HDR editing in Adobe Camera Raw 7.1
In a previous article, Extreme contrast edits in Lightroom 4 and ACR 7, I showed how it is now possible to process raw photos that recorded a wide tonal range and successfully edit the tones, just as you would if editing a high dynamic range master. Well, the latest Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) 7.1 update now allows you to edit 32-bit HDR TIFF images, just as you would regular Raw, JPEG or TIFF files. This offers a huge improvement over the HDR Toning controls available in Photoshop, which though effective are still quite tricky to master. I find the Process Version (PV) 2012 Basic panel controls in ACR 7.1 (and Lightroom 4.1) are much easier to manage.
What’s most interesting here is that Basic panel sliders in PV 2012 were very much engineered with the challenges of high dynamic range editing in mind. Now I realize that the rise of HDR-processed images has its detractors. I'll admit I'm not much of a fan of the overly processed look myself. I also dislike the rather obvious halos that result from tone mapping HDR files to create a low dynamic range version.
The future direction of ACR and Lightroom seems clearly set to address such shortcomings though and provide an editing environment which can cope with HDR source files. For now, ACR allows you to edit single exposure images and faux HDR files. Looking forward to the future, I've no doubt camera sensor technology will evolve to the point where we're able to capture much greater dynamic ranges than we can today. The new ACR/Lightroom PV 2012 controls are going to be ideally suited to edit the files from such sensors.
The final version shows the results of an extreme adjustment, and while this does venture close to a kind of 'HDR look', the halos are nowhere nearly so obvious as when applying extreme adjustments using Merge to HDR Pro. My personal preference would be aim for a balance between this version and the original one at the top.