One powerful filter:  The HDR Look

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Ever since I started using the Sony a7Rii I have found myself bracketing images less and less.  There is a plethora of dynamic range information in every file that thing pumps out, which is awesome, but the file sizes are huge!  I once bracketed a series of images, ran it through Photomatix, saved it as a 16 bit Tiff, applied the Zone Systems and then saved it.  The file was over 1.8 Gigabytes…. yes, 1.8 gigabytes for a single image, not a panorama.

In any event, I found that there was more often than not, enough information in a single RAW file to extract and exploit the dynamic range of the scene to get the HDR look I yearned for.  That is not true for every instance, though.  I would say my bracketing has gone from all the time with the Canon to maybe 20% of the time with the Sony.

Every now and then I long for that detailed HDR Look that I grew to love from Tone Mapping brackets.  Before you say it… I already know, these are first world problems in the order of cameras and technology, but I assure you the struggle is real and I am not alone!


The other day I was processing a photo of the Gem Theater in Kansas City and I wanted that HDR look on the building because the architecture is just gorgeous.  I remembered that ON1 had a filter called “HDR Look”  so I gave it a go.  At first, I wanted to reject it, but then I modified some settings and was dumbfounded by how awesome the effect looked.

There are some things you need to modify to get the HDR Effect Look to look great:

  1. Apply the HDR Look effect to the MIDTONES Only:  With HDR images, one of the biggest flaws comes from shadow noise and tone compressed Highlights.  Protect them all together with Apply To.
  2. Further Protect the Tones: Go into the Protect areas and bring the Highlights and Shadows all the way up to protect the highlights and shadows even further.
  3. Go Local:  Apply brushes to the mask of the HDR Look filter to block out unwanted areas.
  4. It’s all about the Opacity:  Lower the opacity of the filter so it is not as striking at first glance.
  5. Have fun:  Don’t forget to have fun… ever!

Download the Prests

Download the HDR Look Presets demonstrated in this tutorial!

Blake Rudis
Creator of f.64 Academy
Most people think I am passionate about Photography, but in reality I am not.


Wait, before you freak out, you are on a photo site, I am addicted to post processing. To be more specific, I am addicted to workflow efficiency and cracking the codes to complex systems. That's what I do here, crack the code to photo post processing and present it in a concise way, for you :)
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