Tutorial: Pseudo HDR Effect

So I have always loved HDR photography. Well, almost always. Some people take it just a little too far, into the realm of thats-no-longer-photography.  But the effect is so amazing, if you know how to control it!! For those who aren’t familiar with HDR, that stands for High Dynamic Range photography. HDR photographs are incredibly vivid, and allow photographers to create rich and fantastic images that kick your preconceived notions in the metaphorical groin.  The wide range of tones makes sure that shadows don’t get lost in darkness and highlights aren’t completely blown out.  Using HDR imaging, you can create images like these:


(Photo credit Matthew Sullivan)

The detail in these images is so rich you could just eat it with a spoon. HDR is especially fantastic for landscapes because of the amazing detail created in the skies, grass, water, etc. Normally, an HDR image is created by combining multiple images of different exposures.  This way you have all the information from the brightest whites to the darkest shadows in full detail. However, I found a technique in photoshop that mimics the effect of HDR without combining multiple images.  In order to create master works of HDR like those above, this probably won’t work.  But to achieve a subtle HDR effect in your own images, this is perfect! It allows you to create a greater range of tone while maintaining the reality of the image.

Here are the steps in Photoshop:

1. Duplicate image to a second layer.
2. Image->Adjustments->Desaturate second layer. (Make it black and white.)
3. Image->Adjustments->Invert second layer. (Make it a negative.)
4. Do a 64 pixel gaussian blur on the second layer. (Filter-> Blur-> Gaussian Blur)
5. Set the second layer to Soft Light.  This completes the effect.
(optional, but Heather approved final step)
6. Add a curves layer to the completed image and give a slight S curve to add a punch of contrast.

How simple is that? I tried this effect on a random picture I had and this is the difference that it makes.

Flat and boring…

Suddenly – WHABAM. More details!

Needless to say, I was pretty pleased with the result. So try it yourself and let me know how things go! Thanks go to haklabs.com for the tutorial idea.  And for more information on how to achieve real HDR, check out all these tutorials posted on speckyboy.com.  I’ll eventually get around to trying some real HDR goodness, but for now, cheating the system makes me feel pretty amazing.


This entry was posted in Tutorial.

One Comment

  1. Sam June 18, 2012 at 12:47 am #

    Thanks for sharing the technique with us all! I can’t wait to try it out on some less-than-great-looking photos I’ve got!

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *