Natural HDR using Photomatix and Lightroom

13-Aug-2012 @ 11:23

I saw Matt Kloskowski talk about how to use Photoshop and Lightroom together for HDR editing and wondered if you could do the same thing with Photomatix.

Well it turns out you can!  So in this post I’m going to demonstrate how to take a set of bracketed photos and turn them into an awesome realistic HDR image using just Photomatix and Lightroom.

You may wonder why not just use Photomatix for HDR since it’s specifically designed for the purpose?  But if you are particularly used to Lightroom or want a more subtle HDR look this method will give you more control of your image, using an already familiar interface.

First open Lightroom and select the bracketed exposures you want to combine.  I’ve chosen some shots from my recent trip to Rome.

Next right click (command click on Mac) and select “Edit In -> Photomatix”.  Unless you have altered the images in Lightroom select “Edit Original” making sure your file format is TIFF and Bit Depth is 16 bits/component.
Select “Merge for HDR Processing” and then you will see the dialogue box below.  Ensure that the option for “Show intermediary 32-bit HDR image” is selected and push OK and select your normal preprocessing options (align, remove ghosting, reduce noise and reduce chromatic aberrations).
Once Photomatix has processed the files go to “File -> Save As” and save the file as a 32-bit TIFF
Now re-import the photo into your Lightroom catalogue and open it in the Develop tab and edit your photo as normal.  However, because you’re using a 32 bit tiff containing a HUGE amount of data you can push the sliders to extreme values and still retain a large amount of detail.
The settings I’ve found most useful are Clarity and Vibrance, which along with altering the Whites and Blacks give your image the HDR edge whilst retaining a natural look.
And this is the sort of effect you end up with; it’s a bit less dramatic than typical HDR but still gives a good dynamic range and contrast not possible in a single exposure.
Rome HDR