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I often take bracketed shots when I see that there is a very high dynamic in my composition, for example a cave in the rock in bright sunlight - the parts of the rock in the sun are very bright, and the deep shadows are very dark.
In the single exposures of the bracket, either part looks fine; the dark part is well lighted in the one end of the bracket, and the bright part is still well structured at the other end - so I would expect this to make a good HDR.

However, when I use the LightRoom function (Photo Merge/HDR), the result has still very bright and very dark areas. It seems LR is not 'compressing' the dynamic range as I would like it.
There is some room in post-processing (Shadows -> +100, White -> -100, etc.) to get about what I wanted, but I'd rather set LR to compress more to start with.

Is there any way to change the default settings, especially for compression?

I am using LR Classic (the version published in Oct 2017), but it worked the same way in the previous LR CC editions. I have also tried 5, 7 and 9-bracket shots, also with very large spreads (so they are going from all-white to all-black), the result is the same.

In the shown image, the top row is the 3-bracket, bottom row left is what I get from LR, bottom right is what I would like to get. Look at the bright spot just above the left center of each shot - my target has the structure from the dark shot, but the LR-generated one is still a bit burned out: enter image description here

  • It's really difficult to see much detail in images so small. – Michael C Oct 24 '17 at 1:52
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The workflow commonly thought of when talking about "HDR" consists of two steps:

  • combining multiple image to one High Dynamic Range image which encompasses (hopefully) the whole DR of the scene, which is more than a single shot can capture. It is also more than ordinary output methods/devices can reproduce.
  • tone-mapping that image into a representation with lowered DR so we can actually enjoy the scene on a monitor or print.

Lightroom composes your images to one HDR image. I.e., an image that has high dynamic range, not a tone-mapped, compressed dynamic range representation of it. You can process this HDR image any way you like afterwards, eg. by pulling down highlights and pushing shadows, which is one way of tone-mapping to a lower dynamic range.

The point is that the automatic merge process only produces the equivalent of a RAW image for you, leaving all options for development open for you.

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