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HDR Photography: Get Ready to Tone Map

After you've taken your photographs, it’s time to get down to the practical matter of tone mapping an HDR image in Photomatix Pro. This list helps you make sure you are ready for the process of tone mapping with a leading HDR application, Photomatix Pro, using Details Enhancer and the HDR Conversion routines.

You don’t have to perfect an image in tone mapping. You can continue to edit in your graphics application.

Getting ready to tone map

Before you can tone map your HDR images, you must complete the photography and have your bracketed (or single Raw) images ready. Here’s a checklist to make sure everything is in order:

  • Photos taken: Check. Have two or more bracketed photos ready. Alternatively, you can use a single Raw photo for single-exposure HDR.

  • Raw images converted to TIFF, if desired: Check. You might wish to convert Raw photos to TIFFs to get the best quality. Single Raw exposures can either be used directly for HDR (pseudo-HDR) or converted to brackets in a Raw editor.

  • HDR image generated: Check. The low dynamic range source images must be combined to create a single high dynamic range (HDR) image.

Now you’re ready to get started tone mapping!

Using presets every time you tone map

No matter what HDR application you use, presets are worth your time and trouble to use. In general, presets allow you to manage your tone mapping process by making it possible for you to create and use your own tone mapping styles, baselines, or starting points in the form of self-created presets. Load one or more presets that may apply to the image at hand and use the best one as a starting point to start tweaking.

Save a settings file or preset every time you tone map an image and file them so that you can find them if needed. You can keep them with the unedited tone mapped file in a folder with the pre- and post-HDR working files for that bracketed set.

Saving a preset for each tone mapped image that you have finished allows you to duplicate your work if you need to. Without a preset, should you want to go back and start over, you’re left guessing what settings you used to create an image. That is most definitely infuriating, especially if you want to tweak around the edges instead of starting from scratch.

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