HDR - Which program?

Started May 29, 2011 | Discussions thread
Robin Casady Forum Pro • Posts: 12,898
Re: HDR Expose and Bracketeer

Julian Vrieslander wrote:

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.

Bracketeer is a $30 interface for an open source program. I would expect it to be less refined than a $150 commercial program. That said, I haven't had the kinds of problems you mention. It works smoothly on my 2.66 GHz Quad Core Mac Pro with 8 Gigs RAM, running OS 10.6.7.

Since I'm using Lightroom 3, I will probably use the LR/Enfuse plugin, rather than Bracketeer in the future. It seems to work very well, and one review preferred its results over Bracketeer's (something about Bracketeer desaturating blues).

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.

I think you will find that different images work better in different programs. I've had a few images that didn't look good in Bracketeer, but usually it provides a more natural look than other apps.

Here is a quick one with default settings:

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.

I used to do selective masking of different exposures before I discovered HDR software I was happy with. However, it can be very labor-intensive. This D2x image took me hours to do:

If I wasn't happy with what I could get from HDR apps, I'd probably try using selective masking to correct areas of an HDR image I didn't like.

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