5 Quick Steps to better HDRs – Step 1

  1. Straighten, Crop, Clean-up
  2. Decrease Noise
  3. Set a Black & White point
  4. Balance your Tone
  5. Sharpen Your Image

Over the next few days I’ll be posting 5 quick steps you can take for better HDRs. These are all simple finishing techniques that can take an image from ehh…to wow.

I was inspired to write this after perusing the Google+ HDR Processing Community and seeing so many images that were almost there but missing these small yet magical elements. None of these  posts are tell alls, but merely overviews, you can do more research either here at the site or by searching the internet if you want more specific information how to do a particular thing you saw in this lesson.

Straighten, Crop, Clean-up

The first thing you should do after taking your image out of your HDR Processing software is to do a little tidying up of the image. The HDR process can leave a little mess behind and you may have not been too tidy in your process taking the images so now is a good time to take care of those couple of things to give you a clean image to take further with a little post work.

Straighten your image.

We don’t always keep our cameras level when shooting (I’m terrible at this hand-held) so lines in our images may not be straight. The horizon line is the one most easily seen as being off so now is a great time to fix that.

There are many tools available in both Lightroom and Photoshop to accomplish this.

In Lightroom we can use the Crop tool in the develop module, just grab the corner and turn to align your horizon line with the grid, or you could use the Rotate control under Lens correction

In Photoshop, You can use the Measure Tool to draw a line on the line you want to straighten and then apply that with Edit> Image Rotation >Arbitrary Or in later versions of Photoshop you can use the Straighten Image tool in the settings bar the Crop Tool

Tilted Horizon


Straight Horizon


For a lesson about Perspective corrections see our sister site Here


Creative cropping can add to our image, we can eliminate some distracting periphery in an image or even place subject better in our image (rule of thirds etc) with some creative cropping. We can even change orientation of the image or create other Aspect ratios, wide screen, square images etc.


The Salton Sea


The Salton Sea

Aspect Ratio Cropped

The Salton Sea


And finally go around your image at 50-100% and look for all the little nasties in our image, especially things like Sensor spots that become much more visible both because we shoot at tight apertures (f/16, f/22) and because the HDR process may intensify them, also small objects that may have ghosted your image such as a bird flying through the scene.

In Lightroom, use the Spot Removal tool. In Photoshop you can use a myriad of tools such as the Healing tool, the Patch Tool and the Clone Stamp Tool


The Salton Sea

Cleaned image

The Salton Sea

With all of this house cleaning done you are ready to move on to the next steps for a better HDR Image.


Next: Decrease Noise



  1. James February 11, 2013 at 3:34 am #

    Think you are long overdue a sensor clean! It’s filthy! 😉

    • Peter February 11, 2013 at 7:43 am #

      Haha yep James been cleaned hundreds of times. Welcome to the world of shooting at f22

  2. Amanda June 5, 2013 at 5:32 pm #

    Thanks for the tips! They will come in handy this summer. Some aspects I didn’t think about, so I’m glad I stumbled upon this post.

    • Peter June 5, 2013 at 5:34 pm #

      Glad they helped Amanda!