Photography Tutorials

Photoshop Secrets 21: Create a Fake HDR Effect

Photoshop Secrets 21: Create a Fake HDR Effect

Photoshop Secrets 21: Create a Fake HDR Effect

Today’s tutorial is designed to show you how to quickly soften your shadows and highlights. I’ve called it a Fake HDR effect. It seems slow at first, but if you record an action, the process will be fairly instant.

It’s a nice little tool to have in case you find your images are too contrasting. Sometimes, especially with landscapes, we can increase the mood of an image by softening the brightest and darkest tones in our scene. This action will do that for you.

Step-by-Step Tutorial

1. First, we need to add two new layers.

add new layers


2. With the top layer selected go to Edit>Fill.


3. We’re going to fill the top layer with Black. So make sure your settings are the same as mine and click OK.


4. Now select the middle layer and do the same. Go to Edit>Fill. This time we will fill this with white.

layer fill white


5. Hide both the top and middle layers.

hide layers


6. Add a layer mask to the top (black) & middle (white) layers.

masking layers


7. With the layer mask of the white layer selected go to Image>Apply image.

appyt image


8. Ensure your setting are the same as mine and click OK.

apply image settings


9. Make the middle layer visible.

show layer


10. Change the Blend Mode of the layer to Soft Light.

soft light blend mode


11. Lower the opacity of the layer to reduce the effect.

layer opacity level


12. Now, select the mask of the top (black) layer and go to Image>Apply Image.

image, Apply Image


13. Before you click OK make sure your settings are the same as ours, then click OK.

Setting in apply image


Fake HDR Effect

Fake HDR Effect

Thank you for reading another article in our Photoshop Secrets Series. We don’t do much HDR processing these days here’s 7 Examples of How Exposure Blending is Superior to HDR.

Even though HDR is on a downward trajectory there is still a fanbase of HDR photography out there. Some HDR images can be absolutely breathtaking. Here you will find 10 HDR Photographers Worth Watching.

Enter your email below and join our community of more than 100,000 photographers who have also
Subscribed to our newsletter.
Downloaded our FREE Photoshop Course.
Got our FREE Easy Panel for Photoshop.
And, have our FREE Essential Guide To Luminosity Masks E-Book.

To go directly to any of our products, simply click on the image below.

Raya Pro
Art of Photography
Art of Digital Blending
Exposure Blend Like an Expert
Mastering Lumi32
Jimmy’s Big 5 Photos

Shutter Evolve Complete Product Range

Photoshop Secrets 21: Create a Fake HDR Effect
Scroll to top