HDR Merge in Lightroom - how I do it

The next job is to merge all the bracketed sets of images in Lightroom.

Remember these three photos that I posted on Friday?

 Travel photography, Santroini, Greece by Rick McEvoy Photography
 Travel photography, Santroini, Greece by Rick McEvoy Photography
 Travel photography, Santroini, Greece by Rick McEvoy Photography

Well here is the fourth image - the HDR Merged image.

The caldera of Santorini by Rick McEvoy - photographer in Santorini

The caldera of Santorini by Rick McEvoy - photographer in Santorini

This is the new file, which is the HDR merged image.

How I do this? Well its quite straightforward.

First - how do I take the images?

Firstly, I take three photos using the auto-bracketing function in my Canon 6D.

  • The first images is the correct exposure - 1/40th second, F22, ISO 400
  • The second image is two stops under exposed - 1/160th second, F22, ISO 400
  • The third image is two stops over exposed - 1/10th second, F22, ISO 400

As this is all about processing images in Lightroom I will this here for now - the point is that I want to capture more of the lights and darks than are in the original image capture.

How do I do an HDR Merge in Lightroom?

According to Scott Kelby, and he should know, the way Lightroom has been desigend you only need to merge the under and over exposed images. There is no point in using the correctly exposed image. Try it and see.

The new images are exactly the same.

So I select these two images, and use the Lightroom keyboard shortcut Control H (H for HDR - nice one Adobe).

And this dialogue box appears.

Lightroom HDR Merge box 13072018.PNG

There are a couple of options here.

Auto Align - I leave this checked. It does exactly what it says it does. Even though I take most of my photos on a tripod I still leave it checked.

Auto Settings - If you check this box Lightroom will give you a preview of the processing it thinks the image needs.

You can see the difference with Auto Settings checked.

Lightroom HDR Merge box 2 13072018.PNG

With the first image I try both ways, and go with what works for. More about doing this to more than one image in a minute.

Deghost Amount - I leave on high. Any areas where there is movement from one image to another will have a red mask over it. This is things like trees that have moved in the wind - we all want them sharp after all.

I always leave the Show Deghost Overlay selected - as there is no red on this image there is no deghosting, so I should turn this to None.

But I don't - this doesnt do any harm to an image (as far as I am aware), it just takes longer as Lightroom has more work to do.

The last check box is Create Stack - this is a new feature in Lightroom that I have not used - I stack the bracketed sets of images when sorting them out after import, and add each new image to the stack. As I am only using two of the three bracketed images if I select this option it puts the new merged photo in a new stack, leaving the original image on its own, so I do this manually - it doesn't take long.

And then I had a thought - this new feature could work for me.

I said before that you only need to use two of the three images - if I use all three images I get exactly the same results, and if I use Create Stack this will put all four images in a stack. And this is one less thing to do.

And yes I have just tried this and it worked nicely. And Lightroom even collapsed the stack after - that is two things less for me to do.

Sorry for the digression - back to the creation of the first HDR Merged file

The message "Photo Merge added to tasks" appears, and Lightroom creates the new image in the background. I wait for this message so I know that this is happening.

Once I am happy with the first image, this is what I do to the rest of the images.

How to HDR Merge lots of images quickly in Lightroom

This is the good stuff. There is a not so well known keybaord shortcut

Shift, Control H

I select the next two images, use this keyboard shortcut and guess what - Lightroom starts the HDR Merge process in the background using the last settings. There is no dialogue box. It just gets on with it.

And once you have done that - as I said above - I wait for the message "Photo Merge added to tasks" - select the next two images, hit the shortcut again and Lightroom starts working on the next HDR Merge.

And then I just keep on going.

I can do more than 30 merges at a time.

I tend to select as many bracketed sets as I can and then go for a cuppa or a beer and leave Lightroom to it.

When I get back I add the new image to the original stack - this is quite quick - select the four images, click on the newly created new file, which has the extension -HDR.dng, then use the shortcut Control G and the four images are in the stack with the new image at the top! I do this for all the images, it doesn not take long, and that is HDR Merge done!

That is what I wrote before I realised that if I use the three images, and the new Create Stack feature, I don't need to do these two last things - Lightroom does them for me!

Summary

I hope that this helps, and that you now know how to use HDR Merge in Lightroom - please ask any questions in the comments box or email - check out my home page for details.

Rick McEvoy Photography - How to use Lightroom