The other day I was showing a friend how to send images to be merged into an HDR in Photomatix Pro by exporting from Lightroom. When we were going through his image library, it was difficult for him to remember which images were in each sequence. He couldn’t remember if his camera was set to show the image sequence as -2, -1, 0, +1, +2 or 0, -2, -1, +1, +2. Sometimes he would take a sequence then vary the shot, and looking at the thumbnails was difficult. Rather than struggle to find each sequence, we enabled Auto Stack in Lightroom.

Stacks are images grouped together inside your catalog. We can choose to Auto Stack images by capture time in a particular folder or collection, which is perfect for grouping sequences of images for HDR together.

Step 1

Select the photos youd like to Auto Stack. You can select all the images inside a particular folder or collection, even if they aren’t going to be merged to an HDR image. Lightroom uses the capture time of an image to group them together. Generally, individual shots aren’t taken quick enough together to be auto-stacked.

Step 2

From the Photo menu, choose Stacking > Auto Stack by Capture Time

Step 3

Choose your interval. Lightroom needs to know how much time you want to allow between images. You can set it to a 30 seconds between photos (0:00:30) or a 1 minute (0:01:00) up to an hour (1:00:00). This really depends on what time of day you were shooting your HDR images. During the day, your shutter duration is quicker and the time between images will be quicker. If youre shooting at night, your image might have a shutter duration of 30 seconds, plus 10 seconds between images. In that case, youd want to set the interval to 45 seconds.

Step 4

Once you have all the images stacked, you can see how many images are in each stack by a little number in a gray box on the top left of the thumbnail or by hovering over the images. To collapse all the stacks at once, right-click and choose Stacking > Collapse all Stacks. You’ll notice that each thumbnail now has a number in the top-left corner indicating how many images are stacked together. You can expand a stack by right-clicking and choosing Stacking > Expand Stack. To quickly expand or collapse the stack, use the keyboard shortcut S.

Step 5

Review the images. Auto-stacking doesn’t always work well. When Im shooting Ill sometimes take a burst of 3 photos and wait until Im in Lightroom to pick the best one. These images shouldn’t be auto-stacked, but based on the capture time, they are. So I can select the group of them, and right-click, choose Stacking > Unstack.

Auto Stack is a little-used feature inside Lightroom that can really help when youre dealing with the large number of files that HDR requires. Let us know in the comments how you use auto-stacking in your Lightroom workflow.

Related topics

February 17, 2016

You might also like:

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
45 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
mhhwrite

Superb and this is something that’s always nagged at me – on Import manually checking the photo time to determine if they are indeed multi-exposure HDR intended. I assume in my case then I would set the interval just to, say, one second (I’ve never done long exposure) and presumably, bingo!

Have no photo trips planned at the moment but took 2 HDR image sets yesterday so I’ll try it again there.

Thanks.

Wolf's Ink

Is there a way to get Lightroom to Auto stack photos upon import?

Nick Minore

Unfortunately, no. It’s a folder or collection-specific setting, meaning that you have to enable it on each folder or collection. Auto-stacking really only works well when dealing with image sequences for HDR, so it’s not a commonly-used Lightroom feature.

mhhwrite

Can’t you select all in a, say, collection OR select the range of photos you know there are HDR candidates and do to those?

Nick Minore

Auto-Sort by Capture Time is a folder-specific or collection-specific feature. You can’t enable it for just a few photos here or there. But you can enable it for an entire folder or an entire collection.

Eric Zuidweg

This approach is way too cumbersome for me. Photomatix has an excellent batch function that combines the RAWs that are taken in a certain configurable timeframe. It then generates the tiffs into a subdir using my personal set of configuration parameters for the HDR merging/tonemapping process. When finished, i import that subdir into LR and my culling process starts as usual. Sometimes i redo a five star tiff manually to optimise it.

Note: lf you stick with the approach from the article, you can customize the view of a slide to show the amount of exposure correction above the thumbnail.

cschlipf

An auto stack based on picture similarity & capture time would be awesome. When bracketing in dark environments the lightest exposure might be several seconds. If this feature could be combined with an image analysis that could take different exposures into account this would be great.

gdanen

It looks like Adobe is crippling the Stand-alone version (I have LR 6.5) and there is no stacking available.
Is that intentional, to force users to the CC version?

gdanen

Ah, it’s under LIBRARY, not DEVELOP…
Was looking in the wrong place, and expecting it near “photo merge” > “hdr”
Thanks, Nick.

gdanen

Found another quirk. If I select multiple photos under Develop, and right-click, I see the stacking menu. It’s just not in the dropdown menu.
Weird.

dang!

stacking is lacking the best option – to simple tell it every 3 (or 5 etc,,,). Then when you need to make corrections to the poorly made auto-stacks it is a miserable task.

Ian

I’ve just tried this and whilst I thought at first it was really good if you use the star rating system after stacking the images and sorting by rating it doesn’t find the images you’ve rated if one is within the bracket

Ian

I’d say thats a bit of a flaw – I was just about to start using this but I often look for images by star rating, using this I would have to un stack all first …not really good

Ian

so you go from a simple process of opening a file and then sort by start rating – to now having to click on photos, expand all stacks, then click star rating …sorry but just file file the images under one stack is not worth this … a far better option would be if you rate an image it will be shown whether in a stack or not

Rich

the way that time is calculated with auto stacking is flawed. Rather than looking at the time between the start of each image, LR should look at the time between the end of the last image and the start of the next one.

Also I would like to see Auto Stacking specific for HDR and panoramic where the exposure information is taken into consideration.

taylor

I’m not sure whether you are still participating in responses for this article, but I have auto-stacked my images, which worked well. Is there a way to make the images automatically inserted into HDR images without having to manually do it?

