Lightroom and Photoshop are powerful programs that let you pull out date from the shadows and tone down highlights. But in extreme contrast situations, it's HDR to the rescue.
The key to getting a cool HDR image is to take enough bracketed images to capture the entire dynamic range of the scene. You need to underexpose to the point where the highlights are not blown out, and you need to overexpose until you can see into the shadows.
As you can see from this Adobe Bridge screen grab, it took me six shots to capture the entire dynamic range of this very high contrast scene of my friend Spike hanging out in an old truck in a junkyard. The point: simply setting your camera on HDR (some camera models offer that feature) or shooting at 0EV, +2EV and -2EV does not always do the trick.
I process my HDR sequences in Photomatix. Click here to get a 15% discount on Photomatix.
Like the starburst in this image? The key: Use a wide angle lens, the wider the better; set your aperture at f/22 and shoot when the sun is low in the sky. For my red truck image, I used my Canon 15mm lens. It's discontinued. Now I'd use the Canon 8-15mm lens.
Also, if you have the sun just peaking out from behind an object, the starburst will be more dramatic in your shot. Important: don’t look directly into the sun: your camera’s Live View is a big benefit for this type of shot. Sunglasses help protect your eyes, too.
Explore the light,