Photography in the 21st century has changed dramatically. Gone is the expense of film, replaced by digital cameras and high capacity storage.
Even small pocket cameras are capable of taking stunning photos, and hundreds or thousands at a time. Even the once grotesquely expensive high dynamic range )HDR) photos can be created with average cameras on your Mac.
Click, Click, Click To Stunning Photos
My history as a photographer goes back too many decades to impress anyone. My first SLR was a Pentax Spotmatic with screw in lenses, so I’m definitely old school.
Through the years I’ve adjusted to new technology which as served to reduce my per-photo cost dramatically, but clutter the closet with older film cameras which may be more comfortable in a photography museum.
My latest love is HDR. High dynamic range photographs. Basically, HDR is a method of photo processing which creates stunning images by creating higher dynamic range within the lightest and darkest areas of an image.
In other words, it’s a way to make photos look better than they actually are. For Mac users, all it requires is a decent digital camera and the right HDR application.
Better Gets Cheaper
Among the dozen or so HDR apps I’ve tried out in the past six months or so (in anticipation of a new and forthcoming DSLR), the value leader so far is HDR Darkroom Pro, one of a number of photo processing apps by EverImaging.
HDR Darkroom Pro takes a few of your photos, improves the range within lighter and darker areas, and creates a high dynamic range image with not much more than a few clicks. The results will speak for themselves.
The app combines multiple images with different exposures and processes the extra detail into a single image.
The interface is straightforward but will take some time to master the options. The left column details stacks your photos (remember, multiple images of the same subject, using different exposures, are required for HDR photos).
The right column features the tools to adjust the images. Tools range from typical Saturation, Brightness, Contrast to more esoteric controls for Tonal Adjustment, Noise Reduction, to Color Balance and Temperature, and much more.
The real trick to getting decent HDR photos resides in the multiple images at different exposure levels, and how well you master the adjustment controls. Fortunately, HDR Darkroom Pro doesn’t take much effort to turn out stunning HDR images.
The RAW converter supports files from over 150 different camera models, though JPG, BMP, TIFF images can be used as well. Slider controls provide numeric adjustments, but opening all the controls results in the need to scroll through the vertical mass.
How Fast Is That Stunning Photo?
The most surprising aspect of HDR Darkrooom Pro is the speed with which photos are rendered. On an aging iMac, images were rendered within a few seconds. On a faster Mac, rendering was instant, even on RAW photos of 10 megabytes and larger.
It’s not the prettiest app on your Mac. Utilitarian is a word that comes to mind. The dark motif is reminiscent of iPhoto and Aperture. The Toolbar at the top is totally retro, circa Mac OS Classic, with gaudy icons that are non-descriptive.
Don’t be fooled by the seeming simplicity, though. There’s plenty of substance behind the clicks. Grab as many photos of a scene as you want (I pulled in dozens at a time), select a few of differing exposures and mix and match. The results are nearly instant.
HDR Darkroom pays homage to the latest social buzzwords and provides uploads to your Flickr account, but nothing for Facebook, or SmugMug, or others. The price is competitive with others (remember, these apps once cost many hundreds of dollars) in the HDR realm, but benefits from an occasional sale on the Mac App Store. Fortunately, there is a try-before-you-buy trail version.