Create A HDR Like Effect With Lightroom – Free Tutorial

tutorial 3

HDR by definition means High Dynamic Range, it’s a technique where you take three or more shots at different exposures from darkest to lightest and merge them into HDR image. High Dynamic Range combines the best parts of the overexposed, underexposed and balanced shots to create a dramatic image with beautiful shadows and highlights.  Unfortunately it’s not possible to create a real HDR image in Lightroom 5, (although you can do it in Lightroom 6), but you can make your image look like HDR image by processing it the certain way and in this tutorial I will show you how to do it step by step. I chose this particular image because it has a lot of colour in it and HDR effect will bring the colours out and make them pop! So choose anything will lots of colour or metal and import the image into Lightroom.

2Let’s start with Basic panel. Turn Highlights all the way down and Shadows all the up. Then adjust white point by holding ALT button (you’ll notice that screen turns black when you press it). Click down and move slider to the right while holding ALT key until you see a little bit of detail showing up. Then adjust the black point the same way but this time move the slider to the left (screen will turn white this time). So click down and move slider to the left until you see some details showing, I usually move back slider further than white one. After add a little contrast and turn Clarity all the way up. Turn Vibrance to around 50 and Saturation to around 20.

3 Now our image starts to look like HDR shot, because colours are over saturated and mid tones are sharp because of the high Clarity level.

Now we are going to add graduated filter to make the sky darker. Select Graduated Filter ( M ), make sure it is on Exposure mode and bring it down a few stops. In this care I chose around – 60 because details in the details in the sky were really burned out, the number will vary on each image it is usually lower then here. Apply the Graduated filter by clicking and dragging it down or up. You can also apply it to the bottom of the image if you like.

4Let’s use Adjustment brush tool (K) and add some more Clarity to our image. Bring Clarity all the up, Exposure down just a touch and apply it to middle area which was not affected by graduated filter.

5If you think that it’s not enough and want to add even more clarity, you can either select a new brush and paint over again or right click on it and selecting duplicate.  This way you will duplicate the brush and save some time.



Now our image really starts to look like HDR shot. P.s. people look very bad in HDR pictures so try to use photographs without people.

Next think we are going to do is adjust the Detail panel. Turn Sharpening up to around 80, in this case I used smaller amount, but usually it’s around 80. Then turn Luminance to around 40. If you notice dead pixels showing up (red or blue dots) then move Colour slider to the right until they are gone.

7The last thing we’re going to do is add a vignette. Lets go to Effects panel move the slider down a bit. If you move the slider to the left it will add a black vignette and on the other hand if you move the slider to the right it will add a white vignette. I usually use black one.

8 And that’s pretty much it, we have created HDR image from a single shot.


If you ever wondered how to achieve the HDR effect, here you have it. As you can see from before and after pictures, the change is dramatic. Of course it’s not a real HDR but it definitely looks like it. All we’ve done was adjust the basic panel, add graduated filter to the top and the bottom of the image, add Clarity using addjustment brush and lastly create a slight vignette. It’s relatively quick and easy to do.

If you liked this tutorial be sure to hit like and share buttons! See you in the next tutorial!


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