For a while now I’ve been meaning to devote some time to experimenting with HDR – specifically comparing Photomatix and Photoshop in their production of HDR photographs.  The industry preference toward the former is there for a very good reason.  Photomatix produces much better results.  Just look at this final shot (be sure to click the image for a larger view – the blog restrictions on size really don’t do it justice):


Now, in the interests of full disclosure, I did do some additional post processing work even after the HDR processing to get the above results.  But Photomatix was superior for a number of reasons.    For starters – Photomatix gives you options in what type of output you want.  Here are the two results, side-by-side, that I got from Photomatix:


The first was the result of  processing from the Tone Compressor tab and the latter of Details Enhancer tab processing.  As you can see, the first produced a smoother sky, but left the foreground a little flat, while the latter had more texture and, well… dynamic range to it.  So, I decided to go with the latter in my post processing.  The Photoshop alternative, however, produced something even less desirable than either of the above.  Take a look:


Not only are the luminosity levels less interesting, but there’s literally no tone curve application.  No color, no tone curve mapping, and decidedly no interest when you consider the options from Photomatix.  I am in the process of putting together a tutorial of how I got the final result, so be on the lookout for that in the next few days.  In the meantime though, I’d like to take a moment to say “Thanks” to fellow NAPP member,  Elizabeth Gast (a.k.a. Firgs,) for the kind thoughts she has over on her blog – Design by Firgs – where she talks up a shot I took a while ago that is premiering on hew new series “Accidentally Awesome” today, so be sure to stop over there and give her a shout-out!  Until tomorrow – Happy Shooting!

8 thoughts on “Experimenting with Photomatix and HDR

  1. Excellent BBC writeup, Mark – and fab imagery to illustrate the changing Plymouth.

    It’s great to discover a fellow Dynamic HDR user! Before committing to a purchase, I tested about 5 HDR programs with over 20 of my images of various subjects and different lighting, and tested bracketed exposures as well as a few single images.

    I was really expecting Photomatix to come out on top. It didn’t – Dynamic HDR did! I was very surprised – so I had to test another 5 images just to make sure that I wasn’t incorrectly using Photomatix. I wasn’t!

    Also, as mentioned above, “Essential HDR” worked better for me with my interior images. I could probably live with Dynamic’s interior renditions, but Essential’s were just that much better in comparison.

    I’m currently working on an image portfolio and having a great time doing it. Next up will be the website – something a bit more professional than my fun blog!


    1. I really like the cennott on your web-site. There are lots of digital photography websites that are just plain bad out there, but this is simply not one of them. This template you have used certainly enhances the feel and then compliments this article delightfully. My goal is to return to see a lot more of your hard work. Kudos!

  2. Tony Needs Cameras Lenses says:

    Great image! I haven’t tried any HDR yet, but I was looking into it. At first I assumed that I would just use Photoshop. Now I’m thinking I should give photomatrix a shot.

  3. It’s really interesting Jason as the little HDR I have done (I just don’t seem to have an eye for it), has been done in Photoshop. I did try photomatix, but I just couldn’t get the grade that I wanted. I couldn’t get it in PS either mind! I may take a look at MediaCHance like nzm mentioned when I get around to it next. Looks like a cool location by the way!

  4. Great image, although I guess that you dropped in the sky from another image!

    What were your bracketing shutter speeds and aperture settings?

    Also, if you care, you should try out “Dynamic HDR” by Mediachance. In daytime shots, it doesn’t blow out the skies like Photomatix. Plus, you can save as a layered psd file (HDR layer plus either the Normal original or Tonemapped file), as well as a lot of other cool features.

    I did a lot of trials on various HDR software applications with a lot of different images, and Dynamic HDR got my vote in just about every test. “Essential HDR” did a better job of interior images.

    My 0.02!


    1. I’ll have to get the EXIF data once I get home – but thanks for the info, I’ll check into that. As for the sky – I did one of the skies with a PS tutorial, the other I dropped in (the crisper one was dropped in)…

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