How to do HDR from Start to Finish Using HDR Efex Pro (Part 2)

In this article we explain the second part on how to do HDR with HDR Efex Pro.

In the first part of this article (click here), I showed you two different techniques to get a great looking HDR, my favorite way to do it is to first retouch the normal exposed photo in Lightroom and then transform it into HDR because I think it gives the best result!

So now I am going to show you another technique that I want to share with you, it does require another plug-in from the Google Nik Collection, and again I don’t get any commissions, I just find it to be great software so I openly recommend it. And really, just get the whole collection, I think it cost me $140 as a package instead of one by one and I believe they also have trial versions if you are on the fence about it.

Step 1. Import the photo to Photoshop. I select the RAW file that was retouched in Lightroom, not the HDR version and I right click and choose Edit In> Edit it in Photoshop CC:

Then I go to Filter > Nik collection > Color Efex Pro 4:

And they have tons of presets called B/W conversion, Bi-Colors filter, Bi-color user defined, Bleach Bypass, and so many others. You just have to try it out and see for yourself what you like the most:

I have my favorite and one of them is called Details Extractor:

This is the before the details extractor:

And this is the after details extractor, it really gets the details out:

Sometimes I add a filter, I use the preset called Pro Contrast and you can change things up with this preset for example Correct Color Cast if you move the slider to the right it will take the red out of the photo, you also have Correct Contrast which will give you different type of contrast as you move the slider and Dynamic contrast is also another type of contrast:

Once I am happy with it I press ok and it is going to create his own layer into Photoshop:

When I think that it is too much I just lower the Opacity of my filter:

Before we go back to Lightroom I want to show you how to remove the person that is in the frame. I am going to use the Clone Stamp Tool (S key) but first I select my two layers and I go to layers> merge the layers:

Then I duplicate the layer and I choose the Clone Stamp Tool:

To modify the feather of the size of your tool just have to hold the control and alt key and move your mouse right and left for the size and up and down for the feather:

When you use the Clone Stamp Tool you have to make sure to feather it as much as you can.

We have an interesting situation here where you have a curve right in front of the person and if you copy a part of the curve it is not going to look nice:

So my tip to remedy to this is to protect the curve, for that I use the Pen Tool:

You have to zoom in a lot than click on the edge and drag upward the pen tool and you do that a few time until you cover the whole curve:

I click all around the person and click back on the first point:

I right click and make a selection:

I put the feather radius at 3 so it will make a not so sharp selection:


Now that the curve of the rock is protected I can take the stamp tool, I copy a part of the dark shadows if you did a mistake and want to go back you can just press command alt Z so then I go upward and it is going to look very neat:

You see it is a lot more natural:

We are done with Photoshop so I can save it and go back to Lightroom.

Let’s summarize what we have now, first we have the RAW file retouched and Photoshoped the one that I like the most:

Then you have the RAW file with just the Lightroom retouch:

You have the HDR photo, which is nice:

And last you have the HDR then retouched photo which I like the least:

Now I want to compare the HDR photo and the retouched RAW file:

There is more texture on the HDR photo:

I would have to remove the tourist like I did on the RAW file but you understand the idea.

Step 2. Create Brushes. I can’t help it, I really want to do some dodge and burn and so I create a brush and just add some highlights to random parts of the rocks you just have to try but don’t abuse the good things if you like an effect don’t go overboard that is a common mistake I see and that I do to:

Step 3. Use Graduated Filters to close the photo. To finish I want to do some vignetting. The easy way to do it is to go to the effect section and select vignetting but I prefer to do it myself and so I use a Graduated Filter I set one the left, one the right, one on the bottom and one on the left upper corner and lower the exposure -1,50. I don’t want a graduated filter on the top because that is where the lights come from:

So this is the final result:

I just need to remove the person but you know how to do it now! I hope this inspired you to try different techniques on your photos!

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