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Bracketing and HDR for Landscape

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Recently I have been auto-bracketing my landscape shots, then converting to HDR in Lightroom. I have generally been pleased with the results, but I'm curious about thoughts on the pros and cons of using this method.





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With HDR you can, broadly speaking, follow one of two approaches once you have combined the source files together (this is relatively software-independant, as long as they get the job done):


- you can "develop" the 32bit file with an HDR software (selecting the option for the "automatic tone" in the Lightroom screen when you join the files, or using an external editor like Photoshop or Photomatix).

99% of the time you'll get the HDR look or at the very least the digital look (digital look = almost no shadows, low contrast, high saturation, "crunchy" details everywhere)


- you can "develop" the 32bit file in Lightroom (without first selection the option for the "automatic tone" in Lightroom when you join the source files)

This is not technically an HDR, but an exposure fusion. You'll still get the benefits of a vastly extended dynamic range, but the results will look way more natural.


It comes down to your personal taste. As for me, I despise the HDR look, it literally makes my eyes hurt. So I use always the second approach.


The only time when I use other software other than Lightroom, and then only to join the source files, is when Lightroom for some reason does a botched job aligning the images or removing ghosts. For this either Photomatix (I repeat, only for joining the pictures in a 32 bit file) or the donation-ware LREnfuse plugin come to the rescue.

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@addicted2light: Thanks for the reply. I agree with you. I'm using your method 2 and I like the subtle improvement over any of the individual images without getting the almost unnatural HDR that comes with some of the HDR-specific apps.  I haven't had time to post-process the HDRs from Lightroom, but that should really bring out the quality.

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Btw, I often use hdr (in the sense we talked about) even when there is no need in terms of dynamic range.


As long as there aren't issues with movements of your subject (leaves or blades of grass in the wind etc) you get IMO much better colors.


Not (only) in terms of saturation, but in terms of deepness of the tint, of numbers of nuances. And for the same reason the colors are as well less prone to fall apart (banding, blown out reds etc) if you decide to push the saturation or the vibrance sliders.

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I do the same quite often.  Generally when a landscape renders a histogram too wide to expose properly (One area is black and the other blown out).  I bracket and then use HDR in Lightroom which generally produces a rather dull (HDR looking) image.  That is no shadows at all - producing a rather fake look.  I then use various sliders to bring back the shadows and make the image appear as I remember seeing it.


I find this works quite well when it is needed.  When I can I prefer to use just one image, but there are times when exposure problems make it impossible to get a good image.  That is when HDR produces a more realistic photo.

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