My HDRs look like PooDRs – Fixes for the most common problems

My HDRs look like PooDRs – How to fix the common problems

For people that are just starting out and even for some that have been doing HDR for a while, there are some common problems that people run into. But without having used the myriad of controls in their HDR software, most people don’t know which way to turn to remove some of these unsightly demons. So let’s run through a few of them and their cures. 

Note: None of the after images represent a finished image; they are merely to show reversal of a problem area 


Haloing – Probably the most common problem with HDRs. Haloing is a bright areas surrounding an edge, You will most likely see them in areas of high contrast; The edge of a building against the sky or tree branches and power lines against that same bright condition.

Here is an image I made have haloing, along side it are the controls as they are in Photomatix.  

This is a case of too high on the Lighting adjustments (Surreal) and also too much Strength.

Making changes to just these controls gets rid of a lot of the haloing

We changed the Lighting effect to Natural and Strength to 50


The Grays

This occurs when large areas of White now become gray. This happens because the HDR program is trying to make everything a Midtone if you make a white (or a black) a midtone it turns gray.



Now I think you will start to notice a common thing with fixing problems. To fix this problem, We will once again take a look at the Lighting Adjustment  and Strength This time the lighting Adjustment was at Surreal + the setting that will attempt to make most parts of the image Mid-toned and the strength was at 100.


Again we moved the Lighting Adjustment to Natural and the Strength down to 70. But we made a couple more changes. This image had the Gamma set to .80, without getting into a technical discussion of what gamma is, basically consider it a midtone curve. If we move the slider to the left and down to about 1.20 we will bring more contrast into the Midtones. Then by adding some Black Level, we bring up the shadows in our image.

 Burnt edges

The opposite of Halos are Burnt edges, this is a darkening on areas of contrast.



But wait, The Lighting Adjustments are at Natural and 100%, shouldn’t that be good? No in this case it isn’t, it is trying to make the mid-tones shadows but simply lowering the Strength to 70% and our Gamma to .90 and we smooth out the tones across the image

 Returning to our initial image of the Lifeguard Garage, this is probably how I would end up processing the image


 Strength 70

Saturation 70

Luminosity 0

Detail Contrast 0

Lighting adjustment Natural

Smooth Highlights 0

White Point .250%

Black Point 2.22%

Gamma .90

Micro Smoothing 30

Saturation Highlight 3.8

Then just a levels adjustment layer and a little dodging and burning in Photoshop










Those are just a few of common problems people have or maybe they don’t even know they have and  a few ways to fix them and yes, there are more than one way to fix any  of them but these are some of the most effective measures because they go to the source of the problems.


As I think of other problems I will throw them in as a quick tip 

Hope that helps,





  1. John MacLean November 28, 2011 at 11:52 pm #

    Thank you for the lesson, and more importantly educating those that over-bake their HDR work. Hopefully in the future less images will burn our retinas!

  2. Miguel Palaviccini November 29, 2011 at 8:45 am #

    Nice post. Thanks for showing how to fix the most common mistakes.

  3. Ann November 29, 2011 at 3:24 pm #

    Thank you again for the post! I always read every one of them even if I don’t comment on them. They are all so informative and interesting!

  4. Jeff Sinon September 14, 2012 at 6:46 pm #

    Would you have any tips for getting rid of halos in HDR Efex Pro 2? If there is a building in the photo, and the sky behind, I can not get the haloing down to an acceptable level. Oddly it isn’t a problem in a “normal” landscape.

    Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    Jeff S

    • Peter September 16, 2012 at 8:47 am #

      Not really Jeff,
      If you are having problem with halos around building, which ARE more susceptible than landscapes because of the hard edges and because we often shoot the back lit. Look to all the controls that adjust micro contrast. Method Strength, Structure and Compression

2 Trackbacks

  1. By Using Control Points in Nik HDR Efex Pro on December 7, 2011 at 5:06 pm

    […] thought I would use an image we used last week in the post about problems and how to fix them. If you remember from that post, we wanted to get our building the right tone of white. So taking […]

  2. By Using Control Points in Nik HDR Efex Pro 2 on April 2, 2013 at 11:11 am

    […] thought I would use an image we used last week in the post about problems and how to fix them. If you remember from that post, we wanted to get our building the right tone of white. So taking […]