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HDR Photography: Tweak Details in Photomatix

To tweak the details in your tone mapped HDR image in Photomatix Pro, you use the Microcontrast and Luminosity settings. Microcontrast is the go-to control for local contrast because it accentuates details.

You’ll find that Luminosity sometimes needs readjusted after making a strong Microcontrast change. Adjust both until you find the right balance. A strong surge in Microcontrast has the effect of heightening the drama and intensity of an image. If it gets too dark, raise Luminosity to compensate. If necessary, return to White Point or Black Point (which was lowered) to adjust those settings.

Smoothness changes (covered in the next section) reduce local contrast and smooth over details. Consider how you approach the image to avoid setting controls contrary to one another.

To control the smoothness in your photos, you use the Micro-smoothing, Highlights Smoothness, Shadows Smoothness, and Shadows Clipping settings. You might need to increase smoothness to combat noise or to lower local contrast and smooth out details. Micro-smoothing works globally, and Highlights Smoothness and Shadows Smoothness affects only those tonal areas. Smoothing also has an effect on how smoothly light and dark areas transition to each other.

Smoothing is great, but pay attention to contrast. Small amounts of smoothing go a long way. By increasing the Smoothing level, you can raise the realism, smooth out some noise, smooth out the light a little, and moderate the contrast of the image. As a whole, Smoothing helps cement things together.

Shadows Clipping can often be ignored, but if you have problems with noise in dark areas, raising it can clip it from the image. This setting also has an effect on contrast.