Images created with the HDR technique, or High Dynamic Range, are often stunning and dramatic, with a lot of tonal depth. The tradition way is to capture a series of bracketed exposures of the same scene which are then blended together in post-processing. However, you can also fake this with the use of only one image and a photo editing program such as Photoshop. For this tutorial, we will be explaining how a single image can be edited to appear to have the HDR effect. Not all images look good with this effect and the ones that show the most success are ones that have lots of detail, textures or a moody sky.
Open your original image and then double-click on the background layer in the Layers palette. Move this layer over the Create new layer icon found at the base of the palette. Click on the eye icon next to the original layer to make it invisible. We now have a duplicate image which we can edit without touching the original file.
Highlight the visible layer and then click on Image>Adjustments>Shadow/Highlight. A pop-up window will appear. Tick the Show more options box at the bottom of the Layers palette in case this image editing option is not visible.
The Shadows/Highlight tool is great for bringing out the details or adding depth to the scene. For Shadow, we used the following settings: Amount = 30%, Tonal Width = 50%, Radius = 100%.
For the highlights, we used the following settings: Amount = 100%, Tonal Width = 50%, Radius = 100%. +40 was used for Color Correction and also for Mid-tone Contrast.
We will next increase the saturation. Go to the black/white Adjustment Layer and choose Hue/Saturation among the options. Increase the saturation to +60 (less if in RGB mode)
Select Levels from the adjustment layer menu and move the right slider towards the center and the middle slider slightly to the right. You will notice that the overall brightness has now increased.
For color correction, select Yellow from the Selective Color Options in the drop-down menu. Move the slider slightly from the middle to the left to decrease the yellow amount in the midtones.
HDR images are usually vivid but too much is not a good thing. You can tone down the colors with the use of the Selective Color adjustment layer. If there is still too much Magenta in the sky, add another Level adjustment layer and choose Magenta from the menu. Move the middle slider left to decrease its amount until the sky color looks accurate.
Set the image to fit to screen and check if you need to further edit. If you do, simply double-click on the black/white button on each layer to make the palette show up again and hit OK when you are satisfied.
By Allan Peterson