In this tutorial I will show you how I enhanced a sunset landscape photo in Photoshop using HDR toning and adjustment layers. I will also show you how to create realistic sunlight using Gradients and the Apply Image option to create selective masking.
Stock image used
What is an HDR effect
For this HDR effect we are going to use a JPG image which has a much limited dynamic range but even a JPG landscape can be enhanced in Photoshop. Usually an HDR image is created from 3 different images each of which are differently exposed, so there it should be one image exposed for the highlights (underexposed), one exposed for shadows (overexposed) and one for midtones (correctly exposed). These images are then combined using special software to create a High Dynamic Range photo or better known simply as HDR.
How to create Photoshop HDR effects
Newer versions of Photoshop come with a new feature called HDR Toning which can be found under the menu Image>Adjustments. With this sort of filter/tool you can create a faux HDR effect on your images. You will not get the same result as merging 3 raw exposures but you can greatly enhance any JPG. And for this tutorial we are going to create an HDR effect on a sunset landscape.
So for this HDR tutorial we will use the HDR toning along with different adjustment layers and light effect techniques. So once you have your image opened in Photoshop go to Image>Adjustments>HDR toning.
I used the Exposure and Gamma method instead of Local adaptation because I only wanted to increase a bit the dynamic range of my JPG file.