Preparing Raw “Exposures” in Camera Raw for HDR Merge - dummies

Preparing Raw “Exposures” in Camera Raw for HDR Merge

By Peter Bauer

You can change the exposure after the fact using Camera Raw in Photoshop CC. (You’ll want to use a Raw image, not a JPEG image, for this technique.) Here’s how:

  1. Shoot the best exposure possible.
  2. Transfer the image to your computer.
  3. Open the image into Camera Raw.
    Make sure that Camera Raw’s Workflow Options — click the line of info below the preview (between Save Image and Open Image) — are set to 16-bit color.
  4. Adjust the image until it looks perfect.
  5. Click the Open Image button to open from Camera Raw into Photoshop.
  6. Copy the image into a new file and save in the TIFF format.
    Choose Select→ All, then choose Edit →  Copy, followed by File→  Close (don’t save), and then File → New. (The preset will be set to Clipboard, so just click OK.) Choose Edit →  Paste followed by File→  Save As, choose TIFF as the file format, and save. Using this procedure strips out the EXIF data, making sure that Merge to HDR Pro doesn’t use the wrong exposure value.
  7. Reopen the original Raw file into Camera Raw.
  8. Drag the Exposure slider to the left to reduce the exposure by 2.
    Two is just a general guideline — watch for maximum detail in the highlights.
  9. Hold down the Option/Alt key and click Open Image (Open Copy).
    Opening as a copy prevents Camera Raw from overwriting the earlier adjustment in the file’s metadata.
  10. Copy the image into a new file and save in the TIFF format.
    Repeat Step 6, using a sequence number or other change to the filename to differentiate from the first TIFF.
  11. Reopen the Raw file into Camera Raw a third time.
  12. Drag the Exposure slider to the right to increase the exposure by 2.
    Again, two is just a starting point — you want to see maximum detail in the shadows.
  13. Hold down the Option/Alt key and click Open Image (Open Copy).
  14. Copy the image into a new file and save in the TIFF format.
    Repeat Step 6, using a third filename.

You can now use these three adjusted images in Merge to HDR, as described in the following section. The results likely won’t be as great as using a series of separate exposures, but should be better than a single exposure.