Posts Tagged ‘photomatix’

I do a lot of HDR photography, some is good, some not so good but I was wondering if I can recreate a look of my favorite HDR shots from Photomatix with Nik HDR Efex Pro. I’m now using it for 90% of time and I really like it. I have an option to choose from several algorithms with different looks and behavior, Photomatix gave me just one. Don’t get fooled, Photomatix is a great piece of software but Nik gives me just a lot more options. On the other hand, it is slower than Photomatix but I can wait, no rush 😉

Anyway, the first image processed with Photomatix, second with Nik HDR Efex Pro. Photomatix version is a little bit brighter but that is just about pulling a brightness slider to the left. I like the way both look.

HDR Brass's Pond

Photomatix Version

Nik HDR Efex Pro Version


Some time ago I watched Moose Peterson‘s class about Landscape Photography over at Kelby Training. He suggested using foreground, middle ground and background to your advantage. One or more objects in every part of an image. Not to put every possible thing to foreground but pick one or few more things that are interesting, important, that tell a story and exclude all other elements that take away from the story. Sounds very simple and for Moose it is, but for me it was quite a trouble.

First of all I found my element in foreground, an old brick wall that creates some boundries or restricted area and gives the image some structure. The middle ground is taken by river Vltava and background is filled with architecture and dominanted by a tower near Charles’s Bridge.

Anyway I think I made something wrong. Maybe wrong location, maybe bad vantage point, maybe bad composition, maybe everything togethere and something more as an extra. Conclussion? I must shoot more to get great images! 🙂 BTW Image was taken with my Canon EOS 450D (Rebel XSi) with my new Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM on tripod.

Another view on Prague

And finally it is here. The battle not just me have been waiting for. I gonna compare two of the best and maybe most used software for HDR processing. I’ll keep my eye on speed, noise, allignment, ghosting and of course overall result and user interface. So let’s start.

The first thing I was really interested in was noise reduction and how both pieces of software handle noise while processing. For this purposes I took three shots with my Canon XSi and 70-200. I found a contrasty scene in my kitchen. ISO sensitivity was set on 100, the lowest possible. Here are the two files, one processed with Photomatix and one with HDR Efex Pro.

Because both programs have different user interface getting the same result was a bit difficult, but I think it isn’t so bad after all. So here is the image. To see 100% view just click the image.

ISO test

On the left side is Photomatix 4.0 and on the right side is HDR Efex Pro 1.2. Pretty dramatic difference in noise reduction. I have a DiG!C III CMOS sensor and noise for me is a huge problem. I can’t shoot higher than ISO 400 for prints and ISO 1600 is almost unuseable 😦 So better noise reduction, better mark. On non of the three source files have been applied noise reduction in Lightroom.

Another aspect was speed. How long did it take since pressing the button export to HDR Efex Pro/Photomatix and clicking OK for both ways to have a picture I can start working with. Only software launched during this test was Lightroom. Photomatix did it in 01:17.34 which isn’t really bad. A lot faster than Photoshop CS5, but Nik did it in 01:16.02! Photomatix vs Nik 0:2!

Less noise and higher speed are good but they aren’t the most important things that matter. It is the final result. Today I took an HDR shoot of Venceslav’s Square in Prague and processed it both with Nik and Photomatix. This time I wasn’t going for the same look but for look I liked. Because that is the point. I know in my mind how I could process shot when I take it. First, let’s have a look on Photomatix. I’ve been using it for some time now and I know some stuff. But the result?

Photomatix Processing

The result isn’t so bad but it could be a lot better! Actually I was so excited and processed it with Nik first so I know 😀 But anyway, what thing scared away a lot of people from HDR? Results. You have to process again the image using Lightroom, Camera Raw, Photoshop or anything. It is a must to get great final shot. This wasn’t any excepcion. And still the greend stuff in foreground and middleground looks oversaturated, I just can’t help it. Even with Lightroom. To get it better there was only one chance, jump into Photoshop and fix it there. I didn’t follow the last step. And for comparison the image processed with Nik HDR Efex Pro.

Nik HDR Efex Pro Process

I don’t know how about you, but the winner for me is clear! Photomatix vs. Nik HDR Efex Pro 0:3! And the battle is over 😀 This program is designed differently. Yes, it has the same features as Photomatix, but you can do the whole image here without post processing with Lightroom or anything! You have your exposure setting, blacks, whites, warmth, structure (clarity), curves (!!!), vignetting and that is basically all what you need. In Lightroom I just applied tone curve because I didn’t want it baked into the file and have ability to change it anyway I like afterwards.

My opinion? It is just a tool to get the job done. But I like Nik’s sofware better. You have many “HDR methods” how they call it but they are basically different looks. Something that is missing for me in Photomatix. Yes, you can create your own, but it will take a lot more time. Also the fact I don’t have to bother with it after I hit the OK button is great. Why should I change exposure setting in HDR Efex instead of LR? In LR i can modify it and nothing is baked in. That is true, but sometimes you now you’ll brighten it up. You just know it. Is there any difference if I make it in LR or in HDR Efex and have the same result? No.

