Lightroom 6 and HDR? #WTFAdobeHDR


Since I originally published this article, there is news! Even though it’s a TREMENDOUS conflict of interest, haha, but I developed my own HDR Software with MacPhun called Aurora HDR 2017. It’s absolutely amazing and completely removes the need for Lightroom. But I’ll let you choose for yourself! 🙂

Lightroom 6 Unreview

This sensational blog post is brought to you by Trey’s Lightroom Presets, which are mega awesome and were made by Trey, the guy writing this in the third person that thinks these presets will bring you happiness and enlightenment on your deathbed.

I’m a huge fan of Lightroom, but this HDR addition is mega lame. Mega Lame Dot Com.

I’ll also talk about some of the other big additions, which everyone seems to rave about without hesitation. I’m actually fascinated by the internet and how Adobe can make the slightest little change or improvement that should have been there several years ago, and everyone goes nuts like Moses has found a third tablet with five new commandments. I think actually there may be a hidden Adobe commandment that says, “Thou shalt cripple Lightroom so more plebeians must buyeth Photoshop.”


But first, since everyone probably wants to know about the new HDR functionality, we’ll get started with that. I’ve been doing HDR stuff for about 8 years and used just about every product. Every day I put up a new image here on the blog… so that’s 365 images a year, most of which have some element of HDR in them. It all started a long time ago with the HDR Tutorial, which I continue to update.

About 3 or 4 years ago I switched from Aperture to Lightroom and I never looked back. I really do love Adobe Lightroom and even made an Organize Your Photos! video tutorial here to show how I use it.

Here’s five of my favorite HDR images so you can see the kind of work I like to do. My work is not for everyone, and if you don’t like it, what you don’t realize is that I’ve already ignored you even before you’ve thought about it.

Inception Reflection New York

Taking the Yacht for a Midnight Spin

Exploring New Zealand on the way to the Antarctic

New HDR in Lightroom

In short, here are the three things I’ve found (I expand on each one below):

  • The results are a bit boring (often, quite boring)
  • LR HDR appears to be 60-90% slower than Aurora HDR 2017 for Mac
  • LR HDR appears to be 30-80% slower than Photomatix for Windows
  • There are absolutely no options for you to adjust the intensity of the HDR image. Even more surprising is the resulting new image has many siders pre-moved (including the highlight slider completely to the left), meaning there is little or no more recovery there.

Try This Yourself and try not to type #WTFAdobeHDR

It appears that you could save time by simply taking the middle exposure, dropping the highlights, and amping up the shadows. And by save time, I mean up to several minutes. I have a fast computer and using the HDR Merge on Lightroom is is pretty slow. If you just move THREE sliders on the middle exposure, you appear to get the exact same result in 2 seconds.

Tell me if I’m crazy; tell me if I’m wrong. I mean, I’m not, and I won’t listen to you anyway, but feel free.


Here’s the new image that is created after merging in Lightroom HDR. You’ll see those three sliders on the right, each of which are automatically moved for you during the process. This took about 30 seconds on a Really Fast Computer.


Here’s one I made from the middle exposure in 2 seconds by simply moving those three sliders myself.

I’ve been scratching my head trying to figure out why they made something so underwhelming. Personally, I don’t want to have to use another tool in the process… I know the people at Adobe are smart, but I’m actually confused how such a big team can take so long to make something so uninteresting. The team at Nik made a great HDR product in a small portion of the time. The team at Photomatix made something better than Adobe many years ago (and way way faster).

It’s actually surprising to me that a big company is so far behind these small companies. Why didn’t they just buy Photomatix and get their uber-fast and much-more-interesting algorithms? I don’t own any of Photomatix, btw… but just wondering about the decision processes of Adobe. They do a lot of strange stuff, but I figure this is because many decisions are made by committee, and this is why we never see a statue of a committee.

Lackluster HDR Results

When processing the photo, there is literally ONE option to adjust the look of your photo, which is “Auto-Tone.” That is basically ZERO options. And I don’t even know why it is an option, because if it is not selected, your photo does not get HDR’ed! It’s like having a Gaussian Blur dialog with a checkbox inside that says “Gaussian Blur.”

I’ve tried about 10 different images in there. I toggle on and of the “Auto-Tone” image and I haven’t been impressed once. Again, I can get the exact same result by just moving those three sliders on the middle image.


The Before Shot


The HDR Results from LR


One of 20 different results from Photomatix

Like, why not have Presets with lots of options? Pretty much all modern filter programs out there have presets now with little thumbnails. Maybe you’ve seen the awesome MacPhun Intensify stuff for example? Honestly, it’s not that hard to do, and Adobe could have made some Very Interesting HDR Presets that could give you a lot of different looks.

