An alternative method to HDR is what I call “exposure stacking” where you place an underexposed photo above the same photo that’s properly exposed. This way you can mask out the top photo and then paint in the highlights, without it looking fake. In order for this to work, the photos need to be perfectly aligned. Fortunately, Photoshop can do this for you. With both photos in the same document, one above the other on different layers, click on one of the layers in the Layers panel to make it active, and then Shift-click the other layer so they’re both selected. Choose Edit>Auto Align Layers, make sure Auto is selected, and then click OK. Now they’ll be perfectly aligned for you. 

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