View Full Version : Photomatix/Enfuse comparison
03-15-2009, 04:35 PM
I've just written a post about comparing the HDR outputs of Enfuse and Photomatix Pro:
http://mirmilant.wordpress.com/2009/03/ ... omparison/ (http://mirmilant.wordpress.com/2009/03/15/enfusephotomatix-hdr-comparison/)
As a HDR guru, Steve, I'd value your opinion on these especially as I'm trying to learn my way around the technique. What else could I try? Obviously I can try out different lighting conditions (interiors for example), but since doing this I've been thinking that a fairer comparison with enfuse would be with the Tone Compressor in Photomatix, rather than Details Enhancer, as it gives more "natural looking" results.
I'd value your opinions and advice on this.
03-16-2009, 08:51 PM
That's a great comparison between LR/Enfuse and Photomatix! I think you assessment is spot on. I wrote a little bit about both of these programs here (http://blogs.oreilly.com/lightroom/2008/12/lightroom-export-plug-in-for-p.html) and here (http://blogs.oreilly.com/lightroom/2008/12/blend-with-lightroom-enfuse.html).
My approach to HDR photography has evolved over the years. I started creating HDR images simply by manually combining images in Photoshop using layer masks. This is an example (http://paxtonprints.com/index.php?showimage=371) of a HDR image I created simply using layer masks in Photoshop. Many of my favorite images were created this way. As time went on I began experimenting with some of the different HDR programs. Even after using HDR programs, I always come back to manually combining images. I rarely present an image that I processed in an HDR program (such as Photomatix) without going in Photoshop to fine-tune it. I almost always process pieces of a scene in whatever program I think will suit it the best and then bring the pieces together in Photoshop.
The philosophical discussion about whether HDR images look over processed or not is really in the eye of the beholder. I have been accused of over processing my images many, many times (take a look at the last entry in my guestbook for the latest person to suggest this). Flickr has quite a few examples of incredibly overcooked HDR images. Halos, bizarre color shifts and insane noise are just a few indicators of poorly processed HDR images.
I have been an avid video gamer for a long time. I started out building my own beefed up computer systems and playing the latest first person shooters. As time went on, I moved over to the X-Box 360. Now days I am hard pressed to find time to play - but I still try to jump in when I need to turn my brain off. I tell you this because I think gaming has really influenced my view of photography - and more specifically, HDR photography. I really like the gritty, high contrast look seen in many of today's high resolution video games. I don't purposefully try to recreate that in my photography, but I realized (some time ago) that it was influencing how I approached HDR photography. This influence can be seen both in my processing and in the subject matter than I seem to gravitate to (run down, beat up buildings).
Some people really love turning regular scenes into crazy HDR images while others strive for a more natural look. I won't tell another photographer he/she is wrong for preferring one over the other. My critique will always center around concrete problems like halos, color shifts, images out of alignment, etc. Most of us can agree that these are not a welcome part of HDR photography.
LR/Enfuse creates amazingly accurate and natural HDR images with very little effort. I almost always use LR/Enfuse for real estate photography. As you pointed out in your comparison, Photomatix offers a great deal of control (almost too much control!). You can produce natural images with Photomatix, but you have to work a little bit harder. I use Photomatix to create darker, grittier compositions. As I mentioned earlier, I might process a single series of images through both programs and blend them in Photoshop. One program may work better with the foreground elements while the other makes the sky pop. In almost all cases, the final output needs to be massaged in Photoshop.
I am going a bit long here - hopefully that provides some background for my own thought process and approach to HDR photography. I would love to hear what others think.
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