If you’re an HDR lover, than there’s some big news today. Photomatix Pro (which I’ve always held up as the father of all HDR software) just released a new version – Photomatix Pro 6. There’s a video at the bottom of the post if you want to see it in action. Also, they have a free download trial which I’d suggest checking out first (it’s fully functional). But if you do decide to purchase it, they gave me a 15% coupon code to share. Just use the code: mattk15
My story with Photomatix goes back back almost 11 years to 2006. I was teaching a landscape workshop, and I always walked by one guy who’s camera sounded like a machine gun the entire trip. Back then, I wasn’t bracketing photos – and most people I knew weren’t either. So it was a little weird at the time.
Then, on the computer in the classroom, he showed everyone this program called Photomatix and he merged together the bracketed photos in to an HDR. I tried one of my photos on it and I was amazed. So much so, that I went back to the office the next week and bought it. I spent the next few months getting really good at HDR, and I created a DVD on HDR Photography and Processing. Believe it or not, it goes down as one of my top-selling DVDs ever.
I don’t personally do a ton of HDR merging today. I’m usually able to get what I want from one photo. But, when I want that HDR “look”, or when I shoot architecture (or a really challenging scene), I do sometimes turn to an HDR merge. If I absolutely LOVE the photo, I still use Photomatix to do the merging because I’ve always like their “look”. It may not be the most-used app on my computer, but it’s been there for 10 years.
If I only kinda like the photo, and I don’t have big plans to print it large (maybe just share it online), then I’ll usually use Lightroom’s HDR merge for it. My only gripe about Lightroom is sometimes it’s HDR merge isn’t enough for the shadows and highlights. Plus, it doesn’t have that “look” that Photomatix has. It’s hard to explain but it’s got an edge, detail and contrast to it that I don’t see when I merge photos in Lightroom.
And Yes… there’s other apps out there and yes I’ve tried them. All I can say is that personally, for me, I prefer the look Photomatix gives. Maybe because it’s my first experience with HDR, or maybe because I just feel comfortable with it. But anyone that’s asked me about HDR software in the last couple of years, has always gotten the same answer: “If you’re really in to HDR… Photomatix is the way to go. If you only do it once in a while, and aren’t very picky about the look you get, then use Lightroom”.
What’s New in Photomatix Pro 6
So what’s new in Photomatix Pro 6? Here’s a quick list:
• This is the biggest of the new features – A new tone-mapping style called Tone Balancer. If you want an HDR merge that is more on the realistic side then this is the way to go. It works great for landscape photos and architecture where you want more of that natural look.
• You can blend one of the original photos over the top of your merged HDR and vary the opacity. And you can use a brush to selectively paint in parts of it if you don’t want the whole photo blended in. If you’re a Lightroom user, it’s nice because you basically have access to layering without jumping to Photoshop.
• There’s new color controls. I don’t personally do a lot of color manipulation in Photomatix, so I don’t use this part a lot. But, much like the photo blending option mentioned above, there’s a brush that will let you selectively paint color changes on to the merged HDR.
• Distortion removal – if you want to straighten a horizon or vertical surfaces, it’s got tools to do it. Again, I personally start my workflow from Lightroom, and returning to it when I’m done. So I’d do that type of work there instead.
• And this isn’t new, but it’s got very tight integration with Lightroom which means the round trip pretty much seamless.
A Quick Photomatix Pro 6 Video
As promised, below is a quick video demo of the new version. Don’t forget to use this link to check out Photomatix Pro 6 and if you do purchase use the code “mattk15” (no quotes) to get 15%. Enjoy!