Can I manual align photos for HDR? Photoshop CS5

Edit: Sorry about the vague question. I have 3 photos that I want to merge to HDR.

The photos are not aligning properly in when I go File > Automate > Merge to HDR Pro...

I want to align the photos manually since auto align doesn't align them properly.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Sure, you can do pretty much anything manually. I'm a bit confused by the question. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Jan 7, 2011 at 1:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mattdm: I couldn't figure out how, is there a tutorial or something? \$\endgroup\$
    – Linuxmint
    Jan 7, 2011 at 1:59
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @mattdm: I think the questioner is talking about the built in merge to HDR function, which has an "automatically align source images" option but no "manually align source images". \$\endgroup\$
    – Matt Grum
    Jan 7, 2011 at 8:24

3 Answers 3


The only way you can manually align photos using Photoshop's built in merge to HDR function is to load the images as layers, align them, trim so they are the same size and then save each layer as a separate file and then run the Merge to HDR option, making sure "attempt to automatically align photos" is not selected.

There's no way to merge to HDR images that are in memory, the function only works on files. You may get slightly different results using saved (converted) images than Raw files, I don't know how merge to HDR works internally.


See this link from Adobe which describes how to automatically align layers.
At the end they say
"After auto-aligning, you can use Edit > Free Transform to fine tune the alignment "

If you really must align the images manually here is an effective way to do it.
Assuming your images are loaded as layers, hide all layers except two. One layer should have normal mode. Set the other layer to difference mode. Now if the images are perfectly aligned all you will see is a pure black image. If they are not properly aligned you will see the difference between the images. Use the cursor keys to shift the top image until you have pure black or until you have minimised the visible difference image.

Repeat as necessary until all images are aligned.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I think the questioner wants to know how to manually align layers when using the "merge to HDR" function (which only offers an auto-align option) not how to manually align layers in general. \$\endgroup\$
    – Matt Grum
    Jan 7, 2011 at 10:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, that could be. The question is rather vague. \$\endgroup\$
    – labnut
    Jan 7, 2011 at 15:03

I sometimes due this, when I've shot my HDR hand-held, and want to use Photoshops align layers function, but use PhotoMatrix for tonemapping.


  1. Apply the same changes (WB/Lens corrections) to all the photo's (for instance in LR)
  2. Load all the files into photoshop (as separate files)
  3. Automate -> Load Files into Stack and choose to automatically align the opened images
  4. Crop the new image such that non layer has transparent parts
  5. Copy each layer back to the original image
  6. Crop it to the newly pasted layer
  7. Save it as a TIFF
  8. Repeat this (5-7) for every layer/image.
  9. Open the TIFF's in PhotoMatrix and disable the motion correction.

It takes a little more time, but the results are worth it.


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