20 Amazing Examples of HDR Portraits

High Dynamic Range (HDR) images can really take your photography to the next level.

But creating compelling HDR images, whether through fake HDR techniques in Photoshop or multiple exposures and tone-mapping, can be tricky.

Creating portraits can be even trickier, because human subjects are often less forgiving in HDR photos.

But you can do a few different things to get better results with your HDR portraits every time.

Below are 20 examples of excellent portraits representing a variety of HDR techniques.

For great HDR portraits, first make sure the skin of your subjects doesn’t take on gray tones, which can make them look like zombies and isn’t exactly attractive. This is a common problem with fake HDR images.

Make sure your subjects aren’t moving in the image, either. Blurring from hand and arm movement is the most common, because keeping these limbs perfectly still for more than a few seconds is difficult. You can fix blurring in the processing stage if you watch out for it.

This generally isn’t an issue with fake HDR images (unless the image is blurry to begin with), but it can be a big problem with real HDRs done with tone-mapping and multiple images.

Don’t make your images too flat. Again, this is more common with fake HDR, but spoiling a tone-mapped image is possible, too, if you process it too much. Flat images, especially of people, tend to look fake and lifeless.

Remember that the original purpose of HDR photography was to make images more accurately show the colors and shadows that the human eye perceives.

Keep this in mind when creating your own images and you’ll likely get better results. Producing great HDR images that are artistic and creative, without looking strange, is still possible.


Which ones are your favorites? Feel free to share your own HDR portraits with us in the comments’ area below…

  • http://www.orphicpixel.com Mars

    woow! those are just one amazing list of great HDR

    • arcataberry

      Booooring. dark, gloomy, makes me feel like i’m peering into a huge blackhead and an oil spill. can you do anything with lighter emotions/subjects?

  • http://www.tarifarak.com maria

    I like the ones from Carl Carl and Carlzon. Good jobs.

  • http://www.timsklyarov.com/ timsky

    Nice collection!

    Actually I don’t think that hdr is good for people portraits, but theese examples are trully nice.

    And I want to share one photo, that I took last year in egypt:


  • vikas ghodke

    woow superb list of hdr

  • http://netzfx.de Oliver

    yes … really amazing – but some will be better in hires.

  • http://andrewwilkinson.co.nz/ Andrew Wilkinson

    To be perfectly honest, nearly all HDR photos are terrible – with the photographer just plain using it as a gimmick. Unfortunately most of these are no exception (but they’re still better than 90% of the OMG PHOTOMATIX TOPAZ ADJUST CLARITY+100 SATURATION+100 stuff floating around there, haha.) The old man with the cigarette (near the middle) is an example of a potentially great photo that’s been ruined with overprocessing. HDR is kinda like Photoshop filters, too often people implement it thinking it will make their photos good, without understanding the purpose behind it: to capture a higher dynamic range in one image than a single exposure would allow.

    The picture of the dude in the hood with his face covered is a great example of an increased dynamic range; and while the girl with the teddy picture is a tad unrealistic looking, it really does benefit from the processing as well.

    HDR done right is like good design, it becomes (nearly) invisible and can be incredible. The top four are great, everything below them ranges from average to bad, except for a couple. Love the blog, but most of these portraits are definitely not “amazing.” Sorry to be so negative!

    • http://www.thebaldchemist.com The baldchemist

      Nothing to be sorry about Andrew, It’s time that someone stood up and put some advice and corrective measures in print. It’s not negativity but objectivity and damn sound observation..
      The risk is that new picture makers believe that post shoot is all. Well said. I also enjoy the blog but let’s not get carried away with comfortable mediocrity.
      As we usually say great design is a little like obscenity, you can’t describe it but you know it when you see it.

    • http://www.getflourish.com fL0urish

      totally right! instantly, when i saw the thumb of that article i was quite sure that the photography i’m going to see here will be terrible. people should stop using photomatix as a standalone tool. keep fusing hdr and the ldr image and enhance details where it is needed!

    • http://www.spencerready.com Spencer Ready

      I have to agree. Unfortunately, most of these photographs are not good. They all look like botched amateur jobs using photoshop filters. Like it was already mentioned above, a few of these had potential before HDR but have since been ruined by over-processing.

  • onpurpose

    First picture (old man) definitely the best!

  • http://nosatispassion.altervista.org/ elisa

    Some are fine, but some are too exagerated.

  • d1ve2blu3

    great photos..

  • http://wojciechbednarski.com Wojciech Bednarski
  • http://robinferianto.com robb

    HDR awesomeness to the max.
    is it #2 mike shinoda ?
    btw #13 is lovely.

