Lightroom Plugins for HDR Photography

January 8, 2010

HDR, Lightroom, Making an Image

Ft Hartsuff, NE. 5-shot HDR Processed in Photomatix Pro and Color Effects Pro

Ft Hartsuff, Nebraska. 5-shot HDR Processed in Photomatix Pro and Color Effects Pro

Lightroom makes it easy to store, edit and process your images from one central location. With a few plugins, it is the perfect hub for your HDR workflow. I use Photomatix Pro for my HDR processing, but I’m sure that other HDR software works in a similar fashion.

First you will need to download and install the Photomatix Pro plugin for Lightroom. The plugin is included with Photomatix Pro. Once you have done that, select the three or more photos in your Lightroom catalog that you want to combine into an HDR image. Go to ‘File > Plug-in Extras > Export to Photomatix Pro’, or right-click on one of the selected photos and click ‘Export > Photomatix Pro’. In the Photomatix Pro dialog box select ‘Generate HDR image’ , ‘Automatically reimport into Lightroom library’, and ‘Stack with first selected photo’. I usually send TIFF files to Photomatix, but JPEG’s are OK too (that’s what Trey Ratcliff uses). Now process and tone-map your HDR image with Photomatix Pro (there is a great Photomatix tutorial on Trey’s website at When you click ‘Process’ your image will be saved and automatically imported into your Lightroom catalog.

There are several options after your HDR image is back in Lightroom. I like to use plugins like Nik Software’s Color Effects Pro or Topaz Adjust to make adjustments to my HDR photos. Both of these plugins work with Lightroom on a Mac, but the Topaz plugin doesn’t work on Windows yet. To use plugins inside Lightroom, go to ‘Photo > Edit in’ and select the plugin you want to use. You can also right-click on the photo and choose ‘Edit in’ to use a plugin. You can edit your original HDR file, or have Lightroom make a copy for you to edit. I prefer to work on a copy so I still have my original file. Your photo will open in the plugin window, you make your adjustments, then Lightroom reimports the image when you’re done. Easy! This workflow works well for single-shot HDR images. Just process the image like you want it with the plugins, then fine tune the result in Lightroom.

Playa Mal Pais, Costa Rica. 1 shot processed for a more artistic look with Topaz Adjust

Playa Mal Pais, Costa Rica. 1 shot processed for a more artistic look with Topaz Adjust

It is also easy to go from Lightroom to Photoshop for more involved editing. If you want to composite your tone-mapped HDR image with one or more of the source files, simply select the files you want to use and select ‘Photo > Edit in > Open as layers in Photoshop’. This will create a single Photoshop file containing your photos on separate layers. When you have finished your editing and masking just save the file (command/cntrl + S) and it will be saved back into your Lightroom catalog.

Using plugins for Lightroom is a great way to streamline your workflow. For more plugin tips and tricks, check out Rick Sammon’s Plugin Experience website.

, , , , , , , , , ,

This post was written by:

- who has written 23 posts on The Digital Photo Experience.

Rob Knight is an Adobe Certified Expert in Photoshop Lightroom and a two-time Photoshop Guru finalist. Based in Atlanta, Georgia, Rob loves to travel and share his passion for photography with others.
You can follow Rob on twitter @RobKnightPhoto, and find out about Rob’s classes and photo workshops at Rob Knight Photography

Contact the author

9 Responses to “Lightroom Plugins for HDR Photography”

  1. Jim B Says:

    Topaz Adjust is available as a plug-in for Windows…downloaded it last week.


    • Rob Knight Says:

      Hi Jim,

      Yes, Topaz Adjust for Photoshop works on Windows or Mac, but the Topaz Fusion Express plugin that allows you to use Adjust from Lightroom is only on the Mac at this point. Here is the link for Topaz Fusion Express-

      They should have a Lightroom plugin for Windows soon.




  2. Momoc HDR Photography Says:

    Thanks for the HDR information…I`m still learning HDR and still experiment with it. I ususally use lightroom preset to enhanced my HDR photo that have been processed with Photomatix.


  3. bill humason Says:

    just purchased l/r 3 and can not get tone mapped oic back into l/r.,end up going to original folder.I re installed photomatix pro with l/r plug-in but still not going back to lightroom 3.???
    Thank you in advance for your help


    • Rob Knight Says:

      Here are a few things to check…
      •make sure “Automatically re-import into Lightroom library” checked when you export your files to Photomatix Pro.

      •If you don’t check “Stack with first selected photo”, the tone-mapped images will be the last images in your grid view.

      •In the library module, check to see what folder you are accessing in the folders panel. If you are looking at the “Last Import” folder you won’t be able to see your tone-mapped images.

      If that doesn’t fix you up please email me at email hidden; JavaScript is required




  4. Melissa Says:

    Great HDR info. Thanks a lot!!


  5. Peter Says:

    Good info on the HDR trend/technique. I’ve got to incorporate some of these shots in the next wedding I do (and wow the bride!).


  6. Pete Says:

    Wow the water looks amazing..Using HDR turns an ordinary pic into an amazing one..



  1. […] Express plugin. Sorry PC users, but this plugin is Mac-only at this point. Check out the article HERE, and check out Trey Ratcliff’s HDR tutorial at […]

Leave a Reply