Learn To Use HDR Processing in PaintShop Pro

Some situations and events have always been notoriously tricky for photographers to capture… I’m talking about those times and locations where sunsets or strong backlights come into play. These scenes can be difficult because of the extreme range between the highlights and shadow areas. Unfortunately, neither film or digital sensors have ever been able to properly expose both ends of the extreme in a single capture–but fear not!

HDR (or high dynamic range) post-processing techniques allow photographers to overcome this limitation by capturing a series of exposures, ranging from properly exposed highlights up to properly exposed shadows, and then merging or combining the best of these exposures into one single image.

PaintShop Pro has a dedicated module to help with high dynamic range processing, called HDR Merge, so you can practice and quickly master this tricky technique in a few simple steps.

Selecting Your Photos

The images you capture for this technique should be taken at a regular exposure interval, usually 1 or 2 stops apart, and they should capture the range of tonalities in the scene. Even though there is an alignment function we can use later on, it is best to use a tripod to ensure that all of the exposures line up and get things as close to identical as possible in-camera.

QUICK TIP: Change shutter speed to vary exposure. Shifting depth of field may introduce artefacts.

starting images

Here are the 4 bracketed exposures for a sunset scene I shot while on a recent photo nature walk.

Start in the Manage Workspace and select the exposures you will be merging (use Ctrl + left-click to select multiple photos), just as you see below. With several varying exposures selected, right-click and choose HDR—Exposure Merge. This brings up a new dialog box that will guide you through the first step of the HDR process – merging your photos.

Prepare and Merge Your Photos

On this screen, there are a few options to set here. The first is the camera response curve. You’ll want to change this to match your camera model.

Next, select your alignment option. Your choices are to align the set of images based on their edges or to align major features. In this case the tree line forms a prominent edge and so edges will be a better choice. Click the Align button to complete the alignment.

The final step in this little process is an important feature called custom editing. This setting allows you to deal with large elements that may have moved or shifted between frames, like people walking around. In this particular case the clouds were moving.

Brush In lets you select a frame where the element is well-exposed and paint that object. The painted area from that one frame will be shown in the final merged image, while the same space is ignored in the other exposures.

Similarly, Brush Out gives you the ability to paint over items you’d rather leave out of the final merge.

In this case, I’ll select the frame with the best-exposed clouds and use Brush In to paint them into the final merge. Make sure you don’t Brush In the sky, so that can be included from darker frames where it is better-exposed.

When you’ve finished, click the Process button and you will be taken to the next step, HDR Adjustments.

Apply HDR Adjustments

This step offers a variety of adjustments to help you get the perfect high dynamic range look you are after.

You can start with the presets and work from those, but in this case I want a more natural feel to the scene and I skipped the presets.

The most helpful adjustment for this HDR image was the Temperature slider. The shadow light in this shot gave an overall blue cast to the clouds. To make the initial adjustment, use the Eyedropper tool on a neutral area and then refine the selection using the slider.

There are many other sliders to explore here, too. The 2 screenshots below show all of the sliders and settings that I used to create this particular HDR effect for this photo.

When you’re happy with the settings you’ve applied, click the Process button to lock in your changes and apply the HDR adjustments.

QUICK TIP: Found a setting combination you want to use again? Save it as an HDR Preset!

Fine Tuning and Tweaks for the Perfect Look

After clicking Process you will be taken to the third and final step, Fine-Tune.

At this stage you have the option to use many tools from the Edit Workspace to apply finishing touches to your newly merged HDR image.

You will probably want to look at all of these settings but be sure to look at High Pass Sharpen and Digital Noise Removal in particular because these automatically have default settings applied. The other settings all start at zero. For this image, I did some additional work on the white balance.

The Save and Close button will save the result as a .pspimage file, which you can then apply additional photo edits in the Edit Workspace.

Step 3 options

After merging my original photos, applying some basic HDR adjustments and then fine-tuning with some special tools, I was able to transform these four individual images into one stunning HDR-processed photo. PaintShop Pro offers unlimited possibilities for you to create the exact HDR-look you want for any image.

Take a look at my final results below and find your artistic expression with this powerful photo-editing tool in Corel PaintShop Pro!

Feeling Inspired? Download the Free 30-Day Trial of PaintShop Pro and discover the creative possibilities.

Comments (5)

Reader Interactions


  1. Titch Reinhardt says

    I have only been shooting in raw for less than a year and have had some good results mainly in wildlife. At present I am downloading my raw files from my EOS 750D into the Canon’s Digital Photo Professional program. When finished there I save them to Paintshop Pro X8 where I do the final touches. Why can’t I do everything in one program in raw and then convert to jpeg?

    • Alex Brazeau says

      Hi Titch, great to hear from you and thanks for getting in touch! I believe the Canon 750d is supported in PaintShop Pro X8’s RAW Lab, so you should be able to open the file there to get all your edits done in one place. Many photographers work with RAW processors like AfterShot Pro 3 or Canon’s program you mentioned to make large scale adjustments to many photos, often using sliders to make the changes. On the other hand, PaintShop Pro is designed for more detailed edits and compositions and, while it supports RAW, AfterShot Pro 3 is our real RAW workhorse–they’re a really great team when used together. Hope this helps!

    • Adam says

      Hello Kelly,

      The traditional method for HDR photography uses three different photographs with different exposure settings and combining them as shown in this tutorial. However, with a good camera that puts out high quality RAW images, it is definitely possible to split the image and artificially widen the dynamic range as you suggested!

      Hope this helps,
      Corel Discovery Center Team

  2. dougydougy says

    Excellent Primer in HDR post processing. Discovered I’ve been missing out on the technology using PSP2020Ultimate together-with iPAD Pro 10.5 & DJI Mavic2Pro both with HDR camera settings. Love the results, thnx Corel.

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