HDRsoft announces Photomatix 6. Yesterday HDRsoft announced the latest version of their ever popular HDR software PhotoMatix Pro 6. The new features are: Continue reading ». Let us see the quick Photomatix pro review. Photomatix Pro 6 Review Noise reduction. Noise reduction is included in Photomatix Pro, as some of the photography software does not have this feature and you need to buy Noise reduction software individually. This feature is so easy in Photomatix and once you upload a picture for HDR rendering it. HDRsoft Photomatix Pro 6.3. Photomatix Pro merges photographs taken at varying exposure levels into a single HDR image that reveals both highlight and shadow details, with options for automatically aligning hand-held photographs, removing ghosts, and reducing noise and chromatic aberrations. Merged images can then be adjusted by a range of.
Trying both Photomatix Pro and Aurora HDR, you are first struck by differences in the user experience. And those differences start as soon as you load your photos. Photomatix has, for example, more de-ghosting options, including the ability to preview ghosts to see how bad the ghosting is, allowing you to determine the intensity of the process. You can also manually select areas to deghost, which is not an option in Aurora.
Photomatix also gives you a bit more control in aligning the images. Noise control (not in Aurora) allows you to choose to remove noise: only on the underexposed image or images, the regular and underexposed images, or all or none of the images. This is especially useful when using higher ISO settings on your camera.
If you handheld your camera for your bracketed exposures, neither of these two programs offer manual manipulation of one or more brackets as do a few other HDR programs.
And, if you are merging Raw camera images, there are a couple of options that pop up for white balance and color space in Photomatix.
Photomatix also allows you to view and save the full HDR image after your photos are merged (but only then).
And all this is before you’ve even started editing the image.
When Photomatix came out with Version 6 early last fall, there were a number of new and very useful features, including:
After you merge your brackets, you see the merged image with a gallery of 34 color and 7 black and white presets. Since they are a selective collection, it is easy to see the major differences between them, even in the smaller versions in the gallery, plus they are organized together with names that actually mean something (as opposed to Aurora, which has presets organized by their creator and the names often mean nothing). In Photomatix, tapping on a preset quickly changes the preview AND shows which of the HDR flow settings you can use to create that style. Which leads us to Photomatix’s most unique (and for beginners, possibly the most confusing) feature.
The organization of HDR workflows changed in Photomatix’s last upgrade.
Under HDR Settings, Photomatix offers several settings options or, as I think of them, workflows. You select one of the options and that determines the workflow that you will use for that image. Photomatix has 8 workflows plus one tool to select a pair of images to import:
1. Details Enhancer specializes in enhancing fine detail in your merged image and is probably the preferred workflow for most HDR artists. Here, the first three options (Strength, Tone Compression, and Detail Contrast) manage the overall HDR look. The rest are creative and refining options built on those settings. This workflow includes things like Smooth Highlights, Micro-smoothing, separate saturation controls for highlights and shadows, clipping of shadows, and color controls (HSL settings). If you like to control things, Details Enhancer is your best option. It also has a significant learning curve.
2. Contrast Optimizer is simpler with only six control sliders plus the new color tools. You can use this when you don’t need all the options in Details Enhancer and you’re most interested in controlling contrast without dealing with texture or noise.
3. Tone Balancer is new to Photomatix 6. It is a good option to use if you want to combine photos but want to keep a more natural-looking image. This mode can be used for commercial real estate and architectural photography as well as landscapes. It’s probably a good choice when you have to process a lot of photos quickly (or automatically), without spending a lot of time fine-tuning them.
4. Tone Compressor is even simpler, with only four controls plus the color management and blending modes. If your bracketed photos are already well-exposed, this would be a quick way to blend them together quickly.
5. Fusion/Natural specializes in managing the contrast and the color in the image and not a lot else. It’s another option if you want natural looking images from well-exposed originals. Unexpectedly, I found Fusion/Natural to also be a good option if you want to create black and white HDR images.
6. Fusion/Interior was likely designed specifically for Real Estate photographers, who need a way to prepare a large number of indoor images quickly with local contrast, and easy highlight and shadow control.
