photoshop creative

Produce HDR compositions

Posted in:
Tips & Tutorials, by Mark White
August 5, 2015

Give your pictures cinematic flair by using bright and exciting HDR effects


1. Crop and prime


Open your image and decide how you want your HDR picture to look. Cropping the image to portrait gives a movie-poster effect, but turning a background into an HDR image can also bring out bright colours find in nature.

2. Desaturated layer


Duplicate your background first and desaturate this layer by pressing Cmd/Ctrl+Shift+U. Change the blend mode to Overlay. If you like, add a Gaussian Blur to this layer. However, you may find that this is better suited to the final finished image.

3. Soft Light layer


Duplicate the original layer again and move it to the top of the stack. This layer is going to reintroduce the colour that the last layer removed. Set the blend mode to Soft Light and adjust the Opacity until you’re happy with the colour in the picture.

4. Sunrise layer


Add a new background – sunrises work well as they’re colourful. Place it into the photo and repeat the steps you made with the subject, duplicating it for a desaturated layer and an added-colour layer. Merge them, then change the blend mode to Multiply.

5. Begin brushing through


While this makes a cool double-exposure image as it is, we now want to add a mask to this. Select a relatively large, soft brush and just brush through so that you reveal the subjects in the photo and leave the sunrise in the background. Make sure you don’t brush too close to the edges.

6. Refine edge


Click on the Soft Light layer and Quick Select the subjects from the picture. Ctrl/right-click and select Refine Edge, before brushing to create the perfect selection. This is going to make it easier to finish brushing through the mask.

7. Finish masking


Now you have a border around the subjects, continue brushing through the mask with a smaller soft brush. Set Opacity to 25% and go over the subjects thoroughly enough to ensure that the new background doesn’t show over them.

8. Duplicate the background


HDR can make your image look extra grainy, but do you want high levels of detail all over? Duplicate the original layer, set the blend mode to Soft Light and brush until you’re left with everything you don’t want affected by the HDR effect.

9. Curves and gradient


Add an S-shaped Curve adjustment to bump up the contrast and create a black-ti-white gradient set to Overlay. Set both layers to 30% Opacity. These layers will bring out the saturation of the picture even further.

10. Warm or cool filter?


Add another adjustment layer, this time a Photo Filter, and decide whether you want to give a warm or cool atmosphere to the pictuure. Both can work in this example, thanks to the blues and oranges in the sky.

11. Add extra saturation


Turn up the saturation just a touch further with another adjustment layer, this time Hue/Saturation. HDR images are more saturated than ordinary ones, so try to find a nice colour balance. You can even tweak individual colours to bring out certain shades.

12. Apply finishing touches


Check your edges and shading around the subjects one more time. Study the masks more finely – make sure the hair looks believable. Add a soft Light layer of 30% and touch up anything that looks too bright with a big soft, black brush.

  • Really a practical and informative tutorial for everybody. I read it and appreciate for this post. Thank you.