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An in-depth look at Luminar Neo’s new HDR fusion

I’m a big fan of bracketing and merging into a single HDR image. It’s great for having images with incredible detail, as well as recovering highlights and shadows. So when I had the chance to test out Luminar Neo’s new HDR Merge extension, I jumped at the chance.

What is Luminar Neo HDR Merge?

Luminar Neo’s HDR Merge is a new extension that will allow you to digitally merge three or more images to create an HDR (High Dynamic Range) image.

For example, if you take a series of 3 bracketed images of a landscape, you can merge them to bring out the best in highlights, mid-detail and shadows. This brings dramatic levels of detail to your image and helps you recover things like highlights and shadows in difficult exposures. HDR Merge supports up to 10 bracketed shots.

HDR Merge will also automatically align your images (whether on a tripod or handheld) and remove ghosting (movement of objects in your frames) if trees, clouds or people move, thus preventing ghosting. blurred areas.

Where to find it in Luminar Neo

Open Luminar Neo and in the top left you should see a small puzzle piece. Click on it and you should see the HDR Merge extension to install. It’s a fairly simple process to install from here.

Which images work best for merging?

Almost anything with high dynamic range is great for HDR merging, including landscapes, seascapes, and cityscapes. Astro or night photography could even be created as a fused image.

HDR merging of three images
An HDR fusion of 3 images

You will need at least three images of slightly different exposures of the same scene. You can actually use up to 10 images in HDR Merge. This will give you incredible detail, recovering any lost detail in light or dark areas. In a single standard shot of the same scene, you would likely have lost large amounts of detail by keeping your mid range exposed, making shadows and highlights disappear.

How to merge images?

Import the images or folder you want to work with into your Luminar Neo catalog. Then open your folder and select 3-10 images you want to merge. These should be slightly different exposures of the same scene, often called parentheses.

Now drag them right to the HDR Merge panel. The selected images will then appear in the panel. Click the Settings icon at the top right of the panel to further enhance your settings.

There are a few parameters to consider:

Automatic alignment

Whether freehand or on a tripod, there are often small differences, so it’s best to check the automatic alignment to get the best results. HDR Merge will align the images so that there is no overlap when merging the images.

Ghost Reduction

When shooting outdoors, there are often small to large amounts of movement, from wind blowing trees or clouds to people moving through the shot. Checking ghost reduction means that any motion will be minimized or removed, as Luminar Neo will use the reference image (selected next or left as default) to remove any ghosting or motion in your merged photo.

As part of this, you can also select the amount to minimize the removed motion in your blended image. Low means there will be very little pixel change, which means you might still end up with overlaps. On the other side, High will adjust a higher number of pixels if needed. While High might be an obvious choice, choosing it can sometimes thin out or define areas that might not need it. I usually set mine to Medium, as it works quite well for most images I’ve tried.

Merge

Once you have left the settings, click on the purple Merge button. This merges your images together, which may take a bit of time depending on your machine and how many images you have selected to be merged. You’ll find your finished images in an HDR Merged folder in your catalog, ready for editing.

An HDR fusion of 3 wetland images

What to do once the images are merged?

Now that your image has been merged, the fun can begin. Select your image from the HDR Merge folder, then go to the editing panel.

I visited the Enhance panel, as well as Develop, Structure, Color, Landscape, and Dramatic. I also used the Remove Dust Spots function in the Erase panel to remove several dust spots (reducing the ghosts does NOT remove them, since they don’t move from frame to frame). I also added some fog in the Atmosphere panel because there was quite a bit of fog and I wanted to accentuate it.

Editing your merged HDR image
Editing your merged HDR image

I really only made some basic adjustments, as the HDR image gave me a lot of detail. Any additional changes you make are really down to personal choice. You can also apply presets to your merged HDR images, before editing them further. If you edit more than one HDR blend in a folder, consider saving your edit as a preset by clicking Actions at the bottom. You can then apply the same modification to other images. It’s such a time saver.

How much does HDR merging cost?

If you are an Aurora HDR 2019 user, you can get HDR Merge for free. Otherwise you can get the HDR Merge Extender for $49.95.

You don’t have Luminar Neo yet? Get a bundle with HDR Merge and a special HDR Merge bundle – full of skies and presets – for $139.90.

Slightly more colorful wetland edit
Slightly more colorful wetland edit

Easy to use, with great results

I found HDR Merge really easy to use. It’s simple and fairly intuitive, it’s certainly not overwhelming, and the end results were great. I have never had a problem while testing this product.

For Luminar Neo customers, I really think this is a great feature and a lot of value, especially if you shoot landscapes, seascapes or cityscapes and like to frame your shots .