Ed Druy

The easiest way I have found to group my hdr images is to take a photo of my hand before and after every sequence. When you look at your thumbnails after bringing into LR, you will know at a glance which images belong together. You can do the same for panoramas.

Brian E. Bothwell

Is there any way to batch process all stacks that are selected, like is done in Enfuse? Of not this severely limits the usefulness of the Lightroom Photomatix plugin. :(

Rich Harrington

Nope

taylor

I’m not sure whether you are still participating in responses for this article, but I have auto-stacked my images, which worked well. Is there a way to make the images automatically inserted into HDR images without having to manually do it?

Rich

the way that time is calculated with auto stacking is flawed. Rather than looking at the time between the start of each image, LR should look at the time between the end of the last image and the start of the next one.

Also I would like to see Auto Stacking specific for HDR and panoramic where the exposure information is taken into consideration.

mhhwrite

Superb and this is something that’s always nagged at me – on Import manually checking the photo time to determine if they are indeed multi-exposure HDR intended. I assume in my case then I would set the interval just to, say, one second (I’ve never done long exposure) and presumably, bingo!

Have no photo trips planned at the moment but took 2 HDR image sets yesterday so I’ll try it again there.

Thanks.

Wolf's Ink

Is there a way to get Lightroom to Auto stack photos upon import?

Nick Minore

Unfortunately, no. It’s a folder or collection-specific setting, meaning that you have to enable it on each folder or collection. Auto-stacking really only works well when dealing with image sequences for HDR, so it’s not a commonly-used Lightroom feature.

mhhwrite

Can’t you select all in a, say, collection OR select the range of photos you know there are HDR candidates and do to those?

Nick Minore

Auto-Sort by Capture Time is a folder-specific or collection-specific feature. You can’t enable it for just a few photos here or there. But you can enable it for an entire folder or an entire collection.

Eric Zuidweg

This approach is way too cumbersome for me. Photomatix has an excellent batch function that combines the RAWs that are taken in a certain configurable timeframe. It then generates the tiffs into a subdir using my personal set of configuration parameters for the HDR merging/tonemapping process. When finished, i import that subdir into LR and my culling process starts as usual. Sometimes i redo a five star tiff manually to optimise it.

Note: lf you stick with the approach from the article, you can customize the view of a slide to show the amount of exposure correction above the thumbnail.

cschlipf

An auto stack based on picture similarity & capture time would be awesome. When bracketing in dark environments the lightest exposure might be several seconds. If this feature could be combined with an image analysis that could take different exposures into account this would be great.

gdanen

It looks like Adobe is crippling the Stand-alone version (I have LR 6.5) and there is no stacking available.
Is that intentional, to force users to the CC version?

Nick Minore

No stacking or no auto-stacking? Both features (I believe) have been around for several versions of Lightroom. If you’re on a Mac, choose the Help menu and search for Stacking. It will bring you right to the stacking menu. Otherwise, be sure to look under Photo > Stacking to find stacking options and auto-stack. Let me know if that helps.

gdanen

Ah, it’s under LIBRARY, not DEVELOP…
Was looking in the wrong place, and expecting it near “photo merge” > “hdr”
Thanks, Nick.

Nick Minore

Glad you found it!

gdanen

Found another quirk. If I select multiple photos under Develop, and right-click, I see the stacking menu. It’s just not in the dropdown menu.
Weird.

dang!

stacking is lacking the best option – to simple tell it every 3 (or 5 etc,,,). Then when you need to make corrections to the poorly made auto-stacks it is a miserable task.

Ed Druy

The easiest way I have found to group my hdr images is to take a photo of my hand before and after every sequence. When you look at your thumbnails after bringing into LR, you will know at a glance which images belong together. You can do the same for panoramas.

Brian E. Bothwell

Is there any way to batch process all stacks that are selected, like is done in Enfuse? Of not this severely limits the usefulness of the Lightroom Photomatix plugin. :(

Nope

Ian

I’ve just tried this and whilst I thought at first it was really good if you use the star rating system after stacking the images and sorting by rating it doesn’t find the images you’ve rated if one is within the bracket

Nick Minore

You are correct. When you stack the images, Lightroom treats the top image as just one image, letting you star or flag it. You have to expand the stack (or expand all stacks) to apply the star rating to all the images inside the stack.

Ian

I’d say thats a bit of a flaw – I was just about to start using this but I often look for images by star rating, using this I would have to un stack all first …not really good

Nick Minore

Not unstack, but expand the stacks.

Thanks to our partners who make photofocus possible:

B&H – B&H is a world renowned supplier of all the gear photographers, videographers, and cinematographers need and want to create their very best work.

Skylum – Your photos, more beautiful in minutes. Makers of Luminar and Aurora HDR, Skylum adapts to your style and skill level. Check out Luminar 4’s unique sky replacement and portrait editing tools, now available. Save 42% off the retail price and get the Photofocus bundle for free!

Excire – Experience the best photo organizer for your photo library and discover your photos by color, subject — even people. Try the new Excire Foto application, or use Excire Search 2.0 as a plugin with Lightroom Classic.

Xpozer – Show off your photos and fill your walls with the Xpozer frame system. Xpozer makes it easy to switch out your photos in a matter of minutes! Check out the Xpozer Start-Pack, including a 16×24″ print and frame, plus $210 worth of bonuses, exclusive to Photofocus readers!

DNP Printers – DNP provides a full line of printers and solutions for retailers, event photographers and photo booth operators.

Illuminati – Get perfect exposure every time, with the new Illuminati IM-150 light and color meter.

Drobo – Drobo is the smartest storage solution in the world. Drobo is storage that protects data — photos, videos and everything else — from hard drive failure. Save 10% with the coupon code PHOTOFOCUS.