An inexpensive introduction to HDR photography which includes enough control to make it great value.
Photomatix Light is an application for creating high dynamic range (HDR) photos from sets of bracketed photos. In most scenes, it’s impossible for the camera to capture the full dynamic range in a single photo, but by importing three or more into Photomatix Light, you can create a photo that represents what your eye sees more faithfully.
The application is a cut-down version of its respected big brother, Photomatix Pro, which we reviewed a little over a year ago. Although Pro is easy to use, Light is even easier.
It has a simple interface onto which you can drag up to five bracketed images, which are converted in seconds into an HDR image. This process is known as Exposure Fusion and is one of two HDR methods offered by Photomatix Light. There are various sliders you can use to tweak the final image, including one to adjust the weighting given to the underexposed or overexposed images – this affects how bright the photo is.
While it’s best to use a tripod to ensure your images are all the same, Light will attempt to align hand-held photos. What it won’t do is reduce ghosting caused by objects swaying in the breeze – this is reserved for the Pro version.
If you don’t have bracketed photos, you can use the Tone Mapping mode to create a pseudo-HDR image from a single JPEG or RAW file. Light lacks the advanced Details Enhancer settings of Pro, but there are still enough controls to achieve the desired effect – either artistic or natural. Smoothing, micro-contrast, strength and saturation sliders give you just enough control.
Images can be saved as 16-bit TIFF or JPEG files, but there’s no integration with Adobe’s Lightroom as you get with the Pro version. However, at this low price we can’t see many people complaining. Other applications, like Adobe’s Photoshop Elements and Corel’s Paint Shop Pro, now include HDR support, but they tend to lack tone mapping, which is one of HDRSoft’s biggest strengths.
If you want to create both artistic and more natural-looking effects with HDR techniques, Photomatix Light is a great-value way to do it. The price even includes free updates for a year. It’s a deserving Budget Buy winner.