HDR Photography: Adjust Settings in Photomatix Details Enhancer - dummies

HDR Photography: Adjust Settings in Photomatix Details Enhancer

Details Enhancer in Photomatix Pro enables you to tone map your high dynamic range (HDR) images. As you can see from this figure, there are a number of controls. Thankfully, they are well organized into functional areas. The three floating windows show the settings, image preview, and histogram.


  • Strength: Controls contrast enhancement strength, both local and global. The default value is 70. For a more dramatic effect, raise Strength toward 100.

    This figure illustrates the minimum (left) and maximum (right) settings. Notice that the minimum value results in a more realistic, less-contrasted image, and the stronger setting really pumps up the drama (in this case, at the cost of some haloing).


  • Color Saturation: Raise for more intense color; lower for more subdued color. Reduce to 0 for a grayscale image.

  • Luminosity: Affects overall brightness by adjusting tonal compression of the image. Raising it brightens shadows, and lowering it darkens shadows.

  • Microcontrast: Accentuates local contrast.

    Higher settings amplify local contrast and also have the effect of darkening the image. Higher settings can increase the drama of the image.

    *Smoothing: This setting plays the largest role in determining how the tone mapped image looks, and is responsible for much of the debate over style and aesthetics. Smoothing comes in two modes:

    • Slider mode: Higher values produce more smoothing. Pay attention to the light balance across the image as you consider different strengths.

    • Light mode: Select the Light Mode check box to see discrete buttons that control smoothing strength.


      As shown in the figure, lower settings produce a much less realistic image, complete with halos between areas of different contrast, because they are not smoothed, or blended, together. High and Max produce more realistic results.


Set tone settings for HDR images

If the Tone settings dialog box isn’t visible, click the arrow beside the name and it will expand. This section has basic tone controls.


  • White Point: Sets the white point, or maximum luminosity, of the tone mapped image (think high end of dynamic range). Higher settings produce more contrast and a brighter image. The default is 0.25%.

    This figure shows both ends of the spectrum. At 0%, White Point doesn’t do much of anything. Notice the blown highlights at the maximum level.


  • Black Point: Sets the black point, or minimum luminosity, of the tone mapped image (think low end of dynamic range). Higher settings result in a darker, more contrasted image.

  • Gamma: Sets the mid-point of the tone mapped image. Higher settings lighten the image and lower settings darken it. Each pixel isn’t lightened or darkened by the same amount, however. You’re moving the brightness mid-point around, which has the effect of squeezing or expanding highlights or shadows into a smaller or larger space on the histogram. In general, you shouldn’t have to mess with Gamma.

Set color settings for HDR images

This figure shows the Color settings controls for the image’s color temperature and saturation controls for shadows and highlights.


  • Temperature: Controls the color temperature of the tone mapped image. Moving the slider right produces a reddish cast while moving it left produces blue. This figure illustrates the visual result of moving the Temperature control from its minimum to maximum.


  • Saturation Highlights: The color strength within the highlights of the tone mapped image. Raise to intensify the colors in brighter parts of the image.

  • Saturation Shadows: The same as Saturation Highlights, except for the darker areas of the image.

Set miscellaneous settings for HDR images

Miscellaneous settings are related to smoothing and clipping.


  • Micro-smoothing: Smoothes details in the tone mapped image.

    As shown in this figure, higher settings result in a lighter, more realistic appearance and can also reduce image noise. Lower settings perform very little or no smoothing.


  • Highlights Smoothness: Smoothes highlights, leaving the darker parts of the image alone. Higher values lighten the image. Use Highlights Smoothness to blend areas where highlights and shadows meet.

  • Shadows Smoothness: Smoothes shadows, leaving the brighter parts of the image alone. Higher values darken the image. Use Shadows Smoothness to blend the border where highlights and shadows meet.

  • Shadows Clipping: Sets the dark point where shadows are clipped. Raising this control can help fight noise in very dark areas by clipping them, which removes them from the tone mapped image.

    This figure shows Shadows Clipping at 0 (the default) and at 100, which shows you the effect very clearly.


  • 360 Image: If you’re shooting a 360-degree panorama, selecting this check box ensures that the left and right borders of an image are tone mapped in relation to each other, eliminating differences between the two ends (which, in reality, are together) that result in an obvious seam.