For example, here’s a screenshot of Photomatix featuring some of the Vaingloriously Named Trey Ratcliff’s Photomatix Presets. These are recommended by 2 out of 3 doctors.

Before Photomatix Photo

Before Shot


How presets look in Photomatix

Slow HDR Boat to China

I’m not gonna write much about this other than to say that in my 10 tests, it was always quite slow. It averages 30-80% slower than Photomatix. Maybe I’m just used to speedy Photomatix or other fast tools like MacPhun.

I have a fast Macbook Pro and I have used Lightroom to HDR merge many times. On average, for 3 RAW photos (each one 36 megapixels), it took 17 seconds to get into the dialog and then an additional 10 seconds after clicking merge. For 5 RAW images, it took 44 seconds to get into the dialog and an additional whopping 104 seconds after clicking merge.

Compare that with Photomatix (see my Photomatix Review) with the exact same photos. For 3 photos, it took 10 seconds to get into the dialog and then 4 seconds to process. For 5 photos, it took 16 seconds to get into the dialog and 5 seconds to process. That’s an amazing savings of over two minutes. TWO MINUTES DOT COM. (sorry I’ve been doing robot-voice lately).

I think one reason it is slow is because it’s converting everything to DNG first. So maybe if you’re already DNG it will be faster… personally I don’t covert to DNG. This is another topic… people ask my why I don’t convert. My short answers are: 1) It takes quite a bit longer during import. 2) In practice.I don’t really see the size savings as being material. 3) I’m not worried about my RAW photos going obsolete, and just in case they do, I can convert to DNG in 5 years or whatever when my computer is 50x faster.

Crippled Sliders

Here’s another surprise (the hits keep on comin’!). After the photo has been HDR processed, you’ll notice that the sliders have been pre-slid for your pleasure.

Maybe some of you know about the Photoshop “Merge to HDR” functionality. Now, I’m not really a fan of that either. However, there is one good feature that I was SURE Lightroom would include. In Photoshop, when you drag in a bunch of images for HDR, you still get a lot more control over the shadows/highlights and this sort of thing. Yes, you can add some gradients and adjustment brushes in LR, but it’s not on the surface. Even when I do that, I’m not seeing any more recovery.

And when you compare the HDR functionality in Photoshop to Lightroom, again, there is no comparison. At least the Photoshop one gives you some options to tweak out the intensity or variety of the effect. The only options the LR version gives you is around the ghosting.

Good stuff about the New Lightroom

It seems generally faster. Their marketing speak is “up to 10 times faster” which could mean literally anything (like the Help dialog loads 10 times faster whereas the curves tool is 1.2 times faster). But I do notice one of my biggest pet peeves is way faster — the crop tool. Before, when I would make a lot of changes to a photo, it was extremely sluggish during the crop.

Also there is a panorama merge, so that is handy for quick panos or people that want to only live life in LR. I still use Autopano because it is more powerful and lets me do HDR panoramas.

There are other features that I don’t use like facial recognition and advanced video slideshows. There are also some updates to mobile, but I don’t use those much, if at all.

What I wish they had added

Even though I love Lightroom, I find Adobe to be a frustrating company. It’s so obviously that they purposefully cripple Lightroom so people will keep using Photoshop.

A really good example is the content-aware healing brush. It’s Really Amazing in PS, and the spot-removal tool in LR is just not good enough. It’s literally Very Easy to add into LR, but they don’t do it.

Another good example is layers. Layers would not be that difficult to add (especially with their team of engineers that are using their time instead by working on such killer features as “Advanced Video Slideshows”).

I’d also like to see better catalog control and organization. I have it figured out, but it’s inscrutable to many people. I can’t tell you how many people, especially beginners, are super-confused about how to manage your LR catalog, especially if you travel and you have too many photos for one computer or drive.

In Sum

Obviously the thing THEY were most excited about was the HDR functionality. All their marketing material and blog posts begin with this amazing announcement. But it’s by far one of the most underwhelming features.

Exploring New Zealand on the way to Antarctica

More from Lake Tekapo

See this church below? Here’s another video that I shot in this area a few years ago when I was using the Sony NEX system… of course, now I’ve moved to the Sony A7 system! You can read more about these and more on the Reviews page here on the site.

Daily Photo – Exploring New Zealand on the way to Antarctica

Stu and I had a really fun road trip on the way to Christchurch, where we took a flight down to Antarctica. Along the way, we had a fun night here in Tekapo. There's actually an AMAZING sushi restaurant right by here… we stayed there a LONG time and ate a lot of sushi and had a lot of sake, then stumbled over to take this photo during an amazing sunset!

