Home / Articles / Creating High Dynamic Range Images with Photomatix Light 2.0

Creating High Dynamic Range Images with Photomatix Light 2.0

Article Description

High Dynamic Range (or HDR) photographs have an “image problem,” if you’ll pardon the pun. Aside from the assumption that all HDR images have an unnatural, painterly quality to them (not so!), there is also the perception that it is difficult to create HDR photos. Photoshop master Dan Moughamian presents the second in a series of articles focused on affordable and quick High Dynamic Range (HDR) software tools that can help you get started with your own HDR photography portfolio. This article covers Photomatix Light 2.0, which is an application sold by French developer HDR Soft.
Making the HDR Edits

Making the HDR Edits

Photomatix products offer three methods of producing the HDR look that you are going for: Details Enhancer (the method I use most often); Tone Compressor; and Exposure Fusion. This article will take a look at the Details Enhancer. Note that as you mouse over each of the controls, the bottom left portion of the window shows you some “help text” to get familiar with things.

  1. Set the Strength value (see Figure 3). As you’d expect, this slider controls the global contrast and, in combination with Microcontrast and Smoothing, will determine whether your image has a more natural appearance or a more illustrative or painterly HDR Look.
  2. Set the Color Saturation value to give your colors a boost (Figure 4). Unlike Photomatix’s big brother, there is no option for controlling saturation in separate areas like highlights and shadows. But a nice boost here will help give the image more visual punch, which a lot of HDR viewers expect.
  3. Adjust the Luminosity slider (see Figure 5). It has an effect similar to the Fill Light slider in Lightroom and ACR. It will brighten the darker areas while having less effect on other areas of the photo.
  4. Drag the Microcontrast slider to the right to enhance the apparent sharpness of fine details or textures in the image (see Figure 6). Note that unlike a Clarity slider in ACR or Lightroom, moving this slider to the left will not create a “soft focus” look for the image. Also, the more you increase the value, the darker your image will tend to look.
  5. Move the Smoothing slider to put the final touches on the image. This option helps determine where the strongest contrast points are, and therefore whether the shot takes on a more painterly look or realistic look. While in theory moving the slider to the right will only make the shot look more realistic and moving it left only more painterly, in my experience you should drag the slider across the entire range of values. As you do so pay attention to the areas you want the user to focus on, and settle on the value that brightens up those areas while darkening the less important spots.
4. Final Thoughts | Next Section Previous Section