HDR Photography Resources:
Software and Tutorials
part of DigitalPhotographyClass.net

hdr photo by Trey Ratcliff
The Bay at Portofino by Trey Ratcliff stuckincustoms.com

High Dynamic Range photography is a method used to produce images that try to recreate what the eye sees in a scene that has a wide dynamic range of light to dark tones that cannot be captured by today's cameras in one image.  Even though the latest camera models do a great job capturing evenly lit scenes, there is still much room for improvement in high-contrast scenes. If you take many landscape, architectural or other high-contrast photos, you will immediately realize that you cannot capture very bright and dark tones in one image. You must expose for highlights or shadows at the expense of the other tone. 

HDR imaging is a method that combines at least 3 exposures 2 stops apart using specialized software to produce a wider dynamic range of light to dark tones than a single image can capture. Stand-alone HDR applications, Photoshop plugins and Photoshop combine properly exposed parts of each image to produce a composite 32 bit HDR image, often with stunning results. They can be very realistic or overly dramatic "artistic" images depending on the software used and how you process them.

I've compiled some good resources including HDR books, links to the most popular HDR applications, and a long list of tutorials on how to set up your camera to take bracketed photos and how to process your photos with HDR software. I hope it will be helpful to you!
-- Judy Howle

HDR Imaging Books to get you started
Books in the top section the newest. R.C. Concepcion's new HDR book (June 2011) sounds interesting and it covers Nik HDR Efex Pro in addition to Photomatix. Trey Ratcliff's book has been very well received and a local photographer told me it is his favorite and more useful than 2 others in the older group that he also owns. Practical HDRI 2nd ed. was published last year. Tony Sweet's book will be out July 2011. Be sure to read the descriptions and user reviews before purchasing to see which you prefer. Also keep in mind Christian Bloch's updated book due out in November.

Coming in November:

The HDRI Handbook 2.0: High Dynamic Range Imaging for Photographers and CG Artists

by Christian Bloch

The following books are oldies but goodies

Below is a listing of HDR software, both free and commercial versions.  Photoshop (CS2 and later) also produces HDR images but is less effective than dedicated programs at tone mapping.  CS5 is a little better than previous versions.

Best Free HDR Software Programs
This site lists several free applications with reviews. They are listed below.

Essential HDR Community Edition

FDRTools Basic

Popular Commercial HDR Programs
Photomatix 4
For years this has been the preferred HDR software but now has some serious competition. Standalone and Photoshop Plugin available. It also comes with a Lightroom plugin.
Photomatix Tutorial

Photomatix Lightroom Plugin Export from Lightroom to Photomatix Pro

NIk HDR Efex Pro HDR plugin with many presets and 4 tonemapping algorithims. Lightroom plugin comes with it. My personal favorite.

Oloneo Photo Engine New HDR application with many great features. It not only offers almost unlimited control over exposure and lighting but also provides a new level of creativity in digital photography. PhotoEngine is the only HDR and RAW processing software offering amateur and professional photographers full control over light and exposure in real-time. It is still not up to par for image alignment and ghosting for hand-held photography.

HDR Expose
from unifiedcolor.com
, billed as "the only HDR software available that features accurate color, full color gamut and HDR editing capability"
HDR Express Little brother to Expose, featuring a simpler interface with fewer controls.
32 Float
the first fully featured 32-bit color editing plug-in for Adobe® Photoshop® based on Beyond RGB™ color space. With 32 Float you can adjust color, brightness and contrast while maintaining a full 32-bit workflow. It accepts 32-bit HDR or 8/16 LDR images from any application and can produce crisp, photo-realistic images without ha­los or color shifts.
Tutorials for the 3 previous products from unifiedcolor.com

HDR Darkroom Billed as: the first all-in-one HDR software to achieve both photo-realistic HDR photography and surreal HDR photography easily using two patented innovative Local Tone Mapping technologies.
Tutorial for HDR Darkroom

Dynamic Photo-HDR from Media Chance. Dynamic Photo-HDR is a next generation High Dynamic Range Photo Software with Pin-Warping, Anti-Ghosting, Fusion and Color Matching

Pseudo-HDR from a single image
HDR-like images can be created from one image with this popular plugin which is also useful for tweaking your
images aftter tonemapping with any other HDR application such as Photomatix, CS5, HDR Efex Pro, etc.

Topaz Adjust Photoshop and Elements plugin filter
ReDynamix from Media Chance
Photoshop CS5 and most HDR apps can also tonemap a single image for an HDR look.

HDR Software Yahoo Group

Flickr HDR Group
http://www.flickr.com/groups/qualityhdr/ Check here to view some good examples

Blogs on HDR
Listing of HDR Blogs
Daily HDR Photos at Hidyn Gems Blog
Modern HDR Photography

Tutorials and Articles on HDR Photography and Processing

Great article on bracketing & number of exposures for HDR from beforethecoffee.com (Ferrell McCollough)
Photomatix 4 tutorial also from beforethecoffee.com
One of the best HDR tutorials from stuckincustoms.com
HDR Tutorials and HDR Software reviews from Digital Outback Photo - One of the best resources!
Tutorial from photoshopcafe.com
Many good video tutorials from PhotoWalkPro on HDR and pseudo-HDR
HDR 2-part videos by Ben Wilmore
Wikipedia HDR resource
Great article by Jim Austin M.A., A.C.E.
John Paul Caponigro HDR articles and Movie
PopPhoto.com tutorial for Photoshop and Photomatix

Vanila Days Tutorial Guide for Photomatix from Pete Carr, author of HDR Photography Photo Workshop

An HDR Primer; High Dynamic Range Photography For Those Who “Want It All!” (Shutterbug magazine)
HDR for the Landscape by Rob Sheppard (Outdoor Photographer)
6 Tips for great HDR photography
Tutorial on HDR Bracketing
Landscape HDR Tutorial by Royce Howland
Markus Linke's Tutorial using Photomatix and Photoshop with plugins
Good article on Bracketing
HDR Tutorial using Photomatix by Markus Urban at abduzeedo.com
5 HDR Tutorials dealing with photography, Photoshop, Photomatix, workflow
Nice Workflow tutorial using a waterfall image in Photomatix and post-processing in Photoshop
Good article on Photomatix and Photoshop processing from The Light's Right
HDR Tutorial using Photomatix by Dan Norcott
HDR Tutorials Roundup
Tutorial: Using Photomatix Pro in Lightroom
HDR Pro in Photoshop CS5 video tutorial on Adobe TV
HDR Pro video tutorial from Deke McClelland
HDR Pro video tutorial from Adobe TV by Jan Kabili (good info, starts in Bridge and Camera Raw)
See her other tutorial for creating a surreal look and "ghost" removal
HDR Pro video tutorial by Colin Smith on Adobe TV and also one on HDR Toning
HDR Pro and theTone Mapping function in CS5 by Julianne Kost
Free NAPP demos of HDR Pro and Tone Mapping videos (and other CS5 features)

Back to Digital Photography Class home