A few days before the release of Unified Color Technology's HDR Expose software, we got a chance to speak to the company's marketing director John Omvik. He told us how different it is from the previous HDR PhotoStudio software, what's in store for high dynamic range users and how will they can benefit from the new features.

'With HDR Expose we continue to focus on delivering real, natural looking images' says Omvik. Similarly to its predecessor, HDR Expose is built around the company's 'Beyond RGB' color space model that attempts to separate the brightness and color components of the image data to allow the brightness levels from multiple exposures to be combined without abberent color shifts. Omvik says, 'This enables users to edit images using a 32-bit color gamut to deliver true-to-life look for HDR images'.

Stressing the importance of 32-bit editing he says 'Most HDR applications merge images into 32-bit files. Where our approach differs from the rest is that we allow photographers to keep the image in our 32-bit Beyond RGB color space, and perform all tonal and color editing functions in 32-bits. For example if you need to edit an HDR file from Photoshop CS5, you will need to downsample it to 16-bit or 8-bit to further edit the image. Just as you are able to manipulate a RAW file more than an 8-bit JPEG file without creating color shifts or posterization, in the HDR world you have finer data granularity and processing precision with 32-bit floating point data, than you do with an 8 or 16-bit file'

One of the new features in the HDR Expose is the Brightness Histogram. 'The Brightness Histogram ensures users will be able to maintain valuable highlight and shadow details at lower bit-depths', says Omvik. An area in the histogram that is depicted in a lighter shade of gray (highlighted in red in the picture below) called the 'Screen Zone' provides the Low Dynamic Range (LDR) feedback on adjustments made. This means the histogram will reflect the changes made in 8 or 16 bit whilst in the 32-bit gamut.

Brightness Histogram

Next comes the addition of new de-ghosting algorithms in the processing engine. With 3 choices - Natural, Sharp Edge and Smooth Edge - the software detects for movements in images that can result inhazy or blurred-out portions in tone-mapped image. Omvik says, 'We do not have manual options for de-ghosting like Photoshop CS5's Merge to HDR Pro feature, but the end results are quite similar.'

HDR Expose also inherits many features from HDR PhotoStudio. 'Veiling Glare' tries to cut through possible lens glare and haziness from images (similar to the 'Blacks' slider in Adobe Camera Raw); likewise, the 'Local Contrast' control replicates the 'Clarity' option. According to Omvik, 'For HDR processing, these corrections are much more effective when made in the 32-bit editing stage. Halos for example are natural by-products of HDR images. If you do not have a large color gamut to play with you will be trouble as there would be a substantial loss of information while editing.'

HDR Expose now also inlcudes plug-ins to import files directly from third party software such as Adobe Photoshop Lightroom and Apple's Aperture. Workflow options and improvements include manual white balance and color correction features, and adjustments of Brightness/Contrast, Shadow/Highlight and sharpness can be done within the software.

A new Digital Readout shows color values in digital counts or percentages. The software also features enhanced noise reduction and improved RAW file support. Fully processed HDR images can be saved in its native 32-bit .BEF file format, or as TIFF or JPEG files for further processing in other applications.

For more information and to download the 30 day free trial click here*
*Available for download from July 12, 2010.