How to create HDR using a single image

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The secret of creating HDR image using only a single image revealed!

Recently, you must have seen those high-saturated and close-to-real photos which make you wonder how on earth was this photo clicked? Well, this blog covers almost each step that will get you the perfect HDR photo you would love to show off to your friends.

Today, we will learn how to create an HDR image using only a single frame (yes, you read it right, only a single frame).

This might make you search all your photos clicked in the past which you thought were not worth sharing with your friends on social media channels and turn them into a perfect HDR image. So, let’s get started:

1. Software required:

The software that I use is Adobe Photoshop CS5,  but other versions of Photoshop will do the job too.

If you do not have the Adobe Photoshop software, or want to give it a shot, you can download a free trial from Adobe.

2. Select your photo:

To get started, choose the photo you want to beautify. It can be any image, it would be great if the photo has a good amount of highlight and shadow variation.

*NOTE: Make sure you click the photo in RAW format to get the best output.

3. Open Adobe Photoshop

Once you have the image ready, open it in Photoshop. Make sure you open the RAW file to get the best HDR result.

4. Create multiple exposure files

This is the real trick! All you need to do is simply create multiple copies of the image you have selected my just changing the exposure by one stop each.

As shown in the image below, you just need to reduce/increase the exposure by one stop each and then save the file.

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Image 1: (original image) For this image, keep it as it is, i.e. exposure = 0.

Image 2: Increase the exposure by one stop, i.e. exposure = +1.

Image 3: Decrease the exposure by one stop, i.e. exposure = -1.

Now, you must be wondering how many copies should one create to get the perfect HDR. Well, it all depends on the image that you have selected. If it has less detailing, i.e. lesser variation of shadows and highlights go ahead by creating 3 images. If your image has a higher variation of shadows and highlights, best move will be to create total 5 copies (exposure = -2, -1, 0, +1, +2).

5. Next big step – Merge to HDR

Once you have saved all the image copies with varied exposures, now is the time for some real action. Click on File > Click on Automate > CLick on Merge to HDR pro….

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Once you click on Merge to HDR pro, you will see a window asking you to browse and select the source files (image copies we created in the previous step). Get started by selecting all the images, once done, click on OK button.

*Make sure you click on the ‘attempt to automatically align source images’ tab.

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6. The finisher move

You will be introduced to full screen window which will display your HDR image (You will be amazed by the brilliant result). That’s not all, you can make few changes here and there using the control panel on the right hand side. It is an art to further edit the HDR, but with practice you will surely master it.

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When you are satisfied with the result, click OK.

BOOM, this is it! You will now see the amazing result on your screen. :)

Save it and share with your friends and family.

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About Author

Kunal Malhotra
Kunal Malhotra, a photography enthusiast whose passion for photography started 6 years back during his college days. Kunal is also a photography blogger, based out of Delhi. He loves sharing his knowledge about photography with fellow aspiring photographers by writing regular posts on his blog: The Photography Blogger. Some of his favourite genres of photography are Product, Street, Fitness and Architecture.

  • Hi , congrats on creating your first blogPost , just want to know will i be able to do this on adobe photoshop7?

    • Kunal

      Sadly, i will have to asnwer this as a No. As per my knowledge, Photoshop CS2 version was the first by Adobe that had the option to create an HDR.

      Would advice you to get the lastest version of Photoshop, if possible. It is totally worth it. :)