HDR - Which program?

Started May 29, 2011 | Discussions
jkbraun Regular Member • Posts: 337
HDR - Which program?

I know you can get free trials of both, and I plan on trying both out but I'm just curious from people who do HDR often, which program do you use?

Photomatrix or HDR Efex Pro? Those are the 2 that seem the best to me and yield the most realistic look (I'm leaning toward Efex, but I'm open to suggestions).
Thanks.

Randy Colwell Regular Member • Posts: 300
Re: HDR - Which program?

Post this in the retouching forum, you will get a better result. Personally, I like Photomatix, I found it to be more accurate on everything that I was trying to do. HDR Efex Pro is great, but too much for what you get.
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KenEis Veteran Member • Posts: 4,055
Re: HDR - Which program?

I agree. Realism is how you adjust the tone mapping sliders, nothing inate in the program. Photomatix Pro allows batch processing which to me is more important than the control points in the Efex software. Also Efex is very slow.
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Sunnyjim Senior Member • Posts: 1,025
Re: HDR - Which program?

If you Google "Photomatix vs HDR Efex Pro" you will find a lot of information.

http://www.luminescentphoto.com/blog/2010/12/27/hdr-efex-pro-vs-photomatix-pro/

I use Photomatix, but the next time I'm switching to HDR Efex Pro. Two reasons, I think I might like the adjustments in Efex Pro better and I like the presets, which may provide good starting points.

Good luck,
Bob
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myshkin Senior Member • Posts: 1,241
Re: HDR - Which program?

I use photomatix for almost all the ones I do and on rare occasion oloneo.

I feel you get the best of both worlds with photomatix. You can tonemap to get the most out of an image or if you want to keep it more single exposure looking you can use the fusion option
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flbrit Veteran Member • Posts: 4,210
Re: HDR - Which program?

I have both Photomatix and Nik (also CS5). I like Nik the best but on my maxed out 32 bit machine it is dog slow and sometimes crashes. (I love all the other Nik plugins but also have to watch memory management issues).

Because of this, I usually align the images in CS5, save the file as an HDR and tone map in Photomatix.
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Robin Casady Forum Pro • Posts: 12,898
Enfuse

Check out this article:

http://advancedphototech.wordpress.com/software/high-dynamic-range-software-and-techniques/

I've used Bracketeer on the Mac. I like the more realistic results it provides. I don't like the "HDR" surreal look.

http://www.pangeasoft.net/pano/bracketeer/index.html

"Bracketeer is a front-end GUI for Enfuse. Enfuse is a command-line opensource utility which uses multiple exposures of a scene (bracketed exposures) and merges them together to form a uniformly lit scene. It is similar to tonemapping with an HDR image except that no HDR image is ever created, and there is no ghosting. It works with any kind of bracketed image set, not just panoramic equirectangular images. Bracketeer can even auto-align hand-held shots! The results are almost always much better than anything that can be achieved with Photoshop's HDR Tone Mapping"

There are other programs that offer a GUI for Enfuse. This one works well for the Mac. You should be able to find PC versions as well.

http://wiki.panotools.org/Enfuse

I've just come across LR/Enfuse, which is a Lightroom 3 plugin. Some quick tests look good. You make a donation in an amount you choose to be able to produce images larger than 500px (in longest dimension).

http://photographers-toolbox.com/products/lrenfuse.php
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FearZeus Junior Member • Posts: 44
Re: HDR - Which program?

I have just downloaded the newest version of Photomatix and found it can produce decent results but you still have to watch for ghosting errors and CA's, here is an image I just reworked using Photomatix yesterday.

I was happy with the results but file quality at print level can't match manually blending them.
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Steve Bingham
Steve Bingham Forum Pro • Posts: 25,440
Here is an HDR review I wrote . . .

I am working on some HDR images right now! Here is a review I wrote some weeks back. I think it might answer your question - or at least get you headed in the right direction.
I often find myself switching because of some particular need.

http://dustylens.com/hdr_software_tests.htm
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Robin Casady Forum Pro • Posts: 12,898
Re: Here is an HDR review I wrote . . .

Steve Bingham wrote:

I am working on some HDR images right now! Here is a review I wrote some weeks back. I think it might answer your question - or at least get you headed in the right direction.
I often find myself switching because of some particular need.

http://dustylens.com/hdr_software_tests.htm

Steve, you should include one of the GUI programs for Enfuse.

http://wiki.panotools.org/Enfuse
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stinkin Regular Member • Posts: 338
Re: HDR - Which program?

I frequently use both the Nik hdr efex pro & Photomatix...examples below...I used photomatix for a long time & found it to be a very user friendly, fast & high quality software, I just had a difficult time loading the plug-ins to LR & CS5, so found it cumbersome to move between the multiple programs...however it is a great software & when I want hyper-saturated & overdone photos that is the software I still prefer to use, I often then process them with topaz adjust to even hyper-hyper them. Here is a recent example of the photomatix software-note I just used a default setting:

The Nik software I've been using for about 4 months & really like the ease of use-I bought the software bundled with the other NIK software (silver efex, color efex, denoise, etc...) & have found that combining the software is easy & has great results. I also like the way this plug-in works with cs5 & lr. Again this example was done with a default setting, but I denoised the photo after hdr'ing it. To me it seems to have better colour rendition, more detail (default settings) & I occasionally find that I benefit from the point control. Alas, what has been said before it is that it indeed is significantly slower than photomatix. here is the same shots done in Nik HDR Efex:

Both software options are great...I am interested in some of the other ones posters have brought to my attention...Enjoy!
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Steve Bingham
Steve Bingham Forum Pro • Posts: 25,440
Re: Here is an HDR review I wrote . . .

