8 Easy Steps to Fake an HDR Look in Photoshop

This tutorial was originally written by KolNedra it’s so unbelievably easy to recreate, I had so much fun doing it. I’m reposting it here with step by step screenshots so you can have a visual guide of what’s going on (mostly for those who are still new to Photoshop). Or go visit the original tutorial.

If you’re still here then let’s get down to business…

But wait, what is HDR?

In image processing, computer graphics, and photography, high dynamic range imaging (HDRI or just HDR) is a set of techniques that allow a greater dynamic range of luminances between the lightest and darkest areas of an image than standard digital imaging techniques or photographic methods. – wikipedia.com

A real HDR photo is composed of 3 images (I hear some takes up to 7) of the same exact scene but each having a different level of exposure, then using an image editing software like Photo Matrix or Photoshop you will combine these 3 images into one dramatic photograph. It’s a bit tricky to accomplish especially if you’re a noob like me. An amazing skill to add to your belt and if you get the hang of it you will definitely deserve those bragging rights.

HDR samples from deviantart.com

by Roy Katalan @deviantart.com
by Roy Katalan @deviantart.com
by Viktor Wronek @deviantart
by Viktor Wronek @deviantart
by Kenant @deviantart
by Kenant @deviantart

OK let’s have some fun

First we need a nice image, any image will do but the effect goes well with landscape shots and try to get one with a good enough focus. For this tutorial you can borrow mine. It’s a cool shot of the Mt. Pinatubo crater, (Just click the link and “save image as”). Or use any stock photo you have.

Open your image in Photoshop

Step 1

We’ll call the original layer “LAYER 1″, now duplicate LAYER 1 by clicking and dragging it to the “create new layer” button and place it above the original layer.

step one

(rename this layer copy “LAYER 2″)

step two

Step 2

Change the Blending option of LAYER 2 to “Overlay”

step three

Output sample: after you apply the “Blending Change”

step three overlay

Step 3

Go to Image > Adjustments > Desaturate (SHIFT + CTRL + U)

adjust desaturate

Output sample: after you apply the “Image > Adjustment > Desaturate”

step three desaturate

Step 4

Now invert LAYER 2: Image > Adjustments > Invert (CTRL + I)

step four invert

Output sample: after you apply the “Image > Adjustment > Invert”

inverted desaturation

Step 5

And add a gaussian Blur to it (Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur) around 40 pixels

step five gaussian blur

gaussian blur

If you look at your “Layers” panel you should have something like this.

step five layers panel

Output sample: after applying “Gaussian Blur”

Step 6

Now duplicate LAYER 1 and place it above LAYER 2,

step six duplicate

Rename this layer “LAYER 3″

step six rename

Step 7

Change the blending type of LAYER 3 to “Linear Light”

step seven linear light

Step 8

Give LAYER 3 an opacity around 55%. And you’re done (For better results, tweak this percentage)

step eight change opacity

Now check this out

Our original image was taken with a Sony Cybershot Digital point and shoot, very handy to bring along on off road trails when going on nature hikes, lightweight and compact but the image quality is just adequate. With this tutorial originally by KolNedra we managed to go…

From this…

To this…

More faux HDR using this tutorial

You may notice that images with more colors to play with have better looking results.

fishing-boat
A fishing boat in Mersing
beach
Pulau Tioman weekend
pahang-street
pahang-street garden
sailboat
sailboat
skyline
skyline

Disclaimer: This is not how a real HDR is done and the quality is just similar to the real thing (not even close). Still it’s not that bad for a project that takes less than 5 minutes.