How To Use Photomatix Pro To Create HDR Images

By YPHDR, Tutorials

Someone has asked me about creating HDR using Photomatix in the past. So today I’m going to show you how to do that using bracketed images in Photomatix Pro 5. I’ve installed Photomatix as a stand alone software but you can also get it as a Photoshop plugin. I’ve chosen this image below to show you the dynamic range of

I’ve installed Photomatix as a stand alone software but you can also get it as a Photoshop plugin. I’ve chosen this image below to show you the dynamic range of

I’ve chosen this image below to show you the dynamic range you can achieve with Photomatix. It was taken near Kidron Valley in Jerusalem, Israel in late morning, hence the bright highlights in the background.

I bracketed three exposures in continuous shooting mode, handheld.




Photomatix Pro 5.1

The latest Photomatix Pro 5 has a significant improved engine for HDR processing and addresses a few problems that the older versions had. For example, ghosting effect, less robust color and contrast adjustment and sharpening.

The layout is also more user-friendly. If you are serious about HDR and need a good software that you can trust, try it for free before you buy. If you decide to purchase it, remember to use the code “Fotographee” to get yourself a 15% discount!

 

Exposure Bracketing

These are the three bracketed images straight out of camera:

fotographee Photomatix HDR tutorial

 

All images were taken at ISO 100, 97mm focal length, f/14, in Raw and with a circular polarizer. Shutter speed (from the left) were 1/320, 1/80 and 1/20 using AEB. I’ve taken three sets of bracketed images just in case.

 

Post-Processing In Photomatix Pro 5.1

Once you have downloaded your images onto your computer, click on Photomatix Pro icon to load up the software. You should see a window like this appear on your screen.

 

 

fotographee Photomatix HDR tutorial

As we are using bracketed images, go ahead and click on “Load Bracketed Photos”. “Load Single Photo” is to create HDR using a single RAW file.

The bottom two options are for batch processing, which we are not going to talk about today. The window below should appear next.

 

 

fotographee Photomatix HDR tutorial

This is for you to select your images that you want to merge to create HDR. You may load as many images of different exposure as you want.

In this case, we are going to load the three bracketed images above. So click “Browse” and navigate to select your images. Here you have the option to view the merged image in 32-bit.

It’s optional and it doesn’t affect what you do later, I always keep it checked to amaze myself =)

Go ahead and click OK once you have selected your images.

 

 

fotographee Photomatix HDR tutorial

In this window, you have the option to get Photomatix to align the images (“Align source images”) for you and crop it following alignment (“Crop aligned images”).

You can also check the box for “Show options to remove ghosts” to de-ghost later – this is very useful if you have taken images where there are moving objects such as vehicles, people or trees. I leave this checked in every situation just in case I need it.

I tend to leave “Reduce noise on” unchecked because I often de-noise in Photoshop if I have to. I always check “Reduce chromatic aberrations” and leave the White Balance and Colour Primaries alone – you don’t really need to change these.

Once you are done, click “Align & Show Deghosting”.

 

fotographee Photomatix HDR tutorial

You should now be able to select “Selective Deghosting” or “Automatic Deghosting”.

Ghosting happens when there is movement, for example, a person moved while you’re taking bracketed images. You will find the person in a different place on your bracketed images. This will come out as a shadow or ‘ghost’ in your merge HDR image.

In automatic deghosting, Photomatix decides where the ghosts are and let you choose which of the bracketed image you want to use to fix the ghosting. You can then drag the adjustment left or right to see the effect.

 

fotographee Photomatix HDR tutorial

In selective deghosting mode, you can do it manually.

There is no ghosting in this image but I’ve listed the steps you can follow if you need to deghost. First, with your cursor, drag and draw a circle around where the ghost is

First, with your cursor, drag and draw a circle around where the ghost is (1). It doesn’t have to be the exact outline of the ghost but just a circle to make sure all parts of the ghost are included, like what I’ve done in this example. Next, right click on your mouse and select “Mark selection as ghosted area”

Next, right click on your mouse and select “Mark selection as ghosted area” (2). Again, right click your mouse once more and select “Set another photo for selection” (3), this will allow you to select any of your bracketed images to fix the ghost. Select one where the subject has minimal

Select one where the subject has minimal the movement, or one where you prefer where the subject is. You can then click “Preview Deghosting” on the menu on left and preview the changes. Click OK if you are happy with the changes.

 

fotographee Photomatix HDR tutorial

Now, this is your chance of viewing a true 32-bit image. Go ahead and click on “Tone Map/Fuse” to start tone mapping your HDR image!

 

fotographee Photomatix HDR tutorial

This grand view is where you tone map your HDR image to your like. If you look at the top left corner, there is an option for “Tone Mapping” and “Exposure Fusion”. Make sure “Tone Mapping” is selected. Fusion exposure is another technique of merging same images of different exposure, it is not HDR. We won’t go into details as we are focusing on HDR here. There is a “Method” just below that and if you click it, a drop down menu appears:

fotographee Photomatix HDR tutorial

There are three options to choose on how you want to edit your HDR image. Use “Details Enhancer” if your aim is to bring out the details and to create a surreal effect (where the majority of the Photomatix users do). You can use any of the presets on the right with this method. “Contrast Optimizer” adjust the tonality of the image, giving you a more realistic, halo-free natural look. “Tone Compressor” pushes the dark and light tone on both sides of the histogram (a bit like the levels adjustment in Photoshop) towards the middle to create a smooth, realistic effect. There are more adjustment tools in “Details Enhancer” and less in the other two. Here’s what I mean:

fotographee Photomatix HDR tutorial

Most of the adjustments are pretty self-explanatory so I’m going to highlight a few interesting ones. “Strength” controls the overall effect of your adjustments. With “Lighting Adjustments”, you can shift the highlights and shadows to give your image a surreal effect. If you check the box for “Lighting Effects Mode”, a little menu pops out next to it. Here you get to choose the presets to either make your HDR natural or ultra surreal.

fotographee Photomatix HDR tutorial

If you feel the details enhancer is bringing up too much noise, try increasing “Micro-smoothing”. It will reduce the noise while maintaining the overall details of the image. When you are satisfied with your HDR image, click apply. A little window appears (the last one) for you to sharpen your image, increase the saturation of individual color (similar to Lightroom and Photoshop) and a contrast adjustment (you can’t apply adjust on the curve directly like you do in Photoshop).

fotographee Photomatix HDR tutorial

 

Click done to view the final result.

You should save this as 16-bit TIFF if you want to edit further in Photoshop later. Normally at this stage, I load it up on Photoshop to do fine tuning on the color and contrast, and add a filter with Colour Efex Pro of Topaz Clarity.

Finally, I sharpen it with a high pass filter and save it as 16-bit TIFF.




Conclusion

I have used Photomatix for about eight years now. I have also tried other dedicated HDR software but I didn’t find them as versatile as Photomatix. It is a little pricey but it will save you a lot of time and effort compared to other HDR software. If you do purchase it, don’t forget your “

It is a little pricey but it will save you a lot of time and effort compared to other HDR software!

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