Interesting New Bracket Processing Feature in Lightroom 4.1

June 27th, 2012

If you shoot brackets, have Lightroom 4 and Photoshop CS5 or CS6 you need to checkout Matt Kloskowski’s video on a cool new feature in Lightroom 4.1 over at This is indeed a killer Lightroom tip! Thanks Matt! And thanks Sonny  Epps for pointing Matt’s post out.

Here is an overview of what Matt shows you how to do:

  1. In Lightroom 4.1 (you must have the most recent update) you send Photoshop some brackets.
  2. You tell Photoshop to just create a 32 bit “HDR” file with the brackets.
  3. Photoshop sends back a huge (when I did this PS CS6 sent back a 250meg tif file) that has the hole tonal range of all the brackets.
  4. You can then use the controls in Lightroom to adjust this file to make it look like you want. The exposure range in this file is -10EV to +10EV.

I’m not sure what to call this process. It’s not really HDR. It seems more like Exposure Fusion although I don’t have a clue what the algorithm is that’s combining the bracketed images you send Photoshop. There are some pluses and minuses to this process:


  • You can work with the intuitive Lightroom sliders you are familiar with instead of the wacky, unintuitive sliders in most bracket processing software.
  • Commenters on Matts post said this works with CS5 as well as CS6. It may also work with with other versions of Photoshop before CS5.
  • This process appears that it’s not traditional HDR processing


  • With 4- 21meg RAW files as input (on a fast iMac with a SSD drive) the whole processing time out to PS6 and back seemed slow compared to other bracket processing software.
  • The final results were good but it didn’t take my breath away.

Update: Just after I posted this I found another video tutorial by Julieanne Kost that explains this same technique.

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7 Responses to “Interesting New Bracket Processing Feature in Lightroom 4.1”

  • This is still HDR in the strictest sense: a 32-bit, moving point process. It is just that the tonemapping occurs in Lightroom rather than Photoshop.

  • Thanks for posting this Larry! I need to give a round-up evaluation of Photomatix-Enfuse-Oloneo & this technique now. The highlights & shadows are so good already in LR4 with a Raw file, I’m curious how much better a 32 file can do.

  • Thanks… I’ll play around with it…. question… if I edit in 32-bit, when I convert the image to 8-bit (for the Realtor, Internet, etc), do the adjustments I make remain the same… will the 8-bit version look the same as the 32-bit version?

  • @ Patrick, short answer – no. It won’t have the same color depth. Honestly, the difference between 8-bit, 16-bit or 32-bit is minimal to the untrained eye anyway. Then on top of that, every monitor is calibrated differently. What you’re looking at on screen won’t have the same exact appearance to your clients. Working in higher bit range gives you more leverage in color adjustments, and helps with banding. Everything you see on the internet is 8-bit.

  • Larry : thanks so much for this post : I had no idea it was an option.


    I found the result pretty impressive : definitely 8 useable stops of tone which brought up shadows well and found detail in burned out lights.

    I found it much easier to work on the file with the Lightroom sliders that I am familiar with rather the tone mapping tools that you get with say Photomatix. Plus colour-wise, the result was natural looking.

    Re Geoff’s point about the superb highlights and shadow sliders in LR4: in a straight comparison doing some pretty extreme global adjustments (nothing more) to a single RAW file from my bracketed sequence, the 32 bit composite scored really only in the separation of tones in the shadow areas (to be expected with greater bit depth being apportioned here): an A3 enlargement would show this more than a screen sized image. For ultimate quality it’s a nice solution and relatively quick . But I was stunned at what LR 4 can do with a single RAW (and so fast ) for RE applications.

    One thing: if I just hit Save in Photoshop the composite 32 bit file was automatically reimported into Lightroom as a PSD file (as is usually the case with editing out of LR in PS) : but this PSD file it generates is unreadable by LR : fix is to save as from Photoshop as a TIFF and then manually import into LR, so just one extra step required.

    Thanks as ever for keeping the rest of us up to speed with all these exciting developments.

  • You can also save the intermediate radiance file generated by Photomatix as a 32-bit tiff and import it into LR 4.1 and do the same thing. Here’s a link to a good webinar video that includes the process steps along with a comparison with final tone mapped images from Lightroom and Photomatix:!/video/an-hdr-explosion-part-v-with-brian-matiash

  • @ Simon – The solution to this is at the tail end of Matt’s video. To get this to work in LR go to Edit, Preferences, External Editing. Change the File Format to TIFF. Then it will import into LR fine.

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