Tom Till is a master of Southwest landscapes. Recently, he’s been using HDR software to overcome some of the challenges of these high-contrast scenes without generating the bizarre-looking, hyperreal effect that’s objectionable to many nature shooters
For a long time, there were only a few options available for photographers who wanted to experiment with HDR. In the past year, several new players have entered the market. In addition to Photomatix, which Tom Till has been using, here are several others that you’ll find useful.
Ever Imaging’s HDR Darkroom (www.everimaging.com) functions as RAW converter software, as well as an HDR program with support of 16-bit TIFF files and multiple compressed or RAW files. Three different tone-mapping engines are provided for achieving realistic images. The Local Tone Balancer keeps tones in an image equalized while enhancing detail in shadows and highlights. The Local Tone Enhancer can handle files up to 50 megabytes. List Price: $99.
Nik Software’s HDR Efex Pro (www.niksoftware.com) is the newest addition to the HDR arena. It’s available as a 32- or 64-bit plug-in for Photoshop CS3-CS5, Lightroom 2.3 or later and Aperture 2.1 or later. HDR Efex Pro continues Nik Software’s legacy of making software that’s simple and intuitive to use. The program uses the company’s U Point technology for fine control, and six preset categories contain a wide variety of customizable effects. List Price: $159.
Photoshop (www.adobe.com) has had HDR since CS2 and the capability continues to evolve into the HDR Pro mode. There are extended Local Adaptation controls for 16- or 8-bit images. Tone adjustments are included for control over highlights, shadows and midtones, while the Detail slider allows you to adjust sharpness. The Color and Curve dialog box includes Vibrance, Saturation and Tonal Curve adjustments for color intensity. You can save custom presets, and there are templates for a variety of effects. List Price: $699 (Adobe Photoshop CS5).
HDR Expose from Unified Color Technologies (www.unifiedcolor.com) includes 32-bit support of its adjustment tools and works with a Beyond RGB color space for utilizing the 32-bit floating point data. The Dynamic Range Mapping tool provides single-click optimization, and there’s full manual control over the mapping process with adjustment over the dynamic range, brightness, highlight power, shadow power, colors, saturation and noise levels. The program is powerful and relatively easy to use. List Price: $149.