Exploring New Zealand on the way to Antarctica

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2015-01-04 21:34:59
  • CameraILCE-7R
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time0.4
  • Aperture9
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length16.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias+0.3

Camera Bag Stolen in Germany and… New April Lightroom Presets, Live!

April Lightroom Presets, only $2.50 instead of $5

The monthly tradition continues with my Lightroom Presets! I hope you have enjoyed the previous month packs, and here comes a funky-fresh one!

Daily Photo – Amazing Cologne

I loved everything about Cologne… except for my train ride back to Dusseldorf.

My whole camera bag was stolen! Can you believe it? I was distracted and before I knew it, my whole camera bag was swiped in a grab n' run! What a bummer! I still was holding my tripod and A7r, so I didn't lose those, luckily. But I did lost an A7ii, two Leica lenses, and a Sony lens. Ouch! Oh well, it's just stuff… But kind of inconvenient now, you know? Ah well…

I filed out a police report and everything. We're checking on insurance now to see what was covered… fingers crossed but I have low expectations!

Amazing Cologne

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2015-03-14 02:07:21
  • CameraILCE-7R
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1.6
  • Aperture4
  • ISO160
  • Focal Length69.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias-0.3

April’s Lightroom Presets coming in 2 days!

Set your Cal!

They are only half price for 24 hours! Here’s the Lightroom Presets page that will tell you more about them… and here’s a little video!

Daily Photo – And the Lights Spiral Down

This is one of my favorite photos from Dubai, I must say! I keep coming back to it over and over again, and it gives me great pleasure!

I would love to live in a home surrounded by these. Or at least have one or two rooms absolutely full of them. I've only seen a few of these stores around the world, and they have such a plethora of them in these locations that I picture getting ALL of them just for one room. That would either be insane or awesome, but probably awesome.

And the Lights Spiral Down

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2015-03-20 00:29:20
  • CameraILCE-7R
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/5
  • Aperture8
  • ISO80
  • Focal Length16.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias-0.7

March 1 – The First-of-the-Month Lightroom Preset party continues!

March 1, a Fresh Pack!

For 24 hours on the first day of each month, I release a new Lightroom Pack at half price ($2.50). It went great for Jan and Feb so let’s keep the party going! See more on the Lightroom Presets page!

Today’s photo below was made with one of the presets. Each pack always includes a Black & White preset, and this is one of them.

Daily Photo – Super Hef Comes to the Rescue!

We were camping out in a valley near a glacier on the main continent of Antarctica. We were only supposed to be there for three nights, but bad weather came in. It was not quite a blizzard, but too intense nonetheless. That delayed us for another night. We started to get a bit worried about rations and everything, but everything turned out okay because Hef came to grab us in his chopper the next day. Here's a photo I got as he was landing, with snow whirling about…

Super Hef Comes to the Rescue!

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2015-01-17 20:39:50
  • CameraILCE-7S
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/2500
  • Aperture6.3
  • ISO500
  • Focal Length35.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias+0.7

Black Friday Sales for Fans and Photographers

Save 35% on all Presets, Tutorials* and eBooks

This Black Friday sales begins NOW and ends on Monday, December 1st

All the cool kids are holding Black Friday sales so we thought we would join the fun! Stop by the Stuck in Customs store and save 35% on all Presets, Tutorials* and eBooks! No coupon code is required. We have a variety of different tools and learning resources perfect for any skill level, from amateurs to professionals. See you there!

Hey what’s up with asterisk on the Tutorials? Well we JUST launched a brand new Textures tutorial a few days ago. We priced the tutorial and the 170 high-res texture pack at a super low rate already so we decided to keep them out of this Black Friday sale.

Use the code BlackFridayPrints to save 40% on all Prints

This Black Friday sales begins NOW and ends on Monday, December 1st

The Prints will make perfect gifts for friends, family or even yourself! You can view my entire portfolio over on SmugMug. Click on an image you like from the Portfolio section and then click on the green BUY PHOTOS button just above the image. The prices displayed will be the standard price. You can enter the Coupon Code “BlackFridayPrints” during the check out process to save 40%! Act now because this special 40% discount ends on December 1, 2014.

You can also save 35% on ALL eBooks over at

Head on over to for a HUGE collection of amazing eBooks from many different authors. The 35% discount will be applied upon checkout. You gotta hurry though! This sale ends on December 1st.