Yep, just not enough time. For simple tone mapping there is Nik (FX Pro), Topaz, ReDynamax, and Lucis (amoung others). Some will even do mapping on selected areas as a PS CS5 plug-in. Others won't.

Price ranging from $20 to $250. Currently I also use ReDynamax and Lucis . . . but Lucis is very pricey.

Robin Casady wrote:

Steve Bingham wrote:

I am working on some HDR images right now! Here is a review I wrote some weeks back. I think it might answer your question - or at least get you headed in the right direction.
I often find myself switching because of some particular need.

http://dustylens.com/hdr_software_tests.htm

Steve, you should include one of the GUI programs for Enfuse.

http://wiki.panotools.org/Enfuse
--
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Julian Vrieslander Senior Member • Posts: 1,062
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.

Julian Vrieslander Senior Member • Posts: 1,062
A question about Bracketeer

What is the purpose of the Detail View? Unless you are working on a very small monitor, this cropped view is displayed at less magnification than the full frame Preview.

Robin Casady Forum Pro • Posts: 12,898
Re: Here is an HDR review I wrote . . .

Enfuse doesn't do tone mapping. That is why I prefer it. Here is a brief description:

Enfuse uses three different criteria to judge the quality of a pixel: Exposure, saturation, and contrast.

  • The exposure criteria favors pixels with luminance close to the middle of the range. These pixels are considered better-exposed than those with high or low luminance levels.

  • The saturation criteria favors highly-saturated pixels.

  • The contrast criteria favors high-contrast pixels. The local gray or color value standard deviation is used as a contrast measure. The Mertens-Kautz-Van Reeth paper suggest using a laplacian filter, but the standard deviation produces much better results for differently focused images.

http://wiki.panotools.org/Enfuse#Basics

Steve Bingham wrote:

Yep, just not enough time. For simple tone mapping there is Nik (FX Pro), Topaz, ReDynamax, and Lucis (amoung others). Some will even do mapping on selected areas as a PS CS5 plug-in. Others won't.

Price ranging from $20 to $250. Currently I also use ReDynamax and Lucis . . . but Lucis is very pricey.

Robin Casady wrote:

Steve Bingham wrote:

I am working on some HDR images right now! Here is a review I wrote some weeks back. I think it might answer your question - or at least get you headed in the right direction.
I often find myself switching because of some particular need.

http://dustylens.com/hdr_software_tests.htm

Steve, you should include one of the GUI programs for Enfuse.

http://wiki.panotools.org/Enfuse
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Robin Casady Forum Pro • Posts: 12,898
Re: A question about Bracketeer

Julian Vrieslander wrote:

What is the purpose of the Detail View? Unless you are working on a very small monitor, this cropped view is displayed at less magnification than the full frame Preview.

Here is what it looks like on a 1600 x 900 screen:

Click in the preview image and the detail view shows that area at 100%.
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Robin Casady
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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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jaylarson Regular Member • Posts: 117
Re: HDR - Which program?

i've tried everything, and only mediachance dynamic photo hdr get's me what I want.I can't believe people are still using photomatix and all the other crappy apps. i switched to mediachance dynamic photo hdr back in 2007 and haven't looked back. i've tried others (yes, even nik's), but they all look over cooked. sure you can do some adjustments, but i'd rather be shooting than in front of the computer. just give me some grads and i'm shooting more editing less.

mediachance dynamic photo hdr
http://www.mediachance.com/hdri/index.html
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Julian Vrieslander Senior Member • Posts: 1,062
Re: A question about Bracketeer

Robin, I have no idea why my copy of Bracketeer is working so differently than yours. I am running on a Mac Pro with quad core 2.66GHz and 6GB of RAM. The specs are quite similar to yours - although mine is a first generation machine, so yours might have a faster bus, newer CPUs, etc.

Below is a screenshot of Bracketeer working on a stack of three hand-held test shots from my D700. The images are 4256x2832 TIFFs. Note that the Detail view is clearly not displaying at 100%. It is actually displaying at a lower magnification than the main preview. Is there a hidden setting that controls the mag of the detail view?

The screenshot shows Bracketeer's output with all settings at defaults except for Hard Mask, which I turned on. The tone map is not a bad result for a starting point.

Below is the output from HDR Expose. Its default settings are very conservative and not very useful, so I had to make a few simple moves to get something reasonable. The controls are easy to understand for anyone who already knows Photoshop. HDR Expose does a better job at ghost removal - compare the women in foreground and the tree leaves at the top of frame. But there are still many ghost artifacts remaining in the image.

Robin Casady Forum Pro • Posts: 12,898
Re: A question about Bracketeer

I'm using Bracketeer v4.3.1. If you are using the same, I'm mot sure what is going on.

I see the ghosting problem you are having. I can't say I've noticed a ghosting problem with Bracketeer. I usually shoot with a tripod, even when not doing HDR.

Pangea Software claims: Bracketeer is a front-end GUI for Enfuse. Enfuse is a command-line opensource utility which uses multiple exposures of a scene (bracketed exposures) and merges them together to form a uniformly lit scene. It is similar to tonemapping with an HDR image except that no HDR image is ever created, and there is no ghosting.

You might want to email them and ask them why you are getting ghosts when they claim you should not.

http://pangeasoft.net/pano/contacts.html
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