Photoshop 32 bit HDR editing – The Crypt

In the last article I covered general things that I do when photographing churches and cathedrals, and how easy it is because generally I am just trying to portray the beauty that is already there. This time were going down into the depths of the crypt at Gloucester cathedral and what I am looking to do here is convey a feeling of eeriness and a sense of being there.

So let’s start with the first exposures: tripod mounted, f9, ISO200, normal exposure 13 seconds, brackets +2,0,-2.

Photoshop HDR Pro + Lightroom 4.1 + Silver Efex Pro 2

File – Automate – Merge to HDR Pro…

And follow the instructions

When the images are blended at the top right hand side of the display there are some sliders and boxes where you can make adjustments, go to the mode box and select ’32 bit’, the sliders will now all disappear, select ‘OK’ this will create the 32 bit HDR file and will take you to the standard Photoshop interface, from the ‘file’ menu on the top ribbon bar select ‘save as’ the format needs to be ‘TIFF’, give your file a name and destination directory, this should now save a 32 bit TIFF file.

Open the file in Lightroom (it needs to be version 4.1 or above)

  • Adjust Highlights down -100
  • Adjust Shadows up +100
  • Adjust clarity up +100
  • Saturation pushed high
  • Yellow and orange saturation reduced back down
  • Export as ‘Colour.psd’

 Re-open the file in Lightroom

  • Edit in Silver Efex pro
  • Select preset ‘Wet Rocks’
  • Save
  • Clarity adjust up to about +20
  • Blacks adjust down slightly
  • Export as ‘Mono.psd’


Open both file in Photoshop

  • Create the images as layers with the colour version being the top layer
  • With top layer selected choose ‘Hard Light’ as the blending mode
  • Adjust ‘Opacity Slider’ to 73%
  • ‘Flatten’ layers’
  • Copy colour layer and paste onto working layer to create two layers (colour layer on top)
  • With top layer selected choose ‘Normal’ as the blending mode
  • Adjust ‘Opacity Slider’ to 30%
  • ‘Perspective Crop’ to correct verticals
  • Save as ‘Working.psd’


Open ‘Working.psd’ in Lightroom

  • Adjust ‘Clarity’ up +100 (this gives the final texture)
  • Adjust ‘Highlights’ down -20 (brings out detail on bright areas)
  • Adjust ‘Saturation’ down -20
  • Adjust ‘Green Luminance’ down -80
  • A little brush work to eliminate some unwanted light
  • Export as final image.


I have made the original files available and they can be found here:

Please feel free to use the files to follow this workflow, or generate your own version, I would be happy to see the results.

If you have any questions please use the ASK forum on this site and I will be happy to respond

Although I first started using this workflow for images where I was trying to add a sense of darkness, I have since found that by going through the same methodology but varying the tones in the b&W image and where the sliders are pushed to that this can work on a range of images.

Andrew Steel – I have been shooting DSLR for the last 4 years using Canons, early this year I moved on to the Sony NEX-5, I am convinced that for my type of photography the CSC’s are the right way to go so in the last month I have upgraded to the NEX-7 with a Rokinon 8mm fisheye. Every shoot now is with the intention of processing in HDR except for some night time photography when it is just not possible to get enough light on the sensor.

My online stuff can be found:

  • Mike Hardisty

    Great tutorial again Andrew. From my experiments with 32 bit processing using the new PhotoMatix plugin I have found that it works best with darker images.

    • Andrew Steel

      Thanks Mike, I’ve had limited success using the Photomatix 32bit hdr file for editing but intend to give it another try.

      • Andrew Steel

        Update: I have since used the HDR file created by Photomatix converted to 3 bit tiff and found it to a good alternative to the Photoshop version.

  • Neil

    Awesome stuff Andrew Steel

  • Steve Walser

    Andrew, I’ve been watching Sony’s progress with their NEX line and hope they eventually increase the bracketing options. How do you manage now with the 7. I mean. I can see you mange quite well, but what do you do you compensate for the rather limited bracketing range? And what you prefer the camera let you do?

    • Andrew Steel

      Cheers Steve, I’m kind of hoping that when they release the NEX 6 that they will update the NEX 7 firmware to give the same bracketing options. As far as using it now, one of the ‘navi’ wheels is set as exposure compensation and allows me to quickly change up and down to ±5ev in 1/3 increments when tripod mounted, this for me is generally okay as I am shooting inside and there is not a lot of movement going on, outside it’s a bit more of a pain on windy, cloudy days.

      • Andrew Steel

        Update: Sony have now released an update which gives proper bracketing options of upto ±3ev on the NEX-7

  • Paul M

    I really like the crypt shot because it allows for so many different looks from realistic to really grungy. Here is my take on it.


    • Andrew Steel

      Sorry Paul, missed this at the time of posting. Completely agree with your comment and like the processing giving a totally realistic image with good lighting. I think that this is the beauty of not just HDR but many of the processing tools now available, we as photographers are not just capturing moments but directing scenes.