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How to Create HDR Images in Photomatix Pro

An HDR image is different than the tone mapped image. High dynamic range images are generated first, using Photomatix Pro in this example, and then tone mapped to transform them into a relatively finished product. Remember that you can use bracketed JPEGs, TIFFs, or Raw exposures as your source images for HDR. If you’re using a single file, it has to be a Raw photo or 16-bit TIFF.

If you like how one application creates HDR images but can’t stand how it tone maps them, create the HDR image in it, save it as an HDR file, and then open it in a different HDR application (the one you prefer to tone map in). You are free to be as creative as you want!

1

Launch Photomatix.

You can also invoke Photomatix Pro from within Lightroom or Aperture if you have the export plug-ins installed.

2

Select Generate HDR image from the Workflow Shortcuts dialog box.

Alternatively, choose Process→Generate HDR. The Generate HDR — Selecting Source Images dialog box opens for you to select bracketed images with.

3

Select the bracketed source images.

Click the Browse button to browse to the folder on your system that contains the bracketed sources images you want to use for HDR. Select them one at a time or together, and click Open to add them to the Generate HDR dialog box (as shown).

4

Click OK to continue.

If Photomatix can decode the exposure information without your help, it displays the Generate HDR – Options dialog box, as described in the next step.

5

Choose the HDR options you wish from the Generate HDR – Options dialog box.

The Generate HDR — Options dialog box is shown in figure. This has a lot of options, but you’ll be clicking through them in no time.

Align Source Images addresses concerns with slight movement of the camera. Choose a method that fits the type of problem you may be having.

Reduce Chromatic Aberrations reduces red/cyan/blue/yellow fringing. This can be a problem when edge contrast and saturation is high, especially when shooting toward brighter lighting, like the sun.

Reduce Noise reduces noise in the combined HDR image. Reducing noise at this stage can give you more headroom when you tone map. Alternatively, if you have a good noise-reduction routine in your graphics application, you might wish to tackle it later.

Attempt to Reduce Ghosting Artifacts: Select this check box, and then select either the Background Movement or Moving Objects/People radio button. You may also choose a level for the detection algorithm from the Detection drop-down list to make sure you’re getting all movement erased.

Take Tone Curve of Color Profile: This radio button is available only if you’re using images that have a tone curve, such as JPEGs or TIFFs. It isn’t active when you use Raw images (which are linear and have no tone curve). If this option is available, select it to use the tone curve of the color profile attached to the source images. Alternatively, select the Attempt to Reverse-Engineer Tone Curve Applied radio button.

6

When you’re happy with your selections, click OK (Windows) or the Generate HDR button (Mac).

Photomatix Pro churns and chugs as it generates your HDR file. Dialog boxes show you where it is in the process, depending on the options you chose. When it’s finished, it displays the HDR file for you to save (if you like), edit, and tone map.

7

(Optional) Save the HDR file for future use (choose File→Save).

There is very little you can do with HDR images and files besides view them with specialized software or turn them into something else — a low dynamic range TIFF or JPEG that displays properly on monitors, plays well with Web browsers and iPhones, and can be printed.

8

Select Radiance RGB from the File Format drop-down list, name your file, and click Save.

Remember, after HDR images are created from source photos, tone mapping works on the HDR image.

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