HDR Adjustments


Today’s Question: Let’s say I have 3 images that I want to merge to HDR [high dynamic range] and I have made Develop Module adjustments to one or more of them. When I merge them to HDR, does the merge operation use the edited version of the images or the original unedited, versions?

Tim’s Quick Answer: If you use Lightroom to create the HDR image, the adjustments will be retained, but only as non-destructive adjustments that you can still refine when continuing to work with the HDR image in Lightroom’s Develop module. If you are sending the photos from Lightroom to another software tool for creating the HDR image, the adjustments will be applied to the actual pixel values that are created in most cases.

More Detail: As a somewhat “extreme” example, let’s assume you convert the original RAW captures to black and white in Lightroom. If you then assemble the RAW captures into an HDR result, you will have a DNG image that appears as a black and white HDR image.

However, because the adjustments you applied to the original RAW capture are non-destructive, the black and white interpretation for the HDR image is reversible. Simply choose the Color option under Treatment on the right panel, for example, and the HDR image will return to full color.

If, however, you sent the original RAW captures (with a conversion to black and white applied) to software outside of Lightroom for processing, the result will be a black and white image that can’t be reverted to the original color. In other words, the adjustments that had been applied to the original RAW captures will be “baked in” to the final DNG image that is created.

While Lightroom’s HDR processing doesn’t always produce results that are as good as what other software is capable of, this additional workflow flexibility is certainly an advantage when using Lightroom to create HDR images.