One way to paint realistic looking shadows non-destructively is to use the Exposure adjustment layer. Slide the Exposure slider to the left, until you get a dark color appropriate for the shadow in your scene. Then click on the Exposure adjustment layer mask and press Ctrl I (Mac: Command I) to invert the mask and hide the effect. Then use the brush tool and paint with white on the mask to paint in shadows.
To easily set the kerning (space) between two characters, click in between any two characters while the Type tool is active. Then hold the Alt key (Mac: Option) and press the left or right arrow keys to decrease or increase the space in between those characters.
I have always found HDR images to generally look surreal and not quite right. However, I do like when an image that captures the dynamic range of light that the eye can see and looks like I am actually experiencing the moment. This tutorial on 500px uses luminosity masks in Photoshop to blend different exposures while still keeping it real. Check it out there is even a freebie for those who want it.