Additional Sales from our Friends

Get 40% off a SmugMug account

I store my entire portfolio on SmugMug. They have amazing tools for customizing your site, showcasing your work and selling prints. You can read all about them over on my SmugMug review. They have a special Black Friday Special that will save you 40% off a new SmugMug account.

Macphun Photo Editing Software

Our friends at Macphun have an awesome Black Friday / Cyber Monday offer this year! Four award-winning photo editing apps, plus a $25 Amazon or iTunes Gift Card for just $129.99, a 40% savings! Check it out at

Happy Girls in Guangxi and more great feedback on The Arcanum

More Great Feedback on The Arcanum!

First, The Arcanum hit #8 of the Top 51 Websites for Learning Online. Amazing! That’s a great tribute the the team, the Masters, and the Apprentices! Thanks everyone!

And here are two wonderful Apprentices who made some lovely posts about their thoughts and experiences! The first is from Rose Fredriksen and the second is from Marjorie McDonald.

Daily Photo – Happy Girls in Guangxi!

One night I went out in the rain to take photos while staying in the little town of Yangshao. It was great fun! I was using my Sony A7r and my Leica 35mm f/1.4 which requires manual focus. Naturally, this means I need both hands to take photos. Luckily I had my guide Andy with me to help hold the umbrella!

Happy Girls in Guangxi!

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2014-06-05 00:00:00
  • CameraILCE-7R
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/500
  • Aperture
  • ISO4000
  • Focal Length
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias

The Temple Rises and the new MacPhun Review!

New Macphun Review!

Check out the Macphun Review here on the site. It’s been a long time since I’ve been excited about a nice piece of software… You can also pop right over to buy it at MacPhun Creative Kit!

Here’s a few sneak peaks of what it looks like… more inside the review!



Daily Photo – The Temple Rises at ?????????????

I just visited this rather AMAZING temple here in Thailand. This is called Wang Boran. After I got down through the trees to explore more, I was completely shocked at this place. Wow… Maybe you can get a sense of it from the other pictures in the MacPhun review above… will write more about the story of it all soon! ?

The Temple Rises at ?????????????

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2014-07-28 00:00:00
  • CameraILCE-7R
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time10
  • Aperture5.6
  • ISO160
  • Focal Length12.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias

Exploring Caves in the Valley of Fire

Careful Composition

Some of these spots are Extremely Difficult to get into. I’m not kidding. I have to get my body in positions that are not only downright awkward, but seem patently inhuman. The instinct is just to get the shot and get out of there. It’s not a game of inches — it’s a game of millimeters. When I am in these delicate spots, I try really hard to make sure that the tripod is exactly right and the framing is exactly right. If things aren’t perfect when you take the shot, sometimes you just can’t save it in post

Daily Photo – Exploring Caves in the Valley of Fire

Is this place hot?


Did I dump a bottle of water on my head every 15 minutes?


Was I completely dry for 14 minutes between each dumping?


Exploring Caves in the Valley of Fire

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2013-08-18 00:00:00
  • CameraNEX-7
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time4
  • Aperture22
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length10.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias

The Beauty of Zion and Photomatix Betas

The New Photomatix

If you’ve already bought Photomatix (or, if not, visit the Photomatix page and use the coupon code “TREYRATCLIFF” to save 15%) then you should be trying out the new beta! It’s really awesome. I used it to make this image below from Zion National Park. I keep forgetting to go to the beta page and get the newest version. They seem to release them on a fairly regular basis. There are so many changes that it is hard for me to keep track of it all, but I do no each subsequent version gets better and better.

Do you primarily use a Mac to edit your photos? If so, then check out Aurora HDR Pro! I worked with Macphun for over a year to build the ultimate HDR software!

Multi-Language Versions of the HDR Tutorial!

And speaking of Photomatix and HDR, we’re always adding new versions… here is the latest list.

HDR Tutorial (English)
?????? ??????? HDR ???? ??
HDR Tutoriál v ?eském jazyce
HDR handleiding in het Nederlands
Tutoriel HDR en français
HDR-Kurs auf Deutsch
Tutorial HDR in italiano
Tutorial HDR em Português
??????? ?? HDR ??-??????
Tutorial HDR en Español
or Contact us to help with translations.

Daily Photo – The Beauty of Zion

Here’s one of the first photos I got while rolling into Zion National Park. It was my first time to ever visit the park, so I was completely transfixed and blown away. It wasn’t that I had low expectations — it’s that I had NO expectations. But it was so colorful and full of trees and little rivers and everything… it was like being inside of a painting. Sorry it took me so long, Utah! 🙂

The Beauty of Zion

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2013-08-19 00:00:00
  • CameraNEX-7
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/640
  • Aperture4.5
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length14.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias-1

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