Working with 32-Bit HDR Images within Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4.1

May 29, 2012 | | Comments 13

Updated Version of This Article Now At

Please click here to see the latest video tutorial on Creating High-Dynamic Range (HDR) Images with Adobe Photoshop Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop CC at


Filed Under: (06) Lightroom Image Enhancement (Advanced)(10) Using Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop TogetherAdobe Photoshop Lightroom Tutorials


About the Author: David Marx teaches digital photography workshops and Adobe Photoshop Lightroom training classes. David is an Adobe Certified Expert in Photoshop Lightroom and in Adobe Photoshop. David has lead workshops and seminars for the Rocky Mountain School of Photography, the American Society of Media Photographers, FirstLight Photography Workshops, and he teaches annually at the world-famous Blackberry Farm Resort. For more information on his Photoshop Lightroom training seminars and digital photography field workshops please visit You can also follow daily updates and see new images from David on Google+.

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  1. Toby says:

    Thanks for the tutorial. I have Lightroom 4 and through the upgrades am now up to Lightroom 4.4. I have just saved a 32bit hdr file through photoshop as described in the video but when I go back into lightroom it says the file is at an unsupported bit depth. Do you have any idea why this is? Many thanks

  2. Nick C. says:

    Hi David, I’m confused or missing a step. After editing, when I open the 32-bit tif inside Photoshop, I cannot save to jpg. I read online that Photoshop requires to convert the image to 16-bit before saving to jpg, but, when I use Photoshop’s option to convert to 16-bit, the HDR Toning box appears and I cannot keep the settings from ruining the image. Is there a way to bypass the HDR Toning box to save to jpg?

    • David Marx says:

      Dear Nick C.,

      Why are you trying to turn your 32-bit HDR tif into a jpeg in Photoshop? Jpeg is an output format but it far from optimal for image editing and it is definitely the wrong choice for further edits to a high-bit file.

      If you want to use the high-res (32-bit) file then simply save it as a tif and do all your work back in Lightroom. If you need a jpeg copy of this file for printing or sharing online then use Lightroom’s export command. The only reason to convert this image to a lower bit-depth is to make use of additional Photoshop features but even then there is no reason to ever save the high dynamic range composite in the 8-bit jpeg format.

      David Marx

  3. Donna says:

    I am little confused–in your text you write that PS can handle 32bit files finally but in your answer to Alanna is says Photoshop cannot handle 32 bit files–except in HDRpro or Camera raw. How do you get any edits done inside PS if it can’t read 32 bit. I like to use both LR and CS5 for editing images. So far I haven’t had good results with PS HDR program but do bracket merges with outside programs.

    • David Marx says:

      Dear Donna,

      Your confusion is understandable. All of this technology is brand new and poorly labeled. Adobe Photoshop CS6 can be used to create 32-bit files using its HDR Pro utility. These files can be saved and then further enhanced using Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4.1 or Photoshop Camera raw 7.2. Within these zones–HDR Pro, Lightroom 4.1’s Develop Module, or ACR 7.2–the files are completely usable. They are not however completely usable with everyday Photoshop while in 32-bit mode. Some of Photoshop’s core features are available at this bit depth but most of the program’s features are not until you convert the file down to 16 or 8-bits per channel.

      David Marx

  4. Hi David,

    I just came across your tutorial and it seems like a great way to go until I ran into the issue of the 32-bit file not being recognized in LR 4.2 after it has been saved in PS. I tried every type of file I could save a file as in CS6 but none of them would be recognized or said it was corrupt.

    I have used the Photomatix plug-in but what I run into there is while I can use the file in LR 4.2, I cannot take the file into CS6 for further processing. I really hope to come across something that will allow a 32-bit file to be recognized by both LR and PS in the same workflow.


    • I went back to CS5 and now it works, go figure. I guess CS6 will have to wait awhile longer until I figure out what the issue is.

      • David Marx says:

        Dear Alana St. Laurent,

        I am a little confused by your troubles. Adobe Photoshop CS5 and CS6 can create 32-bit files. (Yes, Photomatix can too!) But this is all that any version of Photoshop could do with these files up until a few weeks ago. I may be wrong but so far as I know up 32-bit data was not useable anywhere outside of the HDR Pro engine. Thanks to the brilliant work of programmers like Eric Chan and the Adobe Camera Raw team we can now use these massive files with the Adobe Camera Raw engine that powers Lightroom 4.2 and Photoshop’s Camera Raw 7.1’s without having to downsample the file to 16 bits.

        What I am trying to say in plain English is that Photoshop cannot handle 32-bit files except in the HDR Pro or Camera Raw engines so a workflow that uses all of Photoshop’s other tools like layers and masks is still not possible. That said why not do what you can in 32-bit then create a 16-bit copy and leap into the world of full Photoshop functionality when needed?

        David Marx

  5. Vi says:

    It looks like it is time to upgrade my PC as I can’t use LR 4 on windows xp :/

  6. Dear David!

    DITTO! Just like CM/France’s note above!

    Regards from Northern Lower Michigan,

  7. CM says:

    Hey David,
    Thanks for the video tutorial : clear and to the point !

    Most blogs just say “LR 4.1 is here, blah blah blah” and doesn’t explain how to use this new feature.

    Regards from France,


    • David Marx says:

      Dear CM,

      Many thanks for the positive feedback. With most .something updates there isn’t much to report but this time there are two huge (and free) improvements that I think deserve some publicity. Many thanks to Adobe too for sending these improvements out right away rather than sitting on them until Lightroom 5 gets released or trying to charge us extra for these wonderful new features.

      Regards from Montana,

      David Marx