HDR with Photoshop

This guide will demonstrate how images can be combined with Photoshop to make an HDR image. Unlike using the Photomatix software this technique doesn't require bracketed photos. It does however require that you need to use a tripod when taking your shots. Essentially what we are doing in the method is placing 2 (or more) pictures on top of each other and erasing the top image to show the desired parts of the bottom image.

Step 1

Load the photos that you wish to combine to make an HDR image into Photoshop. For this example we will be using 2 pictures, but any number of pictures is theoretically possible with this method.

Step 2

Decide which of your images has the largest area which you want used in the final result. We will call this image 'A' and the other image 'B'

Select all of image A using the keyboard shortcut 'Ctrl + A' and copy it (Ctrl + C). Paste image A on top of image B (Ctrl + P).

Make sure that you have both layers visible:

Photoshop Layer Visibility (red arrows) (N.B. The background image should be B, with A the layer on top)

Step 3

Select the eraser tool. For any large open spaces that need to be revealed select a large sizer eraser and 100% hardness. Begin erasing away the picture of the image on top to reveal the underlying image. Be careful not to erase the boundry between the two images just yet.

Erasing bulk of image in photoshop to make an HDR image

Step 4

Now select a much smaller eraser with 0% hardness and start getting into the gaps around the boundary zone between the two images. Once you have done all you can its time to move onto the 'Spatter' eraser. I use the largest 59 pixel one. With this is eraser go over any bright/dark spots to gently blend the two images together. I recommend using single clicks rather than click and hold. This stage can be a bit painstaking. It took me about 10 minutes to do this image.

The final result

The result is not great. However it is not bad for 10 minutes work, and with more time and patience a much better outcome can be achieved.

The nice thing about this method is that sometimes you can create an HDR image with only 1 shot, especially if you have shot in RAW. You can simply open two copies of the image in Photoshop, manipulate them to get aspects of each as you want. You can then layer them and erase the unwanted areas. For example with this shot I could have adjusted the colours and vibrancy of one image using Photoshop and used it as my image B