How to Fake HDR in Photoshop

It's possible to use HDR Photoshop techniques to create fake HDR photographs which look amazing. These techniques are very easy to apply and can make your photos have more depth than they do normally.

A proper HDR photograph is taken with a specialist camera which takes three or more pictures of the same subject using three different exposures. These photos are then mixed together using computer software to create a photo which has better color depth than normal. It is, however, possible to create similar results by using fake HDR techniques in Photoshop.

Step 1: Opening the Image

First, you need to open up your digital image in Photoshop. If you don't already have a suitable image, then one can be downloaded from a stock photo web site. Any photo can be used although a portrait photo will often look the best.

Load Photoshop and then open the image by selecting File, Open. Once you have done this, you should see your original photo loaded. If there are any marks or scratches on the photo, then these can be removed now.

Step 2: Duplicating the Layer

The image will have a single background layer to start off with; you will need to duplicate this layer by selecting Layers, Duplicate Layers. Or, alternatively, by simply pressing Control (CTRL) and J, you can also click the background layer and drag it down to the small duplicate layers button at the bottom of the layers palette.

This layer will be called layer1 as standard, although, you can rename this if you prefer.

Step 3: Adjusting the New Layer

The new layer should now be adjusted so that it becomes black and white. To do this choose Image, Adjustments, Desaturate from the menu bar at the top of the screen. This will make your image turn black and white.

Step 4: Inverting the Image

Make the layer negative by choosing Image, Adjustments, Invert. This will create a negative image which will mean that the light areas will be dark, and the dark areas light.

Step 5: Blur

The layer should now have a gaussian blur filter applied to it. To do this, go to Filter and choose Gaussian Blur. This will pop up a dialog box where various settings can be adjusted. Experiment with the different settings until you get the best result.

Step 5: Changing the Blend Mode

The blend mode affects how your layers blend together; adjust the new layers blend and move to overlay. This should instantly create your finished fake HDR photograph. The blend mode can be adjusted in the layers palette easily.

Step 6: Flattening the Image

Save the image in Photoshop format so that you will be able to edit the layers in the future if required. If you are uploading the site to the Internet or printing the photo, then you should flatten the layers by merging them all together.

This is by far the simplest way of creating a fake HDR photo in Photoshop. Experiment with all of the different settings to perfect the look of the finished photo.

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