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as some of you might know, using the HDR mode with a canon camera results in three exposure bracketed RAW files after which the camera unavoidably creates a merged JPG on scene as well.

To be fair, the JPGs do look quite nice, however naturally lack the resolution of the RAW files.

My question is thus, how can I recreate the HDR from the RAW files I have actually taken. I'm planning to print the image quite large, so using the JPG is not an option.

Is there any way Photoshop (or even Lightroom) is able to recreate the JPG from the three RAW files? I would also be open to any other software tools, as long as they bring me considerably close to the result. I have already gone the manual way of merging the three RAWs, and doing some editing, but the result is rather mediocre.

Thanks so much for you help!

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  • A lot depends on what is causing this "loss of resolution" you're seeing. The JPEGs should have the same width and height in pixels as the raw files if you have your camera's JPEG setting at L (large) - fine. What is your in-camera noise reduction setting? What ISO are you using? How bright is the light in which you're shooting?
    – Michael C
    Dec 9 '20 at 20:36
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One approach is to import the photos to Lightroom, select the ones you want to combine, and Photo->Edit in->Merge to HDR Pro in Photoshop. You can edit it in Photoshop or save it and go back to Lightroom. Whether that recreates the JPEG that you got from the camera or not depends on the settings you use in Photoshop and Lightroom.

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  • Thinks Ross, I'm aware of that and tried it before - is there any way to sort of "extract" the settings from the JPG to apply it on the Photomerge?
    – tpll_
    Dec 8 '20 at 14:01
  • I don't know of one. I would study the JPG carefully and play with them. It takes some experience of how the different controls interact. Dec 8 '20 at 14:51
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The easiest way to simulate Canon's in-camera JPEG and HDR engines is to use Canon's Digital Photo Professional software to process the raw files. It's included on the disc in the box with every Canon EOS camera. You can download the most recent version from the support section of your world region's Canon website. All updates are free. For some, you need to enter a valid serial number from a Canon camera model compatible with the particular version of DPP.

If left at the default settings, it will apply the same settings as were applied in-camera when you open a raw file. You can then use the HDR tool from within DPP to designate the other frames you want to include, as well as select various options that are similar to the in-camera options for the in-camera HDR mode. You also have more control over the result by being able to adjust brightness, saturation, contrast, detail enhancement, smoothing, and fine detail in the HDR module.

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For HDR, I have been using Photomatix. There's a free trial version on their website: https://www.hdrsoft.com/index.html

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Adjust your camera settings to match processing you like. Remember, you are never seeing a RAW file but an image rendered from one. So any distinction in resolution is a difference in processing. Be sure to select the highest resolution and quality level and adjust the level of sharpness in the selected Picture Style. Resolution should match exactly what you get from a RAW file. The difference when you process a RAW file that comes at a higher bit-depth than JPEG is that you have more dynamic-range but since you are doing AEB to create an image with more dynamic-range, that advantage is limited and can be compensated for by larger increments when bracketing.

It is possible to create an HDR image from RAW files or JPEG images with a number of software. They will not give you exactly the same look as Canon outputs from your specific camera model but they almost all have significantly more parameters to adjust the output to taste. There are many options such as Nik Collection and Photomatix but Lightroom Classic can also do it.

Technically, most cameras perform Exposure Fusion in HDR mode since it is simpler and much less intensive computationally. See answers to this question for plenty of Exposure Fusion software options. They are much simpler than HDR because Exposure-Fusion is less flexible but results will look very similar to what cameras output without much effort. Some of those software do not work with RAW files but taking a wider bracket will cover the extra dynamic-range. For scenes of extreme contrast, you can even take a larger bracket of 5 or 7 frames.

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