If you’re like me, you’ve tried to get a similar effect in iPhoto. It doesn’t work. That’s HDR– High dynamic range photos which once required specialized cameras or added functionality. HDR photos represent more accurately the range of intensity levels in a scene. Here’s how to turn your Mac into an HDR photo machine.
Click, Click, Click. HDR
Even Apple’s iPhone (and many other cameras) have a kinda sorta pseudo HDR capability built in and ready to use. For the iPhone, multiple images are captured and combined for the high dynamic range photos.
For Mac users, there’s HDR Darkroom Pro, something of a Swiss Army Knife HDR photo app.
You’ll still need to take multiple photos of the same scene or subject, and preferably at different exposure levels, but HDR Darkroom Pro gives you the tools to create stunning HDR photos, even with inexpensive cameras.
As an app, HDR Darkroom Pro is more complex than using iPhoto, but less so than Photoshop Elements. All the tools to adjust tone, noise, colors, exposure, and more are stacked in a sidebar.
Processing images to reach a higher dynamic ranges is done in real time on your Mac. Each image can have a few dozen parameters to adjust and fine tune.
However, it’s easy to go crazy with some of the many possible adjustments and the results may not be exactly what you expected.
Even by using a good consumer level DSLR and with multiple images at different exposure levels, I struggled to replicate the intensity provided in HDR Darkroom Pro’s sample images.
With plenty of tinkering I was able to produce a couple of photos with higher range.
Those photos were captured and saved in RAW, rather than .jpg. The one-click method to transfer a few photos into an HDR image works well, but tinkering is a requirement to get better results.
The app itself gives clear indication on which photo you’re tweaking, and the conversion to HDR is quick and non-destructive. There are plenty of discrepancies between the app’s PDF manual and the app (disconcerting at first), too.
I also noticed that some HDR enhanced photos looked good while editing in HDR Darkroom Pro, but color shifted when saving to .jpg. That’s not good. What you see is what you should get.