4 Ways to Improve Your HDR Photography Before Tone Mapping

How To Improve Your HDR Photography

Looking for ways of improving your HDR photography? Are you wondering where in your HDR workflow you are making mistakes?

Chances are there are a few steps you’re completely overlooking, and there happening before you even start.

I’ve compiled a list of four techniques you need to do to every HDR photo before tone mapping.

Here they are.

1. Correct Chromatic Aberrations

This can easily be done in Lightroom. Simply select the Remove Chromatic Aberrations in the Lens Correction module.

If you don’t do this here, you’ll have chromatic aberrations in your merged HDR image that will be much more difficult to remove. 

Remove Chromatic Aberrations

2. Turn Sharpness Down

If you’re working in Lightroom you’ll notice every one of your photos has sharpness already set to 25. This will slightly enhance the grain causing the tone mapping processes to bring out even more unwanted HDR noise.

Sharpening your Landscape and HDR photos is a very important step, but it should be done last. One of the best techniques for sharpening your HDR photos at the end of your process is with the High Pass filter in Photoshop.

3. Noise Reduction

To help keep HDR noise to a minimum you should apply a little noise reduction before tone mapping your images together. 

If you use Photomatix you’ll notice it has an option to remove noise on under exposed images, but there is really no way of controlling what it is doing. Instead do a little noise reduction on your darker images in Lightroom. There are also a few programs that do it even better. My favorite is Dfine 2 by Nik. I’ve also used Topaz Denoise with great results. 

By adding a little noise reduction first, you will be removing some color noise and eliminating any unwanted artifacts that tone mapping will only enhance. 

4. Load Your Lens Profile

If you’re shooting HDR photography on ultra wide lenses, chances are you have some crazy barrel distortion. The best time to remove this lens distortion is when you’re still working with your RAW files.

In Lightroom this can easily be done by loading your lens profile in the Lens Correction module in Lightroom.

Keep in mind after you have combined your images and are working in a TIF file, you will lose most of your lens profiles since you no longer are working with Camera Raw information.

Lens Profile Correction



I know these results may seem small, but they will give you that extra little bit of quality that may have been missing in your hdr photos.

If you’re finding doing these four steps on every photo in your bracketed sequence to be tedious, remember you can always copy and past settings or even build a preprocessing HDR preset in Lightroom for every lens you might shoot on. 


Looking for more ways to improve your HDR photography? Check out my free Photomatix Presets.