7. Fusion/Intensive seems mis-named, because it is a barebones workflow, with only Strength and Radius controls, plus the color settings box.
8. If you don’t like to make choices, though, Average is the simplest workflow for simply merging photos together and then working on them in another photo editing program. Average is good only for quick and dirty batch processing because there are no controls except the color management tools. If you are a detail-oriented photographer used to the Details Enhancer, this mode will give you the willies and you won’t spend much time here. But, not spending time here is apparently the whole rationale for this mode. (I also suggest you don’t spend time here.)
9. Finally, Fusion/2 images allows you to pick two (and only two) images to merge among all the brackets you may have loaded for potential merging in Photomatix. If you have a large number of, perhaps, 5 to 7 brackets and you need to narrow them down to two for a simpler workflow, this is for you. Personally, I find this tool to be pretty useless. You won’t need this if you use Lightroom or another photo organization program, but here it is.
Again, people who like maximum control over the look of their HDR photo will probably prefer the Details Enhancer workflow. Even this will not give you all the micro-contrast controls you find in Aurora HDR, but if you want to control noise, the saturation in highlights and shadows, and other detail work, you can feel at home here once you learn what all the controls do.
New users of Photomatix might want to start off with Contrast Optimizer, Tone Balancer, or perhaps Tone Compressor and then explore the Details Enhancer for more detailed work. Fans of manual blending of images, or extended (not high) dynamic range photography might like the quickness and ease of using Fusion/Natural.
Or you can jump right in the deep end of the HDR pool with a Photomatix tutorial and slog through all the settings of the Details Enhancer. This mode has the steepest, but most rewarding, learning curve.
The remaining modules are probably best for photographers who need to automatically process a lot of photos quickly for a high-flow commercial client, such as in Real Estate, Architecture, or a PR house, but want the richer contrast and detail that HDR affords.
In my opinion, Photomatix could easily pare down the workflows; they make the program more complicated for the new user than it needs to be and several don’t add any utility to the program that I can see.
Note that in Version 6, Photomatix changed the names of several of the adjustment tools, so if you have an older textbook on how to use Photomatix, the names of some of the controls have changed. Fortunately, HDRSoft has a list of the changes → in their FAQ sheet, useful if you are studying an older Photomatix tutorial.
If Photomatix Pro seems to lack most Photoshop-like controls, that’s on purpose. The program is designed to be used along with your favorite photo editor. Photomatix now includes plugins to make it easy to use with Adobe’s Lightroom and Photoshop. A useful workflow might be to:
When you select Photomatix from Lightroom, Lightroom processes the selected frames into TIFF files when sending to Photomatix, and when you finish editing, you click on “Save & Reimport,” the only saving option when using with Lightroom. You send it back as a 16-bit TIFF.
There are many other workflows you can use with Photomatix. Here’s another more detailed one, not using Lightroom:
This flow is not set in stone, and you should adjust it for your needs.
After comparing Photomatix with other HDR software, I think there is plenty of room for improvement:
I know this seems like a long wish list, but these features would add flexibility and artistic functionality to Photomatix and help the program keep its leadership in the HDR field.
Even with all these quibbles, if you do HDR photography, you want to have Photomatix Pro in your toolkit. Its attention to image detail, its varied workflows, and its many options give you more control, especially if you prefer something closer to photo-realistic images rather than highly saturated HDR interpretations. It feels speedier than Aurora, too.
If you do architectural or real estate photography, Photomatix is a very good bet, with special tools and tutorials specifically for that.
When you buy Aurora → (priced at $99), you get a license for up to 5 computers in any combination of Mac or Windows. So if you are the rare person who uses both Windows and Macs for your photo processing, it’s a very good buy. (Frugal Guidance 2 is into frugal options, after all.) Visit Stuck in Customs and other HDR websites for discount coupons.
Photomatix Pro → is also $99, but you can try Photomatix Essentials for $39 if your needs are more modest. If you’ve used Photomatix for a long time, you may need to buy a $29 upgrade to get the newest version. (It’s worth it.) Photomatix also offers educational pricing for students and teachers. Several websites offer discount coupons.
