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!


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

Is Lightroom any quicker after the latest updates? And a suggestion from me for an additional feature in Lightroom please Adobe.

Well I am trying a bulk HDR Merge in Lightroom as we speak, and I have got 10 HDR Merges running at the moment before it started to creak.

I have stopped at 10 to see how quickly Lightroom catches up with itself, giving me a few minutes to write this post.  I never got to 10 before so that suggests an improvement in performance.

Which leads me into something that would be a great addition to Lightroom. I have 30 bracketed sets of images in one folder. At the moment I have to select the images I want to merge manually, ask Lightroom to do this the (using shift, Ctrl H), then move on to the next image and do the same.  I have to do the same thing 30 times.

If only there was a way of selecting all the images in the folder and asking Lightroom to just merge all the bracketed sets - now that would be something.  I could ask Lightroom to do this in the background and leave it to it and get on with something else.

How about it Adobe? So many of us have all our images in Lightroom, and would benefit from this additional automation? 

Back to the HDR Merges. I think I have asked too much at once. Lightroom has not produced one HDR dng file yet - it is working on 11 sets of images at once though! 

I will try one at once and see how that progresses. 

Rick McEvoy Photography - Bournemouth, Poole, Sandbanks, London, Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Hampshire, Somerset, Wiltshire

Lightroom Tip of the Week - what exactly is the HDR Merge feature in Lightroom

HDR Merge in Lightroom.

This is where you merge together different exposures of the same scene to produce a natural looking HDR image. 

HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. I will write a post all about HDR, but for now just think of HDR using Lightroom like this. 

If you take a bracketed set of images, using my Canon 6D as an example, the camera takes three images. 

The first image is the correct exposure. 

The second image will be two stops under exposed. Or darker. 

The third image will be two stops over exposed. Or lighter. 

The HDR Merged file using Lightroom will have the darker bits of the dark image, and the lighter bits of the lighter image, and all the other bits in the middle. 

Thats all. 

So that is HDR using LIghtroom explained in a nutshell. 

The point of this post is HDR Merge in Lightroom. I do not use other HDR software. I do my HDR Merges in Lightroom.


Because I like the natural effect and the fact that Lightroom is extending the dynamic range captured in a natural looking image. 

It works for me. 

Have you tried it? If not, do. It's great. And easy to do honest. 

Rick McEvoy Photograpy

Lightroom Tip of the Week- HDR Merge in Lightroom explained. 

Request for a new feature for Lightroom CC please Adobe. Batch HDR Merge processing.


Request for a new feature for Lightroom CC please Adobe.

Batch HDR Merge processing.

Is this possible? Seems a bit backward to have to manually go through the process for each image set. I am writing this as I wait for a batch of 45 images to be processed into HDR shots. This is a set of architectural interior photography images I am working on for a client.

The frustrating thing is that this feature is so good I use the same settings for most images, as I can tweak them after in the newly created DNG file.

Possibly a plug-in someone can produce?

I know you can do batch stuff in Photoshop but I want this in Lightroom please. Photoshop for me is for removing gravel and builders debris.

All it needs to do is to apply HDR Merge to a selection of bracketed images, then pop the newly created Dng file into the top of the stack.

Yes, this will take a long time, the more images you choose the longer it takes. But that’s fine for me. When I import from a shoot I build Smart Previews and 1:1 previews on import. It takes a long time to do this to 16GB of files at a time, but I know this so plan my day so I go and do something else like have a beer and come back to it much later. And the importing is done, along with the initial develop using keywords.

It is then that I have the painful job of creating the HDR files. Bracketed set by bracketed set. This is even worse as the auto stack by capture time is such a brilliant feature.

If I knew anything about this, I’d do it myself! I might just put the idea to some developers and see what they think! Yeah right of course I won’t.

But one day you never know – someone might read this who knows how to create such a feature.

Back to the merge for me…….

Portfolio Day 4 - Image 1 - what I did in Lightroom and Photoshop to get my finished construction photography shot

Now where were we. Oh yes. Processing my construction photography image.

Yesterday I wrote all about the capture of the base images. Today I will talk about the processing.

But to talk about the processing I have to talk about the capture. I touched on this yesterday, but the point I want to make here is that for my architectural photography and industrial photography I shoot my version of HDR. Not the oversaturated grungy look you might be familiar with (popular amongst non-photographers apparently!!), but a natural version that is used solely to capture as much of the dynamic range of a scene as possible. Digital cameras might be clever but they are not as good as our eyes, and they cannot (yet) capture the full dynamic range that we see. So a little help from technology is needed and the way HDR Merge is designed to work in Lightroom helps us get just a little closer to capturing what we actually see.

So what I do is this.

I set my camera to take a set of three bracketed shots. One the correct exposure. The next two stops under exposed. The third two stops over exposed.

That is image capture in a nutshell. There is more, but I want to talk about processing. I will write separately, and probably in great detail about this once my portfolio has been completed.

So the starting point for this post is that I know which image I want to edit. The first stage of editing, i.e. choosing the images, has been carried out.

Now I am talking about how I edited this image. This is not how I edit every image, just this one. That (as with everything else is another story – what I do for each and very image.

So time to concentrate.

On import into Lightroom I apply my own develop pre-set. I have one of these for architectural photography. This is the starting point, and applies some of the basic things I do to each and every image to save me doing them. They are

Contrast + 50

Highlights -50

Shadows + 48

Sharpening – amount – 100

Sharpening – radius – 1.0

Lens correction – enable Profile Correction

Lens Correction – Remove Chromatic Aberration

That’s all. Nothing major, and these are applied to every image on import. Saves me a job, and is the beginning of that consistent output.

Next, I look at the three bracketed files, to make sure they are all fine to work with. The three files were good so I selected the 2 stop under and 2 stop over exposed shots and selected HDR Merge. And Lightroom then magically merges the two files.

I leave on ghost removal, align images and auto-tone - it takes longer but I want consistency. I like what auto-tone does, and you can always bring it back if you want. And don’t forget, Lightroom creates a brand new dng file, which in effect is a new RAW file, leaving the two original images unaffected. And you can go change the auto-tone settings to your hearts content.

So next in Lightroom I did the following

Custom balance from a neutral in the scene which was from a selection from the window frame which I know to be a RAL grey colour meaning my colours are spot on.

Exposure – boosted by nearly a stop – I want my images to be bright and punchy.

Highlights -100

Shadows + 70

These are the HDR merge auto tone settings which I was happy with.

Whites – 15

Blacks + 15

Just gentle tweaks for this shot

Clarity + 50

Vibrance + 25

Next I boosted the saturation of the orange (+22), yellow (+10) and blue (+26).

I boosted the luminance of the green (+26) and dropped the blue (-41).

These are detailed colour adjustments made using the target assisted tool in the HSL panel.

Localised dodging and burning to balance out the highlights and the shadows.

Finally, a vertical lens correction.

And that is it done. Sorry forgot spot removal as my sensor had been exposed to quite a lot on building sites so was quite bad.

And then, after all that, into Photoshop where I used the clone stamp, content aware fill and spot healing brush to tidy up debris and remove the handrail and the van.

All done.


Image 1 done.

I promise image two will be much much slicker!!!