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Use Photomatix Pro to Edit HDR Images

To effectively use any high dynamic range (HDR) photography application, you must know what the controls do. They are the interface between you, the mathematical algorithms that define tone mapping, and the image. With this knowledge, you can consciously guide the image where you want it to go. That beats randomly moving sliders any day.

Photomatix Pro is a nifty program. It’s very popular because it produces great images. Beyond that, the controls make sense, are easy to use, and the program is packaged nicely with a few alternate modes (Exposure Fusion and the Tone Compressor) besides the traditional tone mapping method, the Details Enhancer.

Navigate to the HDRsoft website to download the trial (Mac and Windows). The figure shows the shortcuts you can click to jump into Photomatix Pro. This dialog box pops up automatically when you open Photomatix, or you can bring it up by choosing View→Show Workflow Shortcuts.

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Photomatix has a tool called the Loupe that enlarges a square portion of your image so you can get a really good close-up look at what you’re doing. Click where you want to magnify in the tone mapping preview window to open the Loupe and drag its marquee around in the preview window to move to different areas.

Here’s a quick overview of the shortcuts shown:

  • Generate HDR Image: This will enable you to select the bracketed source images to use for HDR and then to select from many options in the Generate HDR – Options dialog box.

  • Tone Mapping: This option leads to two different tone mapping methods:

    • Details Enhancer: This is the classic HDR tone mapping method, which you use for a distinctive HDR look (although very realistic results are also possible).

    • Tone Compressor: An alternative tone mapping method, Tone Compressor produces generally more realistic results than Details Enhancer and is somewhat simpler to use.

  • Exposure Fusion: Blends light and dark areas from different exposures; produces even more realistic results with less noise; is simpler and has fewer steps than either tone mapping method.

  • Batch Processing: Use to automatically process a bracketed set or multiple sets with the same settings; a magnificent time-saver.

  • Batch Single Files: Use to automatically process saved HDR files and single Raw images; another wonderful time-saver.

  • Tutorial: The tutorial is a small Web presentation with a handful of pages with basic information. It’s a handy guide to get started using Photomatix Pro.

To get to Details Enhancer or Tone Compressor, start by clicking Tone Mapping. This is the route you’ll use the most in HDR.

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