In my opinion, Aurora’s workflow makes it especially attractive to HDR newbies. Processing is fairly quick. It’s use of layers and other Photoshop-like features makes it closer to an all-in-one shop rather than waiting to export to your favorite photo editor to finish the photograph. Nevertheless, you probably will still want to use your photo editor for many tasks, including printing, resizing, and converting to JPEG or other formats, which I’m used to doing in Photoshop. Also, Photoshop plug-ins offer a lot of versatility for further editing your images – there are no equivalent plugins for HDR software.
But, for those who want to use HDR for a variety of tasks, Photomatix is still king with its different workflows, more photo-realistic options, and for automated processing. Most HDR books, magazines and web articles reference Photomatix’s features and controls, since it has been around for many years.
If you can afford only one program, my suggestion is to get Photomatix for now, learn it, then save up for Aurora HDR when you are ready to expand your abilities. But, if you’re the novice who likes to jump in and experiment without reading manuals, you might prefer Aurora.
In the future I’ll share some photos I made in both Photomatix and in Aurora, with an explanation of the workflows I used for them. I also will show a specific instance where Photomatix crushed Aurora in the ability to get fine detail from an iffy image. Even after nine years of using Photomatix Pro, I’m still learning new ways to use it every day I experiment with the program.
If you haven’t read them yet, check out our Intro to HDR → and comparing Photomatix Pro and Aurora HDR →.
All three photos accompanying this article are by the author, Andrew Brandt, and were created using Photomatix Pro.
The title image is of the old Bethlehem Steel Mill (a.k.a. SteelStacks) in Bethlehem, PA, active between 1915 and 1995. The original 3 photos (bracketed in 2-stop intervals) were taken in 2010 and recombined in 2018 in Photomatix Pro, with additional processing in Adobe Photoshop. The mill is a historic site used in conjunction with Bethlehem’s ArtsQuest with a modern building and outdoor plaza, and is adjacent to the new Sands Casino (built after this photo was taken). See also http://www.steelstacks.org/about/what-is-steelstacks →.
Two Barns on a Shady Country Road was taken from 3 images taken in Sussex County, New Jersey. The images were accidentally taken in Exposure Priority mode, not the usual Aperture Priority mode, with different apertures, but because all the images were in the focal plane, they combined in Photomatix Pro fine. Finishing was in Adobe Photoshop.
Reflections on the Rockaway River was taken with three images (also 2 stops apart) and combined in Photomatix Pro. Finishing (including brightening the light in the far left area of the photo) was done in Adobe Photoshop.
If you’re new to DSLR photography, you might be surprised to learn that you can combine multiple photos into a single image to create some stunning results. This is done to overcome a limitation your camera sensor has with combining very dark and very bright areas in a single exposure.
Your camera sensor has a limited range while your eyes do not. “High Dynamic Range” or HDR is an image processing technique that composites multiple images of varying exposures into one image. I use it to create photos that resembles what I originally perceived but other people use it to create surrealistic scenes. See Wikipedia for more introductory information on HDR and See checkout the many HDR examples on Flickr.
Below is an HDR image I created from five separate exposures I shot last Friday (I was vacationing in Bermuda). This is Bermuda’s famous Horseshoe Bay at 6:30 AM.
This post is not as much an HDR tutorial as it a quick introduction. My motivation was also to share with you a comparison I did for myself between two software options for creating these HDR images.
When photographing landscapes and cityscapes, they don’t really move much so they’re ideal for HDR. If you have a lot of moving elements it’s far more challenging as you’ll get “ghosting” (objects that quickly change location are tough to composite).
Taking multiple photos at various exposures is simple once you learn how to do exposure bracketing (check your camera manual). You can also manually modify your exposure between shots using exposure compensation (e.g. -2 and +2 adjustments). I took my five shots manually and you can see them below:
You can take any number of exposures but 3 to 7 is recommended. If you can only take three shots, shoot a standard exposure first, then take one at -2 ev and another at +2 ev. Just be sure to keep your focus and aperture the same across the shots. To do that, shoot in aperture priority mode (Av). If you vary only your shutter speed, blending will be smooth. You should also lock your ISO to a low low level like 100 or 200 to minimize noise.
It is ideal to shoot in your camera’s raw format, not JPEG. This provides the HDR process much more information to work with. A raw image file has so much data that there’s even a way to do HDR with a single image. It’s like developing film. You can process a raw for the darks and then re-process it for the highlights. You then HDR them. Photomatix and Photoshop can do this with a single file.
Definitely use a tripod as stability counts (even during the day). Using a cable release is very helpful if you’re using your camera’s bracketing feature as it lets you hold down the shutter (bracketed shots are like burst shots and require the shutter to be held down for all three exposures). For advanced shooters, don’t forget your mirror lockup option or use Live View. This ensures the internal mirror doesn’t need to move which reduces internal vibration.
As you can see in my shots above, the bright exposures bring up detail in shadowy areas but blow out the sky. The others show the sun and clouds but require significant underexposure. Now it’s time to combine them to create the image seen at the top of this post.
To create an HDR, you need desktop software that lets you automatically merge the separate images into a single photo. I think the two most popular options are:
These packages let you create HDR images several ways but the most popular is called “Tone Mapping” (Wikipedia definition). Photoshop uses the term “Local Adaptation” as well. It’s the most intense and mathematical of the options. You’ll know intense it is by how long it takes to perform the merge. All the other HDR options are simpler forms of image blending or “exposure fusion”.
It’s worth noting that you can create HDRs manually by combining photos and cutting out the areas you don’t like. For example, in Photoshop Elements, you could overlay two pictures leaving the nice sky from one exposure and the bright foreground from another. Once you do some blending, no one will know it was a composite. Don’t overlook this simple option!
I only have v3.9.2 of Photomatix Pro but version 4 is out now. From what I’ve read, the HDR processing engine is the same but it offers you more control over the ghosting I mentioned earlier. Again, ghosting is what you get when something in your photo moves between the exposures. The latest Photomatix release gives you a lot of control to limit ghosting by letting you choose which photo “wins” for selected portion of the photo that experienced movement.
I use Lightroom so it’s dead simple to create an HDR. Once Photomatix is installed, it appears as an Export option. I just select my five raw images and right click on one. I select “Export” and then “Photomatix Pro”.
I won’t go into the exact settings I chose inside Photomatix as it’s somewhat irrelevant. You have to play with them and it depends on each photo or effect you’re going after. You can Google around for a few tutorials. There are a lot of sliders you can play with and it’s easy to go overboard. My suggestion is to try to make it so nobody can tell it’s an HDR.
The photo below was as nice as I could get it to look within Photomatix. It’s still realistic but very nicely saturated with good detail on the foreground rock.
Lightroom and Photoshop are sister products so they naturally work well together. It’s just another right-mouse click but this time you have to select “Edit In” and then “Merge to HDR Pro in Photoshop…”.
What I can say for sure is that Photomatix is significantly faster than Photoshop. You also need to quit all your other applications or a 3 minute merge in Photoshop will become 15 minutes. This is a pretty big drawback. Another big difference is that Photoshop offers you less controls to tweak your image. It does have ghosting control but it’s less functional than Photomatix v4 (which I haven’t tried myself yet).
Here’s the result I got, trying to match the output I got from Photomatix. Some of the highlights are nicer but there’s a visible telltale HDR halo around the rock. Upon close inspection of the rock, however, I actually find the Photoshop version is more blurry. Some might find the sunrise a bit more interesting and the waves a more crisp. Overall, it’s a matter of taste.
Here’s some 100% zoom comparisons for you inspect. Photoshop’s HDR is on the left and Photomatix’s HDR is on the right. Click the image to zoom in close.
I think I prefer the Photomatix version myself. What do you think? Which do you prefer?! Click these again to zoom in (left is Photomatix and right is Photoshop). Post your comment below.
If you’d like me to record a video tutorial about HDR creation, let me know. I won’t bother unless I get some comments on this post!