Photoshop Plugin: Photomatix Pro
Most photographers are familiar with the problem of avoiding blown-out highlights and flat shadows when shooting a high-contrast scene. Photomatix provides a solution by creating a High Dynamic Range image from multiple exposures and then tone mapping it to compress its tonal range while preserving local details in both highlights and shadows. It can extract the exposure information from the shot’s Exif data and generate a HDR image using a standard camera curve, with results claimed to be superior to those produced using Photoshop’s own HDR conversion method.
The Essentials version, which is only available as an application, is geared towards those just beginning to explore the capabilities of HDR imagery. As such it provides a quick way to align hand-held images in JPEG, TIFF, PSD and RAW format and makes use of three processing methods. Presets to achieve standard looks can be used, while a significant number of manual controls are also available. Users have the option to pre-process photos with “high quality” noise reduction, with images saved in 16-bit JPEG or TIFF format.
The Pro version is available as an application and plugin for Photoshop, Lightroom and Aperture, and provides such functionality as a choice between two image alignment methods; a selective de-ghosting tool as well as the automatic reduction of ghosting artifacts and chromatic aberrations; the ability to read/write in 32-bit HDR image formats; batch processing; and no limit on the number of photos used per bracketed set. It’s not hard to see why Photomatix Pro is widely regarded as the best tool available for those serious about HDR imagery.
New in Photomatix Pro 4.2 is the addition of display options for preset thumbnails, improved preview size controls and Finishing Touch adjustments for contrast and sharpening. Photomatix Essentials remains unchanged at version 3.
Photomatix Pro 4.2 for Mac and Windows, which includes the application and Lightroom plugin, is priced at $99. The Plus Bundle adds plugins for Photoshop and Aperture, and is priced at $119. More information and a trial version is available on the HDRsoft site. The image below by Maciek Duczynski was created in Photomatix by combining five exposures.