Use Your Camera’s Software for HDR Photography

Camera manufacturers receive mixed reviews on their Raw conversion and image editing software for generating high dynamic range images. Some people love what they see, and some people hate it.

If you shoot images in Raw, you should convert your Raw images to TIFF before generating and tone mapping high dynamic range images. Although this is an optional step, it gives you a boost in image quality.

The table lists several camera Raw software packages by manufacturer, all of which have Windows and Macintosh versions. They are all free except for Nikon’s Digital Capture NX 2 (shown in the figure), which has a free trial available for download.

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Camera Raw Software by Manufacturer
Camera Manufacturer Software Name Cost
Canon Digital Photo Professional Free
Fuji Hyper-Utility Free
Kodak EasyShare (version 7 or later) Free
Konica Minolta DiMAGE Viewer Free
Nikon Nikon Capture NX 2 $179.95 (free trial available)
Olympus OLYMPUS Master 2 Free
Panasonic SILKYPIX Developer Studio SE N/A
Pentax PENTAX PHOTO Laboratory 3 Free
Sony Sony Image Data Converter SR Free

Two notes: Konica Minolta has discontinued all digital camera operations and transferred customer service to Sony, and the SILKYPIX Developer Studio SE version is limited compared with the full release, which is not free.

Creating HDR images is a different beast than traditional photo editing. Don’t write off a potentially great Raw application just because it’s not as popular as the rest. Consider this information when looking at Raw applications:

  • Insider information: It might surprise you to know that Raw photos are proprietary. Canon puts special Canon stuff in its files. Nikon, Sony, and the rest do the same. Adobe is resisting this and advocating an open Digital Negative standard. Until such time as they all agree, no one is going to know a Raw file format better than the manufacturer.

  • Decent controls: At a minimum, you should look for the ability to control exposure (for creating brackets from a single Raw photo). That’s about it, really. If you want to do some editing, restrain yourself. Remember, you aren’t trying to get the perfect exposure. The brackets and HDR processing will take care of that.

  • Adequate Save As options: If you need to convert Raw files to something that will load into an HDR application, you must have the ability to save the resulting image as an 8- or 16-bit TIFF or JPEG. For higher quality, choose 16-bit TIFF.

  • Bearable interface: The software that comes free with your camera might have a clunky or ugly interface. What counts is that you can navigate your way around without too much confusion or fuss.

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