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
f.64 Academy and f.64 Elite are the brainchildren of Blake Rudis. While he is a landscape photographer, he is most passionate about post-processing images in Photoshop and mentoring others.

For Blake, it's all about the art and process synergy. He dives deep into complex topics and makes them easy to understand through his outside-the-box thinking so that you can use these tricks in your workflow today!
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