Creating “Hybrid” HDR Images

Use Photoshop layers to create hybrid HDR images that contain both extreme and natural elements.

I love having fun creating HDR images. Sometimes, however, you run into a challenge whereby you want a very stylized subject that happens to be outdoors. When your HDR image contains a sky, it’s very easy to make that sky look unnatural. While sometimes the surreal sky is nice, many times you’d like to have a stylized subject in a “natural” setting. The trouble with the HDR tone-mapping programs out there right now is that you don’t have the ability to change the micro contrast styles between different areas in your image. If you have access to Photoshop or Elements, you can blend two different tone-mapped versions of the same image using layers and layer masks.

The "grunge" image has great texture, but the sky becomes very unnatural.
Using "natural" settings produces a nice sky, but no textures in the car.

Neither of these images are ideal by themselves, but by combining them in Photoshop, you can mix and match using layer masks to show only the best parts of each image. In this example, the idea will be to keep the background “natural” while allowing the grunge effect to be applied only to the car.

Here’s a video tutorial of this technique, using Photoshop Smart Objects and Nik Software’s HDR Efex Pro.

Get a complete workshop on creative effects using Photoshop Layers with my Layers of Creativity Video

4 thoughts on “Creating “Hybrid” HDR Images”

  1. I keep watching and learning little things that help me editing, alot, thanks, this is great

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