A couple of months ago, HDR Soft, the creators of the vastly popular Photomatix Pro HDR software, released a new version of their software called Photomatix Light. This new version is meant to take all the heavy lifting out of the HDR process by reducing the number of sliders and making things much more automatic for the beginning HDR enthusiast. I hadn’t given much thought to the product but after receiving quite a few inquiries from my readers I thought perhaps I should give it a try.
The software is free for anyone who already owns Photomatix Pro otherwise it will cost $39 USD (you can download a free trial for Mac or Windows here). Once it is installed simply open the program and follow the simple steps, the first of which requires you to drag your bracketed photos into the image box (you can also browse for them if you wish). Not sure what bracketed photos are? No problem. There’s a help guide to give you some instruction, including how to set up your camera.
Once the images are loaded you simply click the Next button to move to the next step where you will make adjustments to the combined images.
There are two different modes you can choose from and each has the ability to use a default setting or make some adjustments. The first method is called Exposure Fusion and it’s not so much HDR tonemapping as it is a combining of the best parts of your bracketed images. You can adjust things like the shadows and midtones until you get just the right blend. This is much more of a realistic view and is not a 32-bit enhancement of the scene.
The second method is called Details Enhancer Tone Mapping and is much more reminiscent of the tools available in Photomatix Pro, if not a bit watered down. If you like, you can choose to play with the tone map settings such as Strength, Color Saturation, Luminosity, Microcontrast, or Smooting. There are also some pre-defined settings like Default, Painterly, and Grunge, which will render some pretty cool results. Each of these can also be customized if preferred.
One you are happy with the results just click the Process & Save button and Photomatix Light will process your adjustments into a final rendering and then allow you to save it and even load it into Lightroom.
You can process single files in the program as well but they do a nice job of explaining why you will get better results with bracketed images. As for the results, I think that they are pretty decent and will render results that are similar to those that I see a lot of people getting from the Pro version. You will however lose a lot of the control using this version but if you are just beginning your foray into HDR and don’t know if you want to make the larger investment in the Pro version then this might just be the ticket for you.
Take a look at the results below to see the differences in the processing methods. The first was made using the Exposure Fusion method. The second image was made using the Details Enhancer Tone Mapping, and the final was made using Photomatix Pro. These images are straight out of the software and have not been altered by any other software so that you can accurately compare results. Normally I would make adjustments to the images in Lightroom or Photoshop to lighten them along with some other refinements. As you can see, this Light version will certainly give you enough power and flexibility to create some very interesting HDR images.