  • Marta

    Nice! Old people`s portraits are amazing. I must try do to something like this. :) Thx for shearing.

  • http://tmrrw.blogspot.com Raul Albu

    These pics are really good, and everything on this site is very amazing!

  • http://www.sitesketch101.com Nicholas Z. Cardot

    I love HDR. It just does something to an image that really makes it stand out from the rest. Thanks for putting this collection together.

    • http://www.thebaldchemist.com The baldchemist

      On the contrary Nicholas. Everyone is doing HDR to excess so they all look alike and one tends to hop over viewing them..

  • http://www.ejotor.com j. riebelle

    The Pictures Simply look Alive and living.
    Cool HDR!

  • http://www.empfehlenswert-wien.at erk

    the old-men-in-hdr-93636326 is very interesting

  • JanB

    This post definitely killed HDR for me.

    • http://www.thebaldchemist.com The baldchemist

      Over rated and overused? Too much is exactly that too much. Take care.

  • Irene

    all great!!! i liked most the 8th one. Beautiful eye reflection and great colors!!!

  • OsirisAD

    I feel like it bears mentioning that none of these are examples of high dynamic range. In fact, with the short depth of field a human face occupies, its nearly impossible to get the kind of varied light conditions that would warrant, or even allow for high dynamic range photography.

    I don’t mean to be argumentative; some of these are great examples of photo manipulation and skilled post-processing, but they are not HDR.

  • Uncle_zed

    I say NO! for HDR , asspecialy in these way.

  • http://simonmeisinger.at Simon

    at least half of them are not HDR, just “get rid of all the shadows and mess around with the tones and colors like a complete retard”-pictures.

    there´s not much out there which looks as stupid as a bad try of making a HDR …

    but those are quite nice:

  • http://eveltdesign.com joel k.

    amazing 3d effect, all most as the natural eye
    doing a Google search I found some pretty good tutorials.

    the last photo is in my opinion the best, really i can’t find the photoshop in him.

    keep it up :)

    • Russ

      Maybe I have messed up vision.

      But I don’t see people like that when I look at them.

      They look more real in the photo’s that have been untouched.

      Just my opinion

  • http://www.insidethewebb.com/ Jake Rocheleau

    Some of these pictures look so realistic they almost seem fake. This is an incredible collection!

  • http://www.crearedesign.co.uk Adam

    Some of the best HDR I’ve seen – the detail in some of those photos is immense!

  • Marc

    My word…

    Most of these images have nothing to do with HDR.

    So many people think they create an excellent HDR just by playing a bit around with tools like Photomatix et cetera. Wrong. It’s about High Dynamic Range.

    Think about that…

  • Jesse

    This is just one of the worst collections of photography I have ever seen. I can’t wait for the HDR and over-processing fad to die away, because it is truly tacky and awful.

  • http://flickr.com/photos/t0nyburton Tony
  • Eric

    “Producing great HDR images that are artistic and creative, without looking strange, is still possible.”

    Then why did you include so many images that look “strange”???

  • http://www.webdesignerdepot.com Walter

    Thanks for both the positive and negative feedback.

    I understand that not everyone likes these images and that’s ok. Ultimately, the beauty of an image resides in the eye of the observer.

    The selection was purely based on personal opinions and nothing else.

    All images were labeled as HDR, so yes, they’re HDR unless the photographer misrepresented them.

  • http://creative1studio2009 shirley

    amazing details!!

  • http://www.joaocustodio.net Custodio


    I love all the pictures but I don’t know the HDR technique. Is this done with some software or what?


  • Marc

    “All images were labeled as HDR, so yes, they’re HDR unless the photographer misrepresented them.”


    And guess what? Most people labeling their photos as HDR don’t even understand a single bit about HDR. Like I said: playing a bit around with Photomatix doesn’t mean in any way the result is a HDR…

  • upladupla

    I will never understand fascination of badlu made HDRs made by default settings in Photomatix and then tortured via PS filters like: shadow/highlight, desaturate and sharpen.

    Good HDR cannot be done from very single shot Use tripod, EV or T bracketing, collect 3 or 4 shots, stack them, work with tablet on layers and try to make image that radiates light. HDR trickery is to create natural looking photos when available light is limited. Dont be lazy to use stupid plugins.

    Sorry but I cannot find any mastery in muddy looking faces, bright or grey halos around objects and horrible oversharping.

  • http://www.strikingshots.com Paul Benjamin

    Agree with Marc on this one, there are no HDR pictures shown here, just some one mapped images.

