I do still believe if we want to do a true High Dynamic Range image, it should be done right and the time taken to do just that but I have softened my stance on single image HDR.
We do have to be honest ab0ut what it is. We are NOT extending the dynamic range of an image but rather just Tone Mapping the dynamics that are there. In other words we are placing a tone in a different part of the spectrum then it may have been before. Usually this means bring some areas that were lost to shadow up into the midrange and lowering some highlights. Some programs also add some sharpening to bring out detail.
I didn’t try to match results from each program, just rather played and found what I liked in each one
So with that in mind I thought I would show some examples of single image processing and I thought I would use an example of a case where this may be our only choice; Race Cars at speed.
This image was shot at the Classic and Historic car races in Coronado
This is the original image
First up, I used Photomatix Pro 4.1. To do a single image in Photomatix is easy. Just go to File> Open and open the image you want to process, when it opens, click Tone Mapping. This was my result
Next up was Nik HDR Efex Pro. From Lightroom, simply right click the image you want to work on and say >Export to:
Here is the result from the NEW Topaz Labs, Topaz Adjust 5 ( Full review coming soon!)
Using one of the New Presets that are apart of the big improvement in the program, HDR Heavy Pop Grunge
Just for comparison, This is one of the old Adjust 4 Presets, HDR Sketch (all of the Adjust 4 Presets are still in Adjust 5, just 171 new ones added)
And then just for fun I tried one other thing, This is a Preset I built in Nik Sharpener Pro 3.0 to simulate a single image HDR effect which works more on detail than tone.
(Display mode. Adaptive sharpening 64%, Structure 78%, Local Contrast 91%)
So there you have it, a lot of different looks and of course within each program the different styles are almost endless.
One thing of note was that Photomatix was the only program that worked on tone only and did not include an amount of sharpening. I thought that was kinda of cool. It may not be the effect you want, but the fact that I could control that afterwards was a good thing.
Hope that helps