, to get back to a normal dynamic range, but they are not the same. You can tone map a single image too, and make it just as grungy. These images are often called "HDR", but they have nothing to do with real HDR.

 

Real HDR effectively extends the dynamic range of the sensor. There is little or no reason to use it if the scene your are shooting does not exceed the dynamic range of the sensor in the first place.

 

-- Johan W. Elzenga

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Engaged ,
Oct 06, 2021 Oct 06, 2021

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Thanks for the replies from everyone. Sorry I did not respond sooner, I didn't get any notifications that there were any replies. 

Just to clarify - i'm not trying to get a 'grunge' look or anything. It is truly a high dynamic range I'm working with. Usually with a dimly lit interior and a bright exterior outside a window. Or occasionally an exterior scene with bright sunlight and hard shadows. In most cases I usually do 2stops of exposure with 3 images, sometimes 5.

I'll post some example images tomorrow to show you what LRc is generating when let it do an HDR merge.

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Community Expert ,
Oct 07, 2021 Oct 07, 2021

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"What LrC is generating" when it does a Merge HDR, is not a picture - it is only some raw material (quasi-Raw material, to be more exact) from which you can then make your picture.

 

The initial starting-point preview that you see is necessarily going to look very similar to the initial starting-point preview that you see with a single Raw, because the same default LrC processing is doing nothing different.

 

The purpose and point of using a merged HDR source instead of a single Raw source, is that - and only to the extent that a broader range of separable tone gradations are a) present in the scene, and b) included in the bracketed exposures' combined dynamic range - the image will then be that bit more potentially adjustable across these broader available tone gradations.

 

The key word there IMO being, "potentially" - there is no obligation to use this added headroom! And AFAICT the default initial processing makes no particular attempt to present any wider a dynamic range than normal. That is for you to then judge, and explore, and practice whatever restraint or exuberance the picture calls for.

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Community Expert ,
Oct 07, 2021 Oct 07, 2021

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If you check the Auto Tone checkbox in the merge to HDR dialog, then Lightroom should show you a preview that is not simply the same as a preview from one of the brackets, but an attempt to create a good result from the merged HDR. It should be much closer to what @Per Berntsen shows in his screenshot, and you should see a clear difference compared to the individual brackets, but almost always it needs further adjustments.

 

-- Johan W. Elzenga

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