DPP Home Business XDR, Part V

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

XDR, Part V

Using Photomatix to enhance your extended dynamic range images

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Beyond Photoshop, there are a number of HDR software options, both plug-ins and stand-alones. Some of the better-known programs include Artizen HDR, easyHDR, FDRTools, pfstools and Photomatix.

HDRsoft’s Photomatix is currently the most sophisticated and robust, yet easy-to-use solution. Photomatix has been around the longest, and it’s clear the company has both listened to and benefited from user feedback. Photomatix can be used either as a Photoshop plug-in or as a stand-alone product. It offers a variety of ways of combining exposures, including some non-HDR options.

Photomatix offers two HDR methods. Tone Compressor is a global operator; it generates naturalistic results, but can’t handle extreme dynamic ranges. Details Enhancer is a local operator; it can handle even the most extreme dynamic ranges, providing a robust set of features that gives you much more control over how you handle your HDR images. It’s so powerful that you can easily go too far. (Luckily, there’s a cure for this; restraint.)

Photomatix Workflow
Working with Photomatix to produce HDR images is straightforward. This can be done with or without Photoshop, which is typically needed for postprocessing refinements. A basic Photomatix workflow follows.

1. Generate the HDR image and save. (This can be done in Photoshop or Photomatix.)
2. Open Photomatix’s tone mapping window
(Tone Compressor or Details Enhancer).
3. Set the global strength and type of the effect.
4. Address details.
5. Save the settings as an .xmp file for future recall.
6. Render a tone-mapped, 16-bit TIFF.
7. Postprocess in Photoshop, as necessary.

Combined HDR Image
Photomatix Control Panels
The Photomatix control panels are extensive. Here’s a quick tour of what each option does and how to use it.

Main Menu Strength.
Controls the overall strength of the tone mapping. Move the slider left to lighten the image and reduce halos; past a certain point this looks less naturalistic tonally. Move the slider right to darken the image and increase halos; tends toward a more naturalistic appearance tonally.

Color Saturation. Controls global saturation. Move right to increase; move left to decrease.

Light Smoothing.
Five settings control dynamic range compression and halo generation. Move left to increase halos; move right to decrease halos.

Controls brightness and contrast. Move right to brighten and expand the shadow contrast/detail. (Extreme moves may accentuate noise.) Move left to darken and compress the shadow contrast/detail.


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