Single Image Tonemapping in Photoshop CS5

The other day I was processing some bracketed HDR images that I had recently shot. My typical workflow is to take the images from Lightroom into HDR Pro in Photoshop. I don’t typically tonemap in Photoshop, just create the HDR file and save it as a 32-bit radiance file. Then I open the newly created file in Photomatix Pro for tonemapping and then save it back into Lightroom. There’s an option in the Save As dialog in Photomatix that let’s you send the tonemapped image back into Lightroom. Once it’s back in Lightroom I do my fine tuning in the Develop module. It sounds like a long process but it actually goes pretty quickly.

3-exposure HDR processed in Photomatix Pro

Getting back to my HDR shots. After processing the image above I wondered just what kind of effect i could get by opening the normal exposure from the bracketed images and then try using Photoshop’s HDR Toning feature found in the Adjustments menu. To my surprise, the results were not that far from the 3-bracket set that was processed in Photomatix Pro.

Normal exposure processed using Photoshop HDR Toning

It should be noted that the image I used was a raw file that was opened via Camera Raw as a 16-bit file. I’m not sure if a JPEG image would give the same results since it would contain less data. Also, I had a fairly well exposed image to work with. The results may also be a little different if there was a larger dynamic range being captured.

Here’s another shot from the series that was processed in Photoshop using HDR Tone with some finishing touches applied in Lightroom.

And here’s the original normal exposure. This file has had no processing done to it whatsoever.


  1. amazing images

  2. Beverly Kune says:

    I’ve also been experimenting with using single image HDR, using the Nik software HDR Effex Pro, or occasionally processing with some other plug-ins. I usually do a 5 bracketed version either in Photomatix or HDR Express (I have not yet tried the CS5 HDR Pro as yet). Interestingly enough, for many images I am as happy with the single image version as I am with the bracketed version. I am also happy not to plug up my hard drive with 5 bracketed exposures when 1 would do … and depending on how contrasty the lighting is when I am shooting, am imagining that I might eventually forgo the 5 exposure approach.

  3. Nice photos. I usually use a workflow of Raw files into Photoshop HDR Pro, then back into Camera Raw for some final touch up. I like your results, even with the HDR Toning command. Do you find that with only one exposure, you need to keep the HDR Toning settings more muted than say Photomatrix or HDR Pro? I am curious about the color capture versus the actual scene. Which was closer, the subtle neutral gray of Photomatrix result or the orange/blue contrast of HDR Toning?

  4. great images, I work a lot with with using single image HDR andsome other plugg ins. But for me the HDR tonning commads are the best.

  5. Wow nice. Thank you for showing us the before and after shot. Is there any tutorials on how to use the CS5 software?


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