Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Basic Photography: Using Photomatix Essential to boost dynamic range in your images

If you want the best possible native dynamic range in your photos then you should buy a full sensor camera. If you don't have the money for the latest full frame then you may want to get a crop sensor camera and pay $39.00 US for Photomatix Essentials. I do my processing with Corel Paintshop Pro X 8, but often, I additionally use Photomatix Essentials. What I have found is that Photomatix Essentials helps me boost my dynamic range quite a bit without having the halos and other things that accompanies other HDR tone-mapping. The image on the left is taken along the Mississippi River late in the afternoon, close to the blue hour. I was able to boost the dynamic range with the fusion function in Photomatix Essentials. It enhances the details, brightens the image, and gives the appearance of HDR that is not over the top. I seldom use the HDR with tone-mapping presets. However, the fusion preset is perfect.

Here are a couple of screen shots that show the workings of Photomatix Essentials.  It works like most other HDR programs. You can select multiple bracketed images to merge into a HDR image. Many of them incorporate tone-mapping with the HDR, but there are a few presets on this program that use fusion. As I understand it fusion simply fuses together the best aspects of the image to make the dynamic range greater. It fuses the lighter of the shaded areas, and the darker of the highlighted areas to bring the dynamic range into something that more replicates what the eyes see. I have used the above image to show how I made the fused copy.

It is a relatively simple program to use. The Photomatix Essential program is pretty basic without a lot of bells and whistles. You can buy a professional program called Photomatix Pro. The essentials program is $39 & the pro program is $99. You can find these at http://www.hdrsoft.com/ I only use it to boost the dynamic range of my photos. I do not shoot bracketed images per se. I make the brackets with PSP X8. Furthermore, I do not even shoot RAW images. Oh I can see the eyebrows raising right now but it is the truth. I do not want to take the time to process RAW images so I shoot in jpeg. I think the results speak for themselves. I am sure that if you were to shoot RAW that you would get even better results than I get.

However, because I shoot jpeg, I have to do my brackets differently. The closer I make the bracketed photos to each other the less problem I have with noise. I don't make them anywhere near a stop apart. I make them closer to 1/3 stop difference and sometimes even less than that. I get the best results this way because it keeps the noise down. I like sharp photos and reducing noise tends to soften images. Photomatix has a function for lowering noise in the process. I use that function as it is not extreme. The only place I do not use this is with my portraits. I think that HDR of any kind makes the facial features too hard.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing with your experience! I will try to use it. Recently I started to use this hdr photo editor https://aurorahdr.com/ And I haven't seen anything better than this program.