High-Dynamic-Range imaging—merging multiple exposures into a single picture with more tones than a digital camera can ordinarily capture—has never been more popular. It’s great for getting detail in highlights and shadows when your scene has extreme lights and darks. Adobe Photoshop’s method for HDR used to be clunky and confusing, and you had to buy a plug-in to do it easily. But CS5’s new HDR Pro makes it easier. Still, HDR Pro will only take you so far. The trick to getting great HDR images with Photoshop alone is to go easy during the conversion process, then take your base image into Adobe Camera Raw and use those subtler (and simpler) tools to make your picture shine.
FYI: Good HDR images start with good base photos, and you’ll need at least three of them to capture the full range of tones in many scenes. It’s best to use a tripod, though Photoshop can correct for subtle camera-position shifts when it merges. When shooting, set your camera to aperture-priority mode. Use auto-exposure bracketing and shoot in bursts, if possible, or adjust exposure compensation between each frame to capture all the detail in both highlights and shadows.