HDR - Which program?

Started May 29, 2011 | Discussions thread
Julian Vrieslander Senior Member • Posts: 1,064
HDR Expose and Bracketeer

I am a novice at HDR, so take my comments with a grain of salt (or photoemulsion).

One product that has not been mentioned in this thread is HDR Expose, from Unified Color. This company also makes a version with a simpler UI (HDR Express) and a Photoshop plugin (32 Float). I have the Mac version of HDR Expose. In my limited experience, it has been giving me good results, and I find the UI more intuitive than the "Merge to HDR" controls built into Photoshop CS5.

At Robin's suggestion, I downloaded and tried out the demo version of Bracketeer. This product seems a bit rough around the edges. There is minimal documentation - you need to read the documentation for Enfuse. On my first generation Mac Pro (quad 2.66GHz), Bracketeer is very sluggish, and it does not give a clear indication of when it is working and when it is done with an edit operation. The Mac OS X "spinning beach ball" appears after a while, but that's a crude indicator. I saw the program freeze a couple of times.

The results from my tests in Bracketeer look less natural than what I get from HDR Expose. The ghost elimination algorithm does not work as well, although this might be improved by editing the alpha channel of the input files. The halo reduction feature in HDR Expose is quite effective, so I don't see a major advantage for Bracketeer in that area. The controls in HDR Expose are more logical, and function more responsively than those in Bracketeer.

My interest is in obtaining natural looking images, rather than the stylized "HDR look", and I am not doing batch processing. So I am still not convinced that these HDR programs offer an advantage (for me) over the layer masking tools available in Photoshop. The HDR programs create global changes, often affecting areas of an image that I did not want changed. Using the traditional masking tricks in PS, I can combine content from bracketed shots only in areas of the image that need tweaking. There may be HDR tools that include masking functions, and there are certainly ways to combine the functionality of HDR programs with the PS masking tools. But maybe that's more than I need.

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