Managing HDR Images


Today’s Question: Can you offer your thoughts on the issue of HDR [high dynamic range] photos and if it makes sense to keep all of them or cull through delete some or all the captures?

Tim’s Quick Answer: I do think it makes sense to cull your high dynamic range (HDR) captures, since by its nature HDR imaging can result in many photos. It can also be helpful to batch process the captures into finished HDR images, which can make it easier to review which images to keep or discard.

More Detail: Creating HDR images involves capturing bracketed exposures, which means capturing multiple photos for each potential final image. If you’re using automatic exposure bracketing on your camera, that often means capturing three, five, or seven images (and sometimes more) for each intended photo. If you capture numerous bracketed exposures, the numbers can add up rather quickly.

You could certainly review the bracketed exposures in the usual manner, keeping in mind that the photos represent groups of photos that could be assembled into an HDR image. Of course, it is also possible that a single image from a bracketed set will represent a good standalone exposure. These issues can complicate the process of reviewing the photos.

In many cases I find it helpful to batch process the bracketed exposures into HDR images, so you have a better sense of the potential for the final image for each bracketed set. In Lightroom Classic this requires first grouping the bracketed sets into stacks.

In some cases with bracketed exposures the automatic stacking feature in Lightroom Classic may work well. This feature can be initiated by selecting Photo > Stacking > Auto-Stack by Capture Time from the menu. In the dialog that appears you can then adjust the slider representing the amount of time between stacks, to hopefully end up with individual stacks for each bracketed exposure. You can also stack photos together manually by selecting the images and then choosing Photo > Stacking > Group into Stack from the menu or by pressing Ctrl+G on Windows or Command+G on Macintosh.

Once the bracketed exposures are grouped into stacks you can select all the stacks and then choose Photo > Photo Merge > HDR. Each selected stack will then be processed into an HDR with the default settings. You could then filter the images based on the Adobe DNG file type that will be created in this process so you can focus your review on only the initial HDR images.

If you’ve captured a large number of bracketed exposures for HDR it can obviously take a bit of time to sort through them. However, I do recommend going through that process and deleting the clear outtakes to help keep the remaining photos more manageable.