    To have an increased dynamic range, you need to be taking more than one exposure of the subject, not just re-processing the RAW file (this just remaps the contrast curves with the data which was already present).

    Some pretty nice portraits, but none (that I can see) which are from more than one original exposure.

    • C

      the one I made (#13) was made with 5 bracketed exposures, compiled in photoshop CS3, and tone mapped with Photomatix.

  • Theo

    Hmm… ‘Amazing’ isn’t quite the word. In agreement with a lot of others – the majority of these look over done, or like they’ve been quickly ruined by some Photoshop effects. Some are effective (like the 4th and 7th ones), but some are freekishly un-life like.

  • http://fiddler.over-blog.de Daniel

    Like the blonde ;)

  • Mark

    It’s interesting how something like this divides people. Personally I find pretty much all of these portraits unattractive, as I do most other so-called HDR images. There’s no wrong or right when it comes to this kind of thing, of course, and who knows where experimenting with techniques like this can lead people.

    But I have to laugh when people say that any of these portraits look natural. I doubt even the creator would say that. None of these look natural in any way. Perhaps what we each physically see is as subjective as our opinions.

    Before this ‘HDR’ craze started there was a guy in Eastern Europe producing worked-over portraits of old guys that really were interesting. I don’t remember his name but some of these pics, like the old guy with cigarette, look like attempts to copy that look, but they fall far short.

    One thing that’s not so subjective is how badly pics like this print at a decent size, the process is extremely pixel destructive, especially when you’re working from just one original file.

    • Joe

      the gentleman you are referring to is Andrjez Dragan. Most of these photos fail in comparison. I personally like the effect. If it is done correctly, and you dont do it to every photo in your portfolio.

  • http://www.peterjcrowley.com Peter J. Crowley

    Film. Black and White. Rules. enjoy pjc

  • http://www.philsharp-photo.com Phil Sharp


    Only image 7 holds any interest.

    I feel the rest is simply bad portraiture, focusing on digital technique rather than attempting to relate something about the sitter.

    HRD / Fake HRD is a fad.

  • http://beachwallpapers.info Gilli

    Terror face in the first….awesome photographs

  • http://www.thebaldchemist.com The baldchemist

    So what happened to my commentsmy friend? When i take the time to look at your site, you invited us to make comment, I wrote a couple of sentences and…… Nothing?

  • bethany

    this had very good detail niiiiiiicccccccccceeeeeeeeeeeeeee

  • http://www.refine-led.com ben

    very cool………

  • Flanker

    Why photographers feel the need to perform HDR hackery on images with as little as 2-3 stops of dynamic range is beyond me.

    10+ stops? Yes. 2 stops? Absolutely no need at all.

  • http://bilal-ist.skyrock.com boudarqa nabil

    j ador les photoes artistique

  • pesho

    #3 is the most beautiful

  • Dee

    None of these are HDR images. An HDR image is a composite of several photos of the same scene taken with bracketed exposures. The scene should have at least a 7 stop difference between the highlights and the shadows. This gives the image detail in both the highlights and shadows. These are just examples of very bad post processing. It’s nearly impossible to create an HDR portrait unless the person you are photographing can stay absolutely still for at least 30 seconds while you bracket exposures.

    I mean I could be wrong about this. If the internet photographers say its an HDR it could be. I’m only a photography student who spent 3 months learning about HDR images.

    • arcataberry

      thanks, Dee. i wrote a critical post saying they were just highly manipulated, heavily photoshopped or something and that the photog. had taken all the juice out of what could have been really good without the enhancements. i think my post got deleted. hmm.

    • ChiNo

      then why all the junk talk if you have absolutely no idea what HDR really is and isn’t if you’ve only spent three months learning HDR?

  • http://igor-lukyanov.blogspot.com Portrait Artist

    Wow! How beautiful and surreal the colors are! The photos create a really strong impression. Thanks for this beautiful post!

  • Adam

    I don’t care for about 1/2 of these. I don’t think it’s HDR necessarily but it’s the tendency to take subject matter seriously that doesn’t really warrant it. HDR isn’t helping in this regard.

  • pashik

    this is totally WACK

  • bruce

    Seriously, as a landscape photographer who uses HDR sparingly to capture images when the light in the scene is well beyond the dynamic range of the sensor, this kinda half arsed “HDR” krap is really giving my work a bad name, and making all HDR work (truely Great HDR work) a lousey perception. Just because the image has 100% contrast between each black / white transition just means a filter was applied. To use HDR (which no JPG in the world is honestly an HDR, its just a Tone Mapped HDR file) for portrait work is silly to begin with. Every single one of these is a single image that was tone mapped at best.
    You show me the .HDR file with 32 bits of data, then i will believe these are HDR’s.

