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How to Add HDR Effect

How to Add a HDR Effect to Your Images in Photoshop

by Waseem Abbas on Dec 18, 2018

Do you want to add a HDR effect to your photos? Portraits can look especially stunning with the HDR style. In this article, we will share how to add a HDR effect to your images in Photoshop.

If you don’t have it yet, you can get Photoshop from Adobe’s site here.

Creating a HDR Effect in Photoshop

The first thing you should do is open your portrait in Photoshop.

Let’s start by creating a duplicate layer of the image. That way, if you make a mistake, you can start over from scratch anytime.

To create a duplicate layer, right click on the image layer inside the Layers panel on the righthand side and select ‘Duplicate Layer’.

Duplicate Layer

Now you should convert this duplicate layer into a smart object. Simply right-click on the duplicate layer you just created and select ‘Convert to Smart Object’. (This will allow you to fine-tune your settings later, without having to start all over.)

Convert to Smart Object

Next, go to Image » Adjustments » Shadow/Highlights.


In the Shadows/Highlights dialog box, adjust the settings to brighten up the shadows of the photo. This will start to create that HDR effect. We used the following settings:

Amount: 60%
Tonal Width: 55%
Radius: 100px

You can leave the other settings as-is.

Shadow Settings

After you’ve adjusted the shadows, go to Filter » Sharpen » Unsharp Mask to add some sharpness and definition to your photo.

Unsharp Mask

In the Unsharp Mask dialog box, use the following settings:

Amount: 85%
Radius: 5.0
Threshold: 0

This will really make the eyes pop.

Adjust Unsharp Mask

Lastly, you’ll need to add just a bit more depth to your photo.

Click on the circular icon at the bottom right corner of your screen (beneath the Layers panel) and select ‘Brightness/Contrast’.


Leave the Brightness as-is, and set the Contrast to 40.

Set Contrast

That’s all. You can see the before and after image below:

HDR Effect

You can use the settings above to add a HDR effect for most of your portrait shots. However, we recommend testing small variations as needed to get the perfect effect for your image.

We hope this article has helped you to learn how to add a HDR effect to your image in Photoshop. You may also want to check out our guide on how to add dramatic portrait effect to your images in Photoshop.

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