I am starting to learn post editing. I am taking old pictures that I have for this purpose. I feel like image below (as shot) has a great potential and can look great after post processing:

enter image description here

I thought that hdr would be great for this but the problem is that doing a hdr tries to expose the building at the bottom more and hence did not work. I tried to play with contrast and highlights but was unable to achieve much difference in the image.

Is it possible for us to do hdr for part of a image? Can someone suggest appropriate steps for post processing of this image.

Additional info: The time I captured the image there was only one star and crescent moon almost at the same height, but they are not very predominant in the picture(they looked beautiful in the sky though). If possible is there a way to get them up as well.


1 Answer 1


There are almost no details in this image's shadows, so almost any post work will add unflattering noise. But there are some cool details in the sky that either of the two methods I mention here may bring out.

If you're using a newer version of Photoshop, you can use the Camera Raw filter (shift + command/ctrl + A). In older versions of Photoshop you can open the image in Adobe Camera Raw (From ACR, select Open as a Smart Object, or from within Photoshop, Convert to Smart Object.)

  1. In Camera Raw adjust the basic sliders to bring out as much shadow detail as you want/need. Commit your changes. (As Adobe Camera Raw is non-destructive, no pixels are damaged.)

  2. Right or command + click on the corrected shadow layer and select New Smart Object via Copy. This creates a duplicate layer you can edit independently of the original.

  3. Open the duplicate in Camera Raw and adjust the highlights.

  4. You may choose to repeat this step for mid-tones.

  5. Back in Photoshop, blend the three layers using masks.

This is only one way to "make" a single image HDR. If you shoot RAW (ideally, because Raw affords more non-destructive options than JPG or TIFF), and have access to third party software such as Photomatix Pro, you can experiment with one-image HDR processing.

A simpler way to correct an image such as this might be to duplicate the background layer and, with the copy active, go under Image > Apply Image and experiment with the blend modes until you find one that works for your image. Adjust the effect's opacity as necessary.

You can make additional duplicates and then blend them together to create the image you wanted.

Using Adobe Camera Raw or Apply Image can work on many images, but they're not the only ways to improve an image's dynamic range.

  • \$\begingroup\$ how is adjusting shadows and highlights on two layers different from doing both at once? \$\endgroup\$
    – ths
    Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 9:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ When you bring out shadow detail you'll blow out the highlights and vice versa. This makes getting the tones right in a single layer difficult or virtually impossible. In order to work around this, you adjust each tone in its own layer and blend them together using masks. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 14:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ why? the shadow and highlight sliders do only affect their respective parts of the histogram. plus, for even more effect, you can paint an adjustment mask right in ACR. \$\endgroup\$
    – ths
    Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 19:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ As I said right at the top, there are many ways of accomplishing most tasks in Photoshop. The method I described show one way to improve an image's dynamic range (single image HDR) when only one was made--not an HDR stack that can be compiled in Adobe HDR Pro or other plug-in. The goal here is to create a layer with properly exposed shadows, and another with properly exposed highlights and then blend them to create an image with a wider dynamic range, or faking an HDR stack in post. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 23:06

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