    • http://www.thebaldchemist.com The Baldchemist

      Nice one Bruce. But never educate a mug.

  • timur

    Most of them are just awful. There are much better “Amazing examles” on the web

  • Plank

    Surely a photograph is supposed to be like a woman……beauty is in the eye of the beholder! Its like a painting – some people love a certain style, others hate it. Personally if i produced a picture like these, manipulated or not, i think i would be quite pleased! Is there a right or wrong in “art”?

    • ctroamer1

      I don’t understand all the criticism here. Art is art. I remember when digital cameras started becoming popular, critics were saying “REAL photographers use film!!” Now digital is accepted, even for hard-core proffesional photographers. HDR is simply a medium for an artist to express himself. So, the debate on wether these pictures are good or not is pointless. I like them because I’m an artist. I look at these photographs and ask myself what this artist is trying to say. I’m sure many people criticised Dali and Picaso the same way people are criticising these pictures. Can you hear them? “Dali’s paintings are so unrealistic!” “Picaso is not a real artist, my kid paints like that!”

      C’mon people. If you don’t like the pictures . . . fine. But who are you to say this isn’t art, just becaise it doesn’t fit into your criteria of what art is? How arrogant!

      Now, do I like these photos? WHO CARES! I will tell you this, though, it is art.

      • naytaj

        Rightly said ctroamer1 , art and artist s cannot be measured. It is good in whatever form it is.

  • http://www.thebaldchemist.com The Baldchemist

    You know, “amazing” pictures require to a little bit more than this. Amazing pictures carry a lot of work, time , knowledge, composition, angles and a hell of a lot of patience.
    Just taking a few “portraits ( and I use that word advisedly) and pushing them through software to in effect emphasise details certainly isn’t high dynamic range imaging.
    Marc is so right in his observations and comments.
    Plank its not about “beauty” is it? Its to give new and exiting discovery to art. To ceate something yourself that the viewer recognises as yours!
    Doing what others are doing and following the same old well worn path doesn’t do it.
    Look for angles, shadow, composition attempt to get the picture as right as you can in the camera rather than relying on “post editing”. Post shoot stuff is fine for pro work etc. For you guys just starting out, learn your craft well first. It doesn’t happen overnight.
    Take care and get as much joy as you can every day.

  • http://www.wearingrainbows.com/mens-waistcoats-ties-c-2659.html Billy

    The old Guys at the beginning have amazing faces, they’re worth looking at however the photo is taken

  • toto

    these are tone mapped images from single stills, mainly

    if you find them amazing, you have a long road to appreciate photography and graphism, because this may be spectacular, but most of them are really ugly

    the tone mapping rarely add a story to a picture

    I have the feeling were going to be overwhelmed by this tone mapped pics in the near future, this is not a good news !

  • http://www.pixelwebstudio.co.uk yellowww

    Love HDR. Nice pics.

  • spinzaar

    I keep hitting this kind of shit on stumble, i feel like the people are putting up a few good pictures and mixing there own stuff in to fool me. I am not fooled.

  • http://www.wallpapers-hd.net/ Melanie O.

    Amazing details have few photos. I look at them and I have the feeling that those people are in my front for real.

  • Tom Straylight

    Love it or loathe it, HDR suits some situations better than others. The obvious choice for an HDR image would be a shot that actually contains a high dynamic range. I think that’s why often the best HDR images are landscapes with a wide variety of shadows, highlights and overall contrast.

    On the other hand, I’ve taken some nice HDR images in terrible, overcast lighting situations, where the available light was a kind of neutral grey. Those images worked due to the texture in them (old cracked stonework covered in verdigris) and I think that’s why most of the comments here are more favourable to the shots of old people (with wrinkly textures in their skin) and it also explains why the young man with a scarf and the young girl with the teddy bear work better than they might have otherwise.

    Like any effect, HDR can be used or abused – just think carefully before you composite those brackets – does the subject really need the HDR treatment?

  • http://lifeshouldbemoreinterestingthanlife.blogspot.com early conner

    These are the closest to real life with all the amazing lighting, texture and depth that I’ve ever seen.

    • Jermaster

      This is not even close to real life, you would never experience such vivid contrast AND extreme detailing together in reality as you get with multiple exposure photography. In normal conditions the light (or lack of light) would “flood” the details. That said, it still creates a heck of a nice artistic expression, or look like someone have gone crazy with PS’s curves-sliders if used inappropriately