High Dynamic Range – Photomatix Pro

There are a multitude of programs to handle and process HDR. Today almost all standard photo editing software have some kind of support for it – with varying degrees of freedom and finesse.
Old Ford tractor in Stockholm, Sweden archipelago
Photoshop have had it for quite some time as well has other more or less high end photo editing software. The one I like the best, and that I use almost exclusively, is Photomatix Pro.
Very tired Beetle
Photomatix is done by a small company called HDR soft and they have a very nice and reasonable licensing scheme. First of all, you can download it for free and try it out. This gives you some limitations as well as watermarks all over. Still, you will not by it without knowing its capabilities.

Secondly, once you have bought it – it is yours. You have a personal license key that you can use on all your computers. The only requirement is that you only use the software on one installation at the time. This, I believe, makes sense to a lot of people that have laptops and stationary computers that they use interchangeably. It also covers different architectures. So if you have a stationary PC and a MAC laptop you can have the same license on them!
BMW X1 on ferry between Vaxholm and Rindö, Sweden
I have used Photomatix for close to three years and so far all upgrades has been for free – also something to note when you compare to certain other larger companies..
Alfa Romeo, South of France, Italian plates
I get nothing from pitching Photomatix! I just wish HDR soft to be successful and for you to find this nice, cheap tool.

All these pictures and more can be found at http://reveman.smugmug.com

High Dynamic Range – A start

I friend of mine introduced me to HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography. It’s interesting while at the same time being a new challenge in itself. The challenge is that you combine a number of pictures into one. This is typically done using the cameras multi-bracketing feature.

That means that the camera is instructed to make several exposures using various exposure compensations. A typical scenario would be to have the camera set to +-2 EV using three brackets.

That will result in 3 pictures being taken. One with normal exposure, one with +2 EV exposure (over exposed) and last one with -2 EV exposure (under exposed). When these pictures are combined a total image is composed which much higher dynamic range – that means high detail in both the dark and light areas.

During normal, single exposure photography, one has to choose which area to focus on or rather, to prioritize in terms of lightning. Depending on the camera this may have different names and different algorithms. In some modes an average is used and in other modes a single spot is chosen. In all cases though, the camera is not able to achieve the same dynamics that the human eye can handle. A common example is taking a picture indoor on a sunny day. The human eye has no problem in seeing both the interior of the room together with what is seen through a window from the outside. This can typically never be done with a normal camera with a single picture. You have to choose either to make the room look good (with the exterior being just a white spot) or the exterior to look good (with the interior of the room in more or less darkness).

Going back to the challenges of HDR. We have now taken the pictures and merged them together and should now have the same dynamic range (or better) than our eyes have. Unfortunately the computer displays as well as the printers we use also have a limited dynamic range. So in order to show the HDR picture we now have to compress the range into something that can be displayed or printed. If we just squeezed it back together without any hint of what we want to prioritize then we’re back where we started. Instead there are different approaches which lead to a more or less natural look. Depending on your taste you may find the result to be everywhere from ugly, surrealistic to really nice.

I tend to use HDR in a number of different areas – all quite different goals. I encourage you to try this for yourself and find your own favorite subjects.

All of these pictures and more can be found in my photo galleries at http://reveman.smugmug.com/