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How to Make an HDR Image from a Single RAW File

March 29

5 min. to read

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It's widely known, that usually it takes 3 or more bracketed shots to make an HDR. But you can also create HDR from one single RAW!

While it is true that the eye of the photographer matters much more than the amount of money they spend on their gear, sometimes it is important to have a camera that has a high dynamic range to capture more detail. This is essential in the case of landscape and architectural photographers who need to create a balance between the highlights and the shadows of an image.

However, not everyone can afford such an expensive camera that allows them to achieve this kind of detail easily. That is why things like HDR photography exist. An HDR photo is that which is created by blending in two or more images, taken at different exposure settings, so that the result is a well-balanced and highly detailed picture. This, of course, requires you to take multiple images which may not always be possible. Luckily, there are ways that you can use to make an HDR image from a single RAW file.

The Power of RAW

A RAW file is like a digital negative of the image you have taken; it contains within itself all the information from the particular scene you have photographed and can be manipulated non-destructively to create your final image. This file is what can help you get HDR images from your camera.

All you have to do is open your RAW file in any image editor, like Photoshop or Lightroom, and then edit it in three different ways to create three separate files. One of these files should have a lower exposure than the original, one should be well-balanced, and one should have a higher exposure. Once you have these three files, you are ready to create an HDR image in Photoshop or other software. Note that the visual quality and detail of this HDR image will not be as good as an actual HDR, but this is the closest you can get without shooting in multiple brackets.

Time for Some Blending

Now that you have three, or more, brackets of your original RAW file, you can put them in any HDR photo editor. The advantage of using Adobe Photoshop, or even Lightroom, for the previous step is that you can use the same program to blend all these images into an HDR photo. Both Photoshop and Lightroom have options to blend multiple images into an HDR image, but if you want more control and ease of use, you should consider using something like Aurora HDR.

Aurora HDR not only allows you to create natural-looking HDR images from multiple exposure brackets but can even help edit a single RAW file to create a convincing HDR image. This ability alone makes it one of the best options for making HDRs from single RAW files. No matter which of the two methods of creating an HDR you choose, you can be certain that Aurora HDR will give you all the control you wish to have over your file.

HDR photography is a great way to take your images beyond the capabilities of your camera. Combining multiple images to form one higher quality one is helpful in many different scenarios. If, however, you can’t take multiple images for any reason, then the method mentioned in this article is a very good way to get an HDR image from a single RAW file.

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