For photography, HDR describes a type of photo that captures a dynamic range that can’t be achieved in a single photograph. HDR stands for “high dynamic range” and it’s a clever way to work around difficult lighting situations. 

It’s quite rare to have perfect lighting when shooting landscapes. Often, the sun is shining bright creating contrasting dark shadows and bright highlights. 

Cameras these days often have very good dynamic range (meaning they can capture darker darks and lighter lights in a single photo) but sometimes this isn’t quite enough, especially when you can easily create your own HDR image.

This is a manual way to increase your dynamic range by taking multiple photos at different exposures and then merging them together. The simplest method is to take one photo exposed for highlights, one photo exposed for mid-tones and a third photo exposed for shadows. 

Take the photos

Take three photos at different exposure levels. For the best results, shoot RAW to capture as much data as possible. Also, use a tripod so that when you’re stacking the images afterward, they are lined up, so be sure the second and third shots are in the same position as the first shot

Then you just have to merge them together in Photoshop or Lightroom and now have an image with a very large dynamic range perfectly exposed for both shadows and highlights.

Merge your photos

To merge photos in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, first import your images. From there, select the images you want to stack. Then select Photo › Photo Merge › HDR. You can check Auto Tone to get a good starting point for an evenly toned image. If you check Auto Align, Lightroom will automatically correct for any slight change in camera position between shots.

Avoid over processing

HDR works best when it’s subtle. Heavily processed images can look unrealistic and overly saturated, so use a light touch. Watch out for halos or other signs of overprocessing, and pull back on the contrast and clarity if you need to. Avoid shooting scenes that have fast-moving objects like people or traffic.