When it comes to HDR photos, it has always been the practice to first take multiple photos with different exposures, then use software to do overlapping synthesis on the computer, so that the high and low light levels on a photo also appear at the same time, making a special visual effect.

But if we don’t have multiple exposures when shooting, how can we make HDR photos? In fact, as long as you save the RAW file when shooting, everything can come true! Now let me share how to use a RAW file to simulate the production of HDR photos!

First look at the effect:


The following demonstration software is Photoshop CS6, and the RAW file is Nikon’s NEF file (Photoshop CS6 can also open RAW files of most cameras).

Note: The picture can be enlarged by clicking.

(Step 1) Open the RAW File

It is recommended to find a photocomposition practice with a large light difference. The foreground of this photo has almost become a silhouette. Open the NEF file (Nikon’s RAW file) in Photoshop CS6, and you will see the following screen.


(Step 2) Adjust the Value

This step is mainly to balance the dark and light positions, and rescue the underexposed and overexposed places. It will also increase contrast and saturation, making photos feel”sci-fi”.

The data is adjusted as follows (can be added and subtracted according to personal preference):

Hightlight highlights- 100
Shadow +100
Contrast contrast +70
Clarity sharpness +40
Vibrance natural saturation +50

“Highlight” is adjusted for the light in the photo. The light reduction can teach what seems to be overexposed, and “Shadow” only works on underexposed areas, which is very useful. tool.

“Clarity” can make photos sharper, “Vibrance Natural Saturation” can enhance the color of photos, but avoids affecting the skin, so it is more natural and easy to use.

After adjusting the values, we have seen obvious differences:


(Step 3) Go to the Details page and adjust Sharpening and Noise Reduction:

– Amount 20
– Radius 1
– Detail 75
– Masking 0

Noise Reduction
– Luminance 40
– Luminance Detail 70
– Color 25


(Step 4) To Enhance the Contrast of the Sky, we can use the Graduated Filter to pull down an area in the sky and then fill in the data:

Contrast +100
Highlight -100


When finished, you can click “Open” to open the photo.

(Step 6) The next step is to further enhance the contrast between the sky and shadow to increase the impact. Therefore, Photoshop’s “Deepen Burn Tool” and “Lighten Dodge Tool” tools will be used.

First deepen the sky, press Burn Tool and then right-click to adjust the brush size and style, and then apply on the sky position. Repeat the practice to make the application position appear natural.



Then use the Dodge Tool, adjust the brush and apply it in the dark place, this will make the dark place brighter.


(Step 7) Open Filter> Lens Correction and add black corners (drag Vignette from Custom), and an HDR-like photo is born!


Complete work



This article is a very simple post-production technique. It is mainly used to make HDR imitations or to recover underexposed photos. If you want “heavy” effects, you must work hard to study Photoshop or Lightroom retouching techniques. !!


Author: Alex Tam