HDR photography is one of the most effective ways to create well-exposed photos of landscapes or architecture. To create HDR photos, you have to take more than one shot of the scene at different exposures and then combine them together into an image that has much more dynamic range than the individual images you took. Hence, an HDR photo has more room for you to adjust the exposure of your scene in an HDR editor. This makes it a breeze to adjust the exposure in outdoor photos where the differences in the bright and dark portions of an image are very noticeable.
But do you really need to invest in a separate piece of software for working with HDR photography? Can you create HDR images within your favourite photo editor that you use anyway? Yes, you can!
There are image editors, like Lightroom, that have photo merge capabilities and you can essentially create an HDR image with those. This leads to the creation of an image that looks better exposed than a single image. However, if you really want to up your HDR game, you should consider using a Lightroom HDR plugin to boost the program’s capabilities and turn it into pretty much the only program you’ll need for getting your HDR photography done the right way.
HDR in Lightroom Isn’t Great
So working with HDR in Lightroom isn’t something impossible. You can practice HDR photography, also known as bracketing photography, within Lightroom using its own tools but you don’t really get too much control over the different aspects of HDR photos that you get with dedicated programs. We do understand though that using a full-fledged HDR editor on your computer isn’t something many people would want because it’ll be something extra for them to download and install. Luckily, there are so many Lightroom plugins available on the internet today that you don’t really have a reason anymore not to supercharge this editor and turn it into an HDR photography software.
Lightroom Plugins to Try
From full-fledged to easy-to-use, here is a list of the best Lightroom plugins you need to try in order to create amazing HDR images:
1. Aurora HDR
First on our list is Aurora HDR. This HDR photography software is often hailed as the best HDR software out there, and for good reason. Aurora HDR comes packed with features that are there to help make HDR in Lightroom a breeze. From presets to help you get started to deep controls over each aspect of your photos, Aurora HDR’s Lightroom plugin adds so much to Adobe’s RAW editor that you wouldn’t ever need another program to with your HDR photos. All of this is complemented by an easy-to-use interface, lots of online tutorials, and image quality that will make anyone think the software was twice the price you’ll pay for it. The ever-increasing user base of this excellent software for creating HDR images is a testament to its capabilities, and you really wouldn’t regret giving it a shot.
Creating HDR in Lightroom can also be made easy by Lightroom plugins like that by Photomatix. This editor is known for its focus on tone-mapping algorithms that make it stand out from the rest. You can use its photo merge option to combine images and then make use of the many features to get into more detailed editing. But while Photomatix is a perfectly capable plugin for creating HDR in Lightroom, its Essentials and Pro versions are not the same and cause some confusion among users while making their choice for the best Lightroom plugins.
3. Easy HDR
Aptly named, Easy HDR is one of those Lightroom HDR plugins that aim to make the bracketing photography process easier for new users. It’s one of the best HDR software for beginners on its own too, bringing many of the tools beginners would need in an easy interface. With Easy HDR’s Lightroom plugin, HDR photography and editing is made possible to a great extent but if you are an advanced user and need to have a deeper control over your HDR images, you might find this program a little lacking.
4. HDR Projects 4
HDR Projects deems itself a magical photo merger and HDR editor that gives a ‘wow’ factor to your HDR photography through its Ultra HDR feature and selective image editing. All of this is combined with very good image quality and a fully featured HDR Lightroom plugin that is sure to boost the capabilities of Lightroom itself. However, despite being an overall solid offering as far as Lightroom plugins are concerned, the comparatively higher price of HDR Projects 4 might be a negative for some.
As far as affordable Adobe Lightroom plugins for enabling HDR in Lightroom go, Oloneo sits very near the top. It comes with a pretty affordable price tag which does get further discounts from time to time. Oloneo is an easy-to-use, not fuss HDR editor that also boasts fast speeds. But you might find it a little limiting if you really want a more powerful HDR editor.
6. Machinery HDR
Machinery HDR’s Lightroom plugin will put a lot of control at your disposal for all your bracketing photography needs. It is a rather new entrant into the world of HDR photography but is being used by more and more people every day. The interface is clean, the effects are plenty, and the overall experience is quite good. If you are willing to take a chance with a new software and don’t necessarily want the very best HDR software available, then this is a good choice. But if you want one of those Lightroom plugins that come from much more well-established manufacturers, there are other options you can consider.
If you want one of the no-fuss, straightforward photo merger programs for Lightroom, then LR/Enfuse might be what you need. It’s not a full-fledged, best HDR software you will find but rather is a more basic HDR Lightroom plugin that lets you stack multiple images together to help you with your bracketing photography needs. However, if you wish to practice much more advanced HDR photography and your HDR photos often take hours of your hard work to get developed with the help of Adobe Lightroom plugins, then LR/Enfuse might not be what you are looking for.
8. HDR Efex Pro
HDR Efex Pro is part of the infamous Nik Collection that has been offering Lightroom plugins as well as Photoshop plugins for many years. This particular HDR Lightroom plugin boosts the functionality of the image editor by allowing for the creation of artistic as well as natural HDR photos, depending on what your HDR photography looks like. It comes with presets to provide a good starting point for your edits later on in the process, and then lets you tune your images in a more detailed manner. So, if you want something lightweight that allows you to create HDR in Lightroom as a plugin and nothing more, HDR Efex Pro is quite capable of doing so.
After going through this guide, we are sure you now appreciate the value of Lightroom plugins that are focused on HDR. HDR is a great way to create natural looking images, and even highly creative ones, and once you give it a try you will truly understand the value it can add to your photography. It can really open many doors for your creative photography, and with Lightroom plugins such as the ones mentioned in this article, you can be sure that you won’t need to install yet another heavy program on your computer