How to create HDR photography

Use Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop CS to create captivating HDR photography

By Andy Crawford

Have you ever wondered how photographers create such beautiful nighttime images? No, it’s not magic. And, no, it’s not because they own cameras that cost as much as your first-born child.

The key to creating HDR (high dynamic range) images like the ones found in my HDR photography gallery is to understand how to make the most use of software — namely, Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop CS.

HDR photography involves taking multiple exposures of the same scene — meaning a tripod is essential — and then using these programs to essentially mash the frames together to create an image with well-exposed highlights and shadows.

In this video, I take you through the steps used to create the image of New Orleans’ Cafe du Monde.


To created such captivating HDR photography, I capture three to five (and sometimes more) images, changing my exposure by one stop each time I trigger my camera’s shutter. The goal is to capture images that will provide information from highlights, midtones and shadows to my photo processing software.

For instance, with this image of Cafe du Monde, I took one image with the highlights (i.e., the string lights on the awning), a second image exposed for the lights within the cafe’s porch and a final image that showed detail in the shadows.

I opened each in Adobe Lightroom, selected them all and sent them to Adobe Photoshop CS5’s HDR processing component, where the images were analyzed and combined to provide the initial HDR image.

Saving the resultant Photoshop image sends the new photograph back to Lightroom, where I used a combination of filters to finish the processing.

Click here to view my full gallery!

About Andy Crawford

Andy Crawford has been a photographer and writer for more than 20 years, with thousands of images and articles published in magazines and newspapers around the country. He now focuses on Louisiana photography, landscapes, HDR photography, urban prints and other fine art photography. He also is a portrait photographer.