I’m just beginning my exploration of HDR (high dynamic range) processing and how it fits in my current Lightroom 2 workflow. Like most photographers, I find the idea of expanding the dynamic range displayed in certain images to be very compelling. After all, who wouldn’t like their images to show more detail in the shadows without blowing out the highlights?
I’ve spent the past few weeks reading literally hundreds of blog posts about different HDR shooting and processing techniques and reviewing the software available from various vendors. At the end of all this research I still wasn’t sure how HDR processing would fit into my Lightroom workflow until I saw a note on HDRSoft’s web site about a beta version of Photomatix Pro 3.1 and their new Lightroom 2 plug-in. So I took the plunge, bought a license and installed everything in just a matter of minutes.
Here’s my first test using an image with a moderate dynamic range (mostly dark shadow areas and fairly bright highlights). The image on the left was processed entirely in Lightroom while the image on the right was merged from three “bracketed” raw (.dng) exposures, tone-mapped in Photomatx Pro 3.1 (beta) and then cleaned up in Lightroom.
I’m very impressed with the results using the default settings in Photomatix Pro 3.1 beta. The detail in the shadow areas under the trees looks very natural and the noise level is acceptable. My only issue is with some of the halo artifacts that show up where the sky meets the tree tops. Other than that, it’s a fairly decent exposure.
Click on the image on the right to see a more detailed version.