The Online Photographer

Check out our new site at!

Friday, October 06, 2006

High Dynamic Range Imaging and Tone Mapping

Photo: Multi Media Photo

Uwe Steinmuller has posted an interesting basic review of Photomatix 2.3 by Multi Media Photo at Outback Photo. (Note that a quick glance at a number of examples indicates that this is a technique that's easily overcoked—but also potentially valuable.) The upgrade from any 2.X version is free.


Featured Comment by Impasse Lebouis: Here's an alternative method to dynamic range increase.


Blogger Richard Sintchak said...

"...Note that a quick glance at a number of examples indicates that this is a technique that's easily overcoked..."

So is Velvia but that does not stop practically every color landscape photographer from believing it's Velvia or nothing.

6:49 PM  
Blogger Richard Sintchak said...

You know, I thought I'd try them. Tone Mapping gives me an error message saying their is a problem with the filter module interface and goes no where from there, and Photomatix crashed on my the first time I tried it---and I have fairly powerful machine with 1.75GB of RAM. Oh well...

7:16 PM  
Blogger Roger said...

Under the right conditions Photomatix is a wonderful tool. And like most tools it tends to be over-used. It works wonders when the dynamic range of a scene exceeds what sensors can handle.

I'm still trying to get my arms around the overall "flatness" of a HDR image. Sometimes you need a blown-out highlight or stuff lost in shadows to make the image.

The workflow is somewhat drawn out and their UI is a work in process but overall I'm very pleased with the tool. I'm not entirely into the Zen of it but I'm getting there.

7:32 PM  
Blogger Ken Tanaka said...

Special tools? We don' need no special tools! ;-)

During the past two years I've been doing quite a bit of stock photography of Chicago's Millennium Park, particularly Jaume Plensa's luminous Crown Fountain. Depending on the time of day the Fountain's towers, particularly the LED surfaces displaying faces, can be 2-4 stops brighter than the surrounding scenes. (Example 1, Example 2) Since the images on the towers are generally moving, as are the many people generally around the Fountain, I cannot use multiple bracketed exposures to compensate. One shot per image is the rule.

Therefore to simulate what the eye actually sees (and what the brain remembers) I use a technique similar to that referenced by Impasse Lebouis. In my case I capture all of my images in RAW format with a metering bias towards the darker areas from which I will need detail. I bring two (sometimes three) versions of the converted image into Photoshop. One with the darker surroundings properly exposed (with my RAW converter) and the other with the brighter areas (in this case the tower faces) properly exposed. I then manually blend the two images (as layers) to produce what amounts to a reasonably faithful minds-eye simulation of the scene.

I suspect that PC tech pundit john Dvorak would not approve. (Geez, I had no idea he was still licensed to rant!) Nor would most news photo services. Fortunately I am not dependent on either for a livelihood!

11:56 PM  
Blogger Ted Kostek said...

Back in the old days (around 2001) Norman Koren started writing a great tutorial about doing this with Picture Window. Norman has moved on to other facets of digital imaging, but his excellent tutorials are still available at

11:46 AM  
Blogger Roy said...

I've been using Photomatix for about a month now, particularly for interior shots by natural light where the exterior needs to be rendered too. While it has always been possible to combine different exposures to accommodate a wide brightness range, Photomatix allows it to be done so easily and in batch mode too if required. I'm a convert, although it does have to be used with care to avoid that 'over-cooked' look. Works for me though - sample.

3:05 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home