It seems I’ll stick with HDR Efex Pro after all 🙂

There are many styles of photoraphy and many types of it. I mostly like to shoot people, landscapes, nature and for last few months also HDR. But what software is best for processing HDR images? Photomatix? Photoshop? Nik HDR Efex Pro?

First of all I started with Photomatix 3. The results weren’t bad, but it was very noisy and when I didn’t use a tripod and needed to reduce ghosting, there wasn’t this option. But the look wasn’t so bad.

Than Photoshop CS5 came out with it’s HDR Pro and the world was happy. Cool ghost reduction based on image you’ll choose and a lot of options for processing. Quite cool but I didn’t like the look of it as much as from Photomatix.

Moving forward in time Nik Software came up with their HDR Efex Pro. Unfortunately for me, they changed something with graphic stuff etc. and the user interface didn’t render for me. Software was working but it wasn’t useable. I submitted a question on their tech support and the answer was to update my graphic card driver and Windows. Last driver for my ATI Radeon is from 2007 so no update was possible.

Last week on the Grid I submitted a comment via Twitter and a guy from Nik Software answered and gave me a tip to ask for “Safe Mode”. And so I did. Next day I had an e-mail from Nik with the solution. Tried it and now it works perfectly! I’m really looking forward to test it out and compare with Photomatix. Especially look and noise, results will be of course posted on my blog and Flickr 😉


In HDR photography we are taking multiple exposures of the same scene. So the best possible situation is shooting some architecture or landscape w/o any people, animals or wind involved. By putting camera on good sturdy tripod we minimize it’s movement and by using AEB (Auto Exposure Bracketing) camera takes the images. Pretty simple, but this doesn’t work too much in real world.

In real world you can put your camera on tripod and set AEB. That is great and easy way how to get started. But now in Prague I don’t have my Manfrotto so I have to shoot hand-held. And believe me, with my 70-200 f/4 NON IS it is quite hard to keep it perfect steady. To get sharp shots I use higher ISO. But the worst problem is movement. People moving in the photo. When there is just one person, you can play with it, process multiple photos and than use layers to hide the moving person.

But what if you are in a square? Or even better, what if you are on crowdy Venceslav’s square? This is the time I let software itself to remove ghosting. In Photoshop CS5 you can choose one sample image and the ghosting will be removed acording that image. But I didn’t get so nice results from Photoshop as I did with Photomatix. So I tested out version 4 with reduced ghosting and it is blast!

Believe me, if you want noise in your photos, shoot with a Canon camera that has DIG!C III processor and than use Photomatix. You have to apply a lot of noise reduction to the image and as a result you get a less sharp image. You just have to find that sweet spot. To reduce ghosting check “Reduce Ghosting Artifacts” and I usually use High setting. That’s all folks! Here is a final image w/o movement. This time I put it in big dimensions, click on it to see in bigger size and check the fine work of Photomatix.

HDR of Venceslav's Square


Forbidden Area (click to enlarge)

I don’t know why, but now I shoot a lot more HDR. Maybe it is because I can use better tools like LR3, PS CS5 or Photomatix 4, maybe just because it is cool. Two days ago I was on a walk with my friend Clara and we were passing throught graveyard. Yes, I know it is a weird place to go, but we wanted to know how we will end up 😉 But anyway, right at the entrance was this cool scene so I started thinking about it. Of course I made some portraits of her but she was so embaraced and asked me not to show them to anybody … don’t know why, because she’s one great looking sexy girl! 😀

I knew I had to shoot in HDR, because there were big differences between light levels. So I set my camera to AEB +/- 2. Now I needed to find that cool angle and feel for the image and it did take just a second. I realized I can shoot the “forbidden area” style. One element in foreground is in focus and is restrictive, the rest behind it is out of focus. The shot itself wasn’t bad. But I had to make it even better somehow. I felt it’s potential, just to process it the right way and I could get away with awesome photo. I’ve decided to go with Orton Effect. And of course, some other adjustments in Photoshop and Lightroom, as always. The final image is on the left of the post, click on it for better view, it will forward you to the photo on my Flickr account.

Here is the video about Orton Effect.

After some time I finally got away from work and games, took my camera to Prague and went for a walk with my friend, Clara. We were walking, talking and I was scouting some cool locations for portraits and landscapes. We started at Ujezd, bellow Petrin Hill and walket towards to Strahov’s Monastery and back down. And on our way down I spotted some really cool places for HDR, mostly with houses. It was quite cold outside so I didn’t spent much time, that 1.5 hour walk was long enought.

Old house in Prague (HDR)

But back to photography. I took a good look on one old house and on his walls were these old dried-up sprouts. The overall image looked fine so I took the shots. Afterward it was processed in Photomatix and final touch was made in Lightroom. I really like those square and rectangular shapes in contrast with the broken wall. I also included a person into the shot and it made even more impact on the photo, I really don’t know which I like better but I think for my level of photography they are both very fine.

Old House in Prague with Better Impact