Last year I fell in love with Nik Software’s Silver Efex Pro and tried out the Complete Collection of their apps and decided to buy all of them as a Christmas gift to myself. I’ve been using them a lot since then and got really excited when I heard that they were working on an HDR plug-in. Of course, the big question that I asked myself, as I am sure countless others did as well, was: how was it going to compare to Photomatix?
I got an early peek at HDR Efex Pro when Nik offered a webinar showcasing the beta version of the app during the summer. I really liked what I saw, especially since it offers you a huge number of visual presets with a lot more options than Photomatix does. Photomatix is the app you process your HDR in and then go into Photoshop or some other collection of filters to get your final results. This got so out of hand for me in the last few months that I, literally, spent hours perfecting a single photo. Granted, the photo was worth it but when you get home with several hundred photos you like from a summer vacation, there is just no time to spent hours on each individual photo.
Another thing I really got to appreciate is the U Point Technology, which is a faster way for changing settings for just an area in a photo without changing the overall look (similar to masking in Photoshop) – this is especially helpful with an HDR where you are almost bound to have some areas you would like to change a bit (e.g. the clouds).
Something they did not show in the webinar, was their Ghosting Technology and I was therefore really looking forward to seeing what they had done in that area, since I am tired of having to go into Photoshop to somehow rescue people strolling through my images. In the new Photomatix you simply highlight the area you have ghosting to reduce or eliminate it, with HDR Efex you get several options for Ghosting (youtube link) and I was