Fake HDR effects in Photoshop Elements

Fake HDR effects in Photoshop Elements

Some photographers employ the processing powers of packages like Photoshop CS5 or Photomatix to bracketing exposures to combine into a single composite high dyanmic range image that reveals fine detail in the shadows, midtones and highlights. HDR photography editing techniques add rich (and sometimes false) colours that enhance the artistic look of a shot, 
and many even like the way the HDR process can add artefacts such as halos around object edges.

Fake HDR effects in Photoshop Elements

If you’re an Elements user then you’ll lack access to more sophisticated commands like Photoshop CS5’s Merge to HDR Pro, but you can still endow your compositions with typical HDR properties from within Elements.

The trick to getting the HDR look is to shoot a series of bracketed exposures. Here, we’ll show you how to process multiple raw format files to reveal specific tonal details and then use the standard Elements Photomerge command to combine them into a single image packed with detail.

We’ll then show you how to add typical HDR artefacts using the Unsharp Mask command. This will also claw back missing midtones, so that delicate details such as the engravings on our shot can be read more easily.

Step by step how to fake HDR effects in Elements

Step by step how to fake HDR effects in Photoshop Elements: step 1

01 Reveal the wood texture
Open your bracketed exposures in the Camera Raw editor. Click on the hdr_before_02 thumbnail and drag Exposure to -0.45. Boost the Blacks to 21. Increase Contrast to +91 and Clarity to +83 to make the wood grain stand out.

 

Step by step how to fake HDR effects in Photoshop Elements: step 2

02 Enhance tonal detail
Click on your first image and increase Exposure to +2.45 to reveal midtone and highlight detail. Increase Contrast to +37 and push Clarity up to +41. On your third image, set Exposure to -2.55 to reveal more shadow detail. Click Select All, then Open Images.

 

Step by step how to fake HDR effects in Photoshop Elements: step 3

03 Use Photomerge
Go to File>New>Photomerge Exposure to merge the shots. Click Open All, then tick Smart Blending. Drag the Highlight Details slider to 73 to darken the brightest areas. Drag Shadows to 70 to lighten the shadows. Increase Saturation to 17 and click Done.

 

Step by step how to fake HDR effects in Photoshop Elements: step 4

04 Try Unsharp Mask
Photomerge blends the shots together and displays the composite image as a new layer. 
Go to Enhance>Unsharp Mask. Set Amount to 87% to reveal the engraved text. Set Radius to 40 to spread the contrast change and create a hint of a halo. Click OK.

 

Step by step how to fake HDR effects in Photoshop Elements: step 5

05 Tweak the Levels
Choose Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Levels. Set the grey slider to 1.29 to lighten the midtones. Grab the Brush tool. Set Opacity to 100% and the foreground colour to black. Click on the white mask. Spray over the engraving to stop it being lightened.

 

Step by step how to fake HDR effects in Photoshop Elements: step 6

06 Burn the wood
Choose Layer>Flatten Image. Grab the Burn tool and set Range to Shadows. Set Exposure to 20%. Spray over the grain and knots in the wood to darken them and reveal their texture. Add a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer and up Cyans Saturation to +14.

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