Category Archives: HDR Review

8 HDR Software Program Shootout

8 HDR Software Program Shootout

Comparing 8 HDR ProgramsIn this article we will compare 8 of the most popular HDR Processing Software currently available including:

  • Adobe Lightroom Classic CC
  • Adobe Photoshop HDR Pro
  • Aurora HDR Pro 2018 by Skylum
  • Easy HDR
  • Enfuse HDR
  • HDRsoft PhotoMatix Pro 6
  • HDRSoft Merge to 32 Bit HDR
  • ON1 Photo RAW 2018.5

*Note: You can skip reading this next part if you just want to get on with the review.

I have long avoided doing a head to head comparison like this. For a couple of reasons. Mostly because it is a conflict of interest, in two ways. In the first way, I an affiliate, some of  the companies reviewed here. So if I say something is good, how do you know it’s not just me pushing something I possibly could make money on? Secondly, It’s a conflict of interest to myself since photography and this website are my only means of making a living. So if I don’t promote things, I also don’t eat. This is why I most times would just review one piece of software at a time, do the FTC announcement to let you know that I may or may not have a financial connection to the company and then give you my honest opinion of that piece of software. That last part I ALWAYS do. But the truth of the matter is, affiliate deals are not what they were at one time and I make far more of my living selling Prints now. And I thought a good way to do this was to do the head to head, Give some opinions on how they performed but in the end NOT TELL YOU, “This one is the best!” or even give you a “Top 3” I’ll give you the info and the results. YOU make that choice, and it WILL be different for different people since HDR styles are very spread apart from Mild to Wild and not all, do all. So here you have it: 8 HDR Software Roundup.

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Photomatix Pro 5.1 is Still King

On September 5th. HDRsoft introduced it latest update to it’s always popular HDR Program: Photomatix Pro. Version 5.1 has a few improvments over v5.0 and they are:

Main updates in version 5.1
  • Added support for recent camera models such as the Nikon D7200 and Canon G7X, EOS M3, and 750D/760D (T6i/T6s).
  • Ability to mark presets as Favorites (by clicking on the ‘star’ icon to the left of each thumbnail) and filter the preset list to only show those favorites.
  • Fusion/Real-Estate renamed into Fusion/Interior and now includes a Brightness setting.
  • Addition of “Architecture” category to filter Presets.
  • By default, the preset name or method name is now appended to the file name of the final image. You can also adjust the suffix in the Preferences panel.
  • On Batch of Bracketed Photos, addition of Base Exposure option for deghosting.
  • The alignment is now done with one alignment method for all cases. The alignment settings (perspective correction option and maximum alignment shift) can be pre-selected via an Alignment Preset pull-down menu.
  • “License Information” panel shows the license status, as well as the license key if a Photomatix Pro copy has already been registered on the computer.

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Follow up to the Nik HDR Efex Pro 2 Review

Over on Facebook someone asked to show the differences between Nik HDR Efex Pro and the New Nik HDR Efex Pro 2 in a side by side comparison image.

Which is a reasonable request but there are some problems with this if you don’t look at it with a few things in mind. HEP2 not only has a new HDR Algorithm, it also has some big changes in controls. So how do you separate out what is due to the algorithm and what is because of the controls? Then on top of that even if the controls were exactly the same the images would not look similar because the beginning default image is of a lighter luminance value with the new algorithm than the old Continue reading »

Nik HDR Efex Pro 2 – First Review

One note, make sure you read this review all the way to the end.
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On Monday Nik Software announced the release of Nik HDR Efex Pro 2, an update to their ground breaking (In some ways ) HDR Efex Pro. It promised to deliver some much needed upgrades in a few areas
Improved speed and performance
A new Alignment and De-ghosting panel with improved performance
A new Tone-Mapping Algorithm
A new and improved Control Panel
Let’s see how these new features stack up Continue reading »

Topaz Labs releases Topaz Adjust 5

 Our good friends at Topaz Labs today released Topaz Adjust 5 the follow up to their highly sucessful Adjust 4 that I wrote about recently.

Some of the new features that make this software even better than before are:

  • Simplified 1-click workflow with 107 new presets split into 7 convenient effect categories.
  • Intuitive 4-in-1 selective brush used to dodge, burn, smooth, and brush out
    adjustments. Plus advanced edge-aware technology!
  • Integration of the Apply button – so you can stack multiple effects and presets during the same workflow.
  • Finishing Touches tab with options for warmth, grain, transparency, and more…

Till November 30th , They are offering 30% off your purchase of Adjust 5, Just enter the code  “ADJUSTME” at check out.

Previous owners of Adjust  get a free upgrade and you can also save on Bundle upgrades.

I will be doing a full review on Topaz Adjust 5 as soon as I put it through it’s paces

HDRsoft Releases Photomatix Pro 4.1

On July 16th HDRSoft released a update of  Photomatix Pro, version 4.1 (with a subsequent update on July 21st to 4.1.1 just to fix a couple bugs) I wanted to review the new release at that time but some Eye surgery kept me sidelined for a while and I am  just getting around to it now. I have been using the beta of this new release for a little while now and used it in an upcoming magazine article.

With it’s full release let’s take a look at some of the changes that have put into the latest version.

On opening Pro4.1 everything looks the same as before and same basic setup to open the images you want to work on.

The first major changes comes after you open your images and in the Preprocessing Options

 The first thing we notice is that under Align source images is a new check box to include or exclude perspective correction when aligning the images. This could be helpful in some architecture shots.


You can also now use the slider below to set the maximum misalignment of images that the software will correct for.








Under remove ghosts, they have made the Automatic deghosting more powerful to detect and remove more ghosts.

And in the Selective De-Ghosting tool, when you get to that screen they have added a “Quick selection” option so that you don’t have to select and then click mark  selection as ghosted area… Kind of nice, makes things quicker.

Everything else in this panel remains the same. 

The next changes and the BIGGEST one comes in the Tone-Mapping / Fusion Panel











 First thing you will notice are some cosmetic changes, an 18%  gray color scheme, the preview pane has been resized so that the histogram can dock next to it and you can also set in your preferences whether the histogram shows upon opening the tone mapping panel.

In the  Adjustments panel there have been a few changes. Some just renaming of a control to make more sense such as renaming microcontrast Detail Contrast

Then they re-named the Lighting Adjustments (Which used to be Smoothing) from Low /High to Natural Medium and Surreal, again to have the control name make more sense to the user of what it actually does. I like that

 There is a new control under “Show More Options”  Smooth Highlights. This control seems to help with some troublesome areas like bright skies that may have grayed out a bit or even some haloing in contrasty areas

Most of the other controls have remained relatively the same with perhaps just a repositioning of their order.



















Now, back to the biggest change in this version of Photomatix Pro, the inclusion of a selection tool and the ability to replace the selected area with one of the single exposures instead of the exposure merge. Previously you have to finish the HDR in Photomatix and then take the image into Photoshop, add the image exposure you wanted to replace in a new layer and  mask it into the HDR.

I would do this at times when either because of the merge the image lost fine detail in an area that really needed it. Or, when Photomatix Pro just couldn’t get a particular part of the image just right. This was often the case with white puffy cloud skies. Too often they would gray out and I felt one of the original exposures blended into the image would provide a more satisfying look to my final image, especially with my desire for a very natural and not surreal image.

The addition of this tool right in the Tone Mapping stage is really very helpful, both in saving time and allowing you to see what it would look like instantly instead of much later down in the process.

The selections tools worked fairly well, perhaps not quite as adjustable as they are in Photoshop. But the Magnetic Lasso did a good job in testing.

Now I have to be honest, will I ALWAYS use this method? Maybe, maybe not. It depends on the image. There are times when I want the more power I have in Photoshop to manipulate that selection with different adjustments and filters. So even with this addition I may still return to my original method. But in the end I really do welcome this addition to the tools of Photomatix Pro. I know I will use it many times especially for some smaller areas.


All in all this appears to be the best version yet. I’m not sure they made any engine changes but it seems to work fast and the preview, which has be problematic in the past seems so far to perform better.

As always, Highly recommended, I still believe this to be the best HDR Imaging software and the one I will use.

 To Download/Purchse/Upgrade to HDR Soft’s Photomatix 4.1.2 you may do so HERE  For 15% off your purchase of any Photomatix Software, enter the coupon code: theHDRimage at checkout

 You can also read about all the other changes and bug fixes that each release has on the download page


Review of Photomatix Pro 4.0 Noise Reduction

I found myself at the beach the other day with a great sunset and my Canon 5D in for repair (because I am an idiot) and all I had was a Point & Shoot camera. Being that the noise is much higher on this P & S than my Pro camera I thought it may be a good time to test out Photomatix 4.0’s “improved” noise reduction.

I shot a 3 image HDR using the Point &  Shoot’s Automatic Exposure bracketing which worked surprisingly well AND handheld!

I then processed the images through Photomatix 4.0 choosing 3 different methods to process the HDR with noise reduction added.

All images for comparison are 100% crops

Here is the HDR with no noise reduction

No Noise Reduction

The next image is  in Photomatix Pro 4.0 with a strength of 100 on the Merged Image. As you can see it really didn’t do much at all

100 Noise reduction

The next time I tried something different and tried using the noise reduction on the source files instead, dropping the list down for underexposed images

This method I think proved even worse

Source File Noise Reduction

Finally I returned back to putting the noise reduction on the merged file. This time I tried boosting the noise reduction up top 130%

This time I got somewhere, It seemed to eliminate quite a bit of noise in the image. However it did start to smear some of the detail which is not uncommon with any noise reduction. I found this method to be successful in taking the noise down to an acceptable level

Pro 4.0 130% noise reduction

Finally I thought I would see what a stand alone or Plug -in Noise reduction would do. I choose Neat Image Pro

The noise in this image was tough and it took some tuning but Neat Image did a good job, reducing the noise, with a few more artifacts than Photomatix Pro 4.0 But it retained much more detail in the image.

 Neat Image Noise reduction

So my conclusion is that used correctly the Photomatix 4.0 Noise Reduction may be very handy. Especially if  you can’t afford a standalone/plug-in  Noise Reduction program. Taking into account that most of the free ones out there do not work on 16bit or Tiff Images. (Neat Image Pro Does). The one thing I didn’t like though was that it was a trial an error effort to see the effect of the noise reduction. I couldn’t adjust it in real time. I was able to do that with Neat Image. So you pays your money….