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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Gadget Bag: High Dynamic Range Software

Use digital technology to make your photographs more like human vision

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Ever Imaging Ltd. HDR Darkroom
A relative newcomer to the HDR arena, Ever Imaging Ltd., introduced HDR Darkroom in November 2009. Their website offers a useful tutorial and thorough explanation of HDR technology. HDR Darkroom allows you to create an HDR image from multiple compressed or RAW files, or one single linear TIFF file in 16-bit-per-channel format. It also functions as a RAW converter. Their claimed advantage is that they provide three separate tone-mapping engines. One is global while the other two are patented local tone-mapping engines: Local Tone Balancer (which balances tones to reveal detail in both shadow and highlights) and Local Tone Enhancer (which extracts hidden details). Local tone-mapping technologies take into account information about neighboring pixels during the mapping process and are said to work more like human vision in that respect. Contact: www.hdrdarkroom.com.

HDRsoft Photomatix Pro
Photomatix Pro from HDRsoft has garnered the lion’s share of popularity votes among HDR photographers because of the consistently outstanding results it produces. Like all HDR applications, Photomatix Pro works its magic by combining data from multiple images of the same scene taken at different exposure settings. How it differs is that it performs either HDR tone mapping or Exposure Fusion (their name for reducing noise while blending differently exposed photographs into one image). For best results, Photomatix recommends using three photos separated by two EVs (i.e., two full stops) or five shots separated by one EV. You can use the Bracketing feature on your DSLR to automate the process, but be aggressive when setting the differential increments. In some cases, you’ll need a tripod. Photomatix Pro and Photomatix Light have an automatic alignment option for handheld shots. Images processed with the trial version are watermarked, but it’s fully functional and a great way to find out if HDR is your cup of tea. You can remove the watermark after you buy a license key. Contact: www.hdrsoft.com.

Image Content Technology Lucis Pro 6
One might say using Lucis Pro 6 from Image Content Technology to perform HDR transformations is like using a sports car to drive to the grocery store—there are so many other fascinating things you can do. You can create HDR effects from a single image, restore underexposed and overexposed images, pull out contrast patterns in the image, create a watercolor effect where the effect varies throughout the image and add texture. Also, Lucis Pro 6 is simple to use. The GUI is intuitive, with easy-to-use sliders that have understandable labels like Enhance Detail. Besides merging multiple image files into an HDR image, you can create HDR effects from a single image, restore underexposed and overexposed images and eliminate radial artifacts or add texture. By applying the diverse creative controls, you can produce an infinite number of variations of your masterpiece. Contact: www.lucispro.com.

Unified Color Technologies HDR
PhotoStudio 2
HDR PhotoStudio 2 from Unified Color Technologies provides real 32-bit color-editing tools so you can fully process your HDR files using all of the 32-bit floating point data with the greatest amount of control and detail before having to tone map to 16 or 8 bits. Explains Marketing Director John Omvik, “Most of the other HDR applications do the merge in 32-bits and then convert to 16 or 8 for any color processing. Staying in 32-bits allows us to implement very powerful algorithms to correct for issues such as halo artifacts using all the image information.” HDR PhotoStudio 2 also preserves color integrity. Adjust anything related to brightness (brightness, contrast, shadow/highlight, sharpness), and the color tones of your image don’t change. Conversely, when color tones (such as in white balance, saturation, color tuning) are changed, the image brightness and contrast remain unaffected. Contact: www.unifiedcolor.com.


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