My digital camera is getting old and I’m ready for a new one. Why? New digital SLR’s, with those huge, lovely assortment of high quality lenses, shoot great still photographs, and 1080p HD movies.
But what really has my amateur digital photographer’s hair on fire is HDR. High dynamic range. Think of HDR imaging as the ability to make a photograph look better than it is.
HDR Photos On Your Mac
HDR is an option built in to iPhone 4. Multiple photos are shot at the same time, then combined in a way to extend the original photo’s dynamic range. All the work is behind the scenes. You simply point and shoot and the iPhone takes care of the rest.
An iPhone is not a Mac and a Mac is not much of a camera. That shouldn’t stop you from digging into a few HDR apps for the Mac.
On my list of try-out apps is Photomatix, a modestly priced app that’s been around the Mac a few years.
It produces those exciting, almost surreal high contrast HDR images. All you need is your Mac (or, Windows PC), a decent camera, and a steady hand (or tripod).
Let me tempt you with a Photomatix graphic which visually describes the process to achieve HDR using your Mac and your photos. The three images below are combined to create the stunning image to the right.
Nice, huh? It gets better. Again, notice the three images that make up the final image.
How do you get photos like that? A few years of learning Photoshop will do it. So will Photomatix. You’ll start by taking multiple photos of the same subject.
One photo would have accurate exposure, another perhaps slightly overexposed, another slightly underexposed. In other words, multiple photos of the same subject but at varying exposure levels.
Photomatix then merges the photos into an high dynamic range image that reveals highlight and shadow details that wouldn’t be easily visible in a standard exposure photograph, yet keeping the original’s sharpness and contrast.
This app isn’t like Photoshop and it’s not like iPhoto’s enhancement feature, either. Settings are nominal. Drop in the photos, click on a few options, and Photomatix churns away for a moment (in 64-bit if your Mac is so inclined) and produces photos similar to what you see above.
There’s also a built-in Adobe Lightroom plugin so the app can be used from within Lightroom (and an edit plugin for Photoshop and Apple’s Aperture).
The Photomatix site has plenty of examples, a detailed how-to video, and an extensive manual. HDR is all the rage this year with plenty of apps for the iPhone and a dozen or so for the Mac. This is the first on my New Camera Journey for this year.