Transforming your low-light shots into stunning HDR photographs is no longer a for-professionals-only task with tools like Photomatix. Its one-click presets and the excellent mixture of natural and artistic results they produce, together with its extensive editing, de-ghosting, and noise-reduction functions place this software app on the top five of the list of best HDR image tools. It supports many RAW file formats, and it produces stunning results both with sets of bracketed photos and with individual pictures.
Getting the hang of how the program works won’t take you long. You may need some more time, though, to make the most of its slightly cluttered yet attractive dark-colored interface and all its functionality, especially if you go for the Pro license. However, Photomatix Essentials will give you the same basic HDR functionality but in a more user-friendly interface. Yet, as they say, half the fun is in the experimenting. Those in a hurry or with a limited knowledge of digital photography can always rely on the program’s presets. Once the set of bracketed images or the individual shot you selected have been pre-processed, the program will display for you a set of thumbnails with all the possibilities that its built-in presets offer. Just pick up the one that appeals to you most and then add your creative touch to it.
Photomatix can deal with RAW images from the most famous camera makes, and pre-processes your big image files fairly quickly. It is equally effective with sets of (usually three) bracketed photos and with individual shots, though the former will give you a wider choice of stunning effects. There’s a set of specific tweaks that you can apply to the RAW conversion process (white balance and color primaries mainly), though the real fun begins once your image appears on the program’s main interface. You can process your blended image using either Tone Mapping or Exposure Fusion techniques. Both come with their own settings for lighting adjustments, color saturation, contrast, detail, etc., and both can be easily enhanced by applying to them one of the presets available. A loupe will let you see specific areas in more detail.
Applying some of these settings may take a few more seconds than expected (and wanted) even on computers with good processing times, but the results are usually so incredible that they are certainly worth the “wait”. The program offers an excellent combination of artistic and more natural or realistic presets, and allows you to tweak them to fit your preferences. You can save the resulting new custom preset for future use. All the basic editing functions that we all expect to find in a photo editing tool (such as crop, resize, rotate, etc.) are also there.
Photomatix is an excellent HDR tool that will change the way you look at your photographs forever. Its trial version will let you check all its functionality, so I can only recommend you to download and install it and give your worst shots (in terms of lighting) a second chance – you’ll be surprised.