How to give HDR-like effects to photos using WLPG

Have you seen some those stunning photos, with the brilliant arrays of colors and brightness and contrast, that really seem to pop out of the photo? Yes, I’m talking about those HDR (high dynamic range) photos that are very popular around the web, especially on Flickr. You can create a similar look and feel by editing them right in Windows Live Photo Gallery. It’s really all about the exposure (in the brightness and contrast), and you could tweak it a little more.


Here’s how:

1. Launch WLPG (Windows Live Photo Gallery)

2. Find a photo you want to HDR. Double click on it.

3. Now you should see the enlarged photo taking up the space. Click "Fix" right on the menu bar (circled in red on picture)


4. Now the right pane should open up with a bunch of tools you can use. To do the HDR effects, I’m mostly going to use Adjust Exposure. And maybe a little Adjust Color. HDR is really about the exposure.


5. Click on Adjust Exposure. Crank up Contrast to the highest you can. Contrast really makes the shades of color pop out more noticeably. You’ll immediately notice the image to be very colorful and vibrant all at once. You can pull the slider back slightly, if you want less effect.


You can also adjust the Brightness, so that the light source can appear really bright, or very dark. I generally prefer to keep the brightness the same, or a bit higher. It feels like a real capture of time. If it’s too bright or too dark, then you don’t really see all the colors, which is why keeping it in the middle is generally good.

6. You can mess around with the other sliders too if you want. If you feel like you want to go back to the original picture you had before, go to the bottom of the Fix pane, and click on the down arrow next to Undo.


You can either go back on a step, or undo it all. Really nifty feature. If you (accidentally) back out of the image view, and right back into the library, the picture will automatically save what you edited. Luckily, if you didn’t mean to, you can double click on the image again, click the down arrow next to Undo, and select Revert to original.

So that’s how I typically give an HDR effect to my photos. Give it a try sometime. Here’s two photos, a before and an after shot.

                                       BEFORE                                                                            AFTER


See the difference? The HDR effects in the second photo really pop out! Best of all, you don’t need a fancy photo editor or software like Photoshop. WLPG is free to use.

Give it a try. Windows Live Photo Gallery is great to use if you’re not a pro. Now if only Microsoft offered direct photo effects like Picnik does…


15 thoughts on “How to give HDR-like effects to photos using WLPG

  1. Nice tip!  Thanks for sharing that.  Even though I know that a lot of those settings exist I haven\’t explored many of them so this is really useful to me.

  2. Quickboy,Awesome tip you provided here!  I have been using that feature every since the release of WLPG and have come to know just how much it truly can bring your photos to life!  Keep up the awesome work!Have a wonderful and blessed weekend my friend!Greg

  3. Great tips! Have any of you tried messing around with the Saturation slider in the Adjust Color part of Photo Gallery?  That seems to be a popular way for people to "boost" their photos too. 

  4. Thanks guys!
    @Marcus at Microsoft : Yep, I sure have. I think it\’s the slider that goes from greyscale to color. I\’ve tweaked my photos by messing around with the sliders before, and it\’s pretty great. I\’ll try to post more on WLPG. I\’m having an issue with Windows Live Tags I think.

  5. i am not trying to flame here, but you do realize that the adjustments here are not HDR effects, right? these adjustments you describe do make your colors more vibrant. High Dynamic Range photography is all about the exposure of the photos, but a true HDR image should be a composite of several images taken at different exposure values. you should make a separate photo exposing for the shadows, then another exposing for the midtones, and then another exposing for the highlights at minimum (some true HDR images are composites of 7-9 or more images all taken at different exposure values). the reason you take photos at the different exposure values and then combine them is because if you are exposing for detail in the shadow areas of the image, you lose details in the highlights and vice versa. if you just change the exposure or colors on a single image using editing software, you will never truly get the same details out of the image because those details were never recorded by the camera in the first place. usually to make a composite of the different images and make a real HDR image you need to use more advanced software, but there are some very affordable options other than Photoshop, just search the web for "HDR how to." HDR is a more advanced technique if it is done correctly, so my information may not be of value to anyone here but i thought i would share my knowledge. more info and true HDR photos here:  

  6. @(no name) : I\’m well aware that I\’m not really making HDR photos with WLPG. I\’m just saying that I can get a somewhat similar "effect" in WLPG. Even though it\’s not true HDR, it does look just as vibrant. I thought I might have mentioned this in my post, but I\’ll try make it more clear that is not true HDR, but just a similar effect. Thanks for catching me though.

  7. this is weird, you guys are all creaming yourselves for some over exposed nonsense. None of this is new or exciting.  Anyone who\’s ever messed with any photo editing software ever has done the exact same thing.  Or anyone who\’s ever taken a time exposed picture has seen this.  So you guys are proud that your free windows editor can do that or something? Seems pretty basic.

  8. @(no name) on October 12 : Ok, the purpose of this post was to point out to real amateurs (or people who don\’t even have a clue about editing) that they can they accomplish a somewhat similar HDR-like effect in WLPG without a lot of work. You may be a pro, so this post would mean absolutely nothing to you, because you\’re not the audience this post was trying to identify.
    So do you people get it now? Some people like this stuff, so let them be.

  9. Dude, you totally ruined this photo! The contrast is unacceptably high, turning all shadows practically black. It\’s cool to make people aware of the feature, but you certainly could have used a better example.

  10. @fotoguy : Well I happen to like the deep contrasts, and I like the vibrant effect it has. Anyway, I think it would really encourage people to mess around with the tools.

  11. Michael, you make it quite plain in this post that you are only \’aping\’ HDR. We can\’t all afford these expensive cameras and expensive photo tools, nor have the expertise to take lot\’s of different shots requiring lot\’s of different camera settings! Michael is demostrating a \’cheat\’ way of achieving that \’pop out\’ look, that\’s all, and I think its brilliant Michael and hopefully encourages more users to try using those sliders in Photo Gallery!

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