Creative Graphics Photo Editing

The Power of EDR (Extended Dynamic Range)

I came up with the term EDR (Extended Dynamic Range) image after trying to push the limits of Adobe Camera Raw (ACR), which are comparable to the limits we find in Adobe’s Lightroom too. Pushing the limits means trying to see how much detail can be pulled out of the shadows, and how much the highlights can be toned down/preserved in a single, very high-contrast file. EDR is similar to HDR (High Dynamic Range), but HDR is needed in extremely high-contrast situations.

The opening EDR image for this chapter was created from a snapshot I took of a fast-moving freight train in Gallup, New Mexico. The train was several stops underexposed and the clouds were on the brink of being overexposed.

Before going on, it’s important to realize that in photography, as in many things in life, there’s always a trade-off for doing something. When it comes to EDR, that trade off may be getting some digital noise in the shadow areas in your picture.

That is what happened when I created my EDR image. I could have left the noise in my picture, because noise can add to the mood of a photograph. Or as my dad used to say, “If a picture is so boring that you notice the noise, it’s a boring picture.”

I decided, however, to remove the noise using Topaz DeNoise, which resulted in the opening image for this chapter.

Below is my pre-Topaz DeNoise image. When I published this picture on the web, no one noticed the noise, due to the relatively small size and resolution.

Noise becomes more important as the size of your image increases, especially when it comes to making large prints.

Before making my ACR adjustments, I did what I always do first: see how cropping can improve an image. Cropping gives us a second chance at composition. With a simple crop, a photograph may have more impact.

After cropping my image, I needed to correct the perspective because the post of the railroad gate in my original snapshot looks as though it is leaning into the frame. Correcting the perspective in Photoshop is easy: Select All >Edit >Transform >Perspective and then pull outward from either the top left or right anchor points.

Next I opened the image in ACR, using the ACR plug-in in Photoshop. Take a look at the sliders on the right at their default settings.

Here is what I did to push the limits of ACR.


• Exposure – makes an image brighter;

• Shadows – opens up shadow areas;

• Clarity – makes the image look sharper by increasing detail;

• Vibrance – increases the saturation of non-saturated colors;

• Saturation – increases the saturation of all the colors in the photograph.


• Contrast – reduced the difference between the shadows and highlights;

• Whites – preserved the highlights;

• Highlights – brings back (and rescues in some cases) detail in bright areas;

• Blacks – makes blacks look bolder and adds contrast to the file.

I was actually surprised at the power of ACR. Detail in the sky was maintained, and the shadows were opened up to a point where I could clearly see the letters on the side of the train.

I liked the color image, but as usual, when I find a color image that I like, I experiment with black-and-white.

I used Nik Silver Efex Pro, one of my favorite monochrome conversion plug-ins, to transform my color file into a black and white image. I selected the High Structure (smooth) preset and the Neutral color filter. As a finishing touch, I added a Type 1 Image Border.

As a final touch, I brought my image back into Photoshop and used the Dodge tool to darken the foreground to bring more attention to the train.

Keep the power of EDR in mind when you open an image file in Photoshop. Better yet, when you are out photographing, try to envision the end result. The more you visualize, the more you will start to “see” in ACR or Lightroom.

Also keep in mind that EDR is not always the answer for toning down the highlights and opening up the shadows – although it may be your only alternative when working on an image in which the subject, like the train in my image, is moving very fast.

Excerpt from Rick Sammon’s Creative Visualization for Photographers: Composition, exposure, lighting, learning, experimenting, setting goals, motivation and more by Rick Sammon © 2015 Taylor & Francis Group. All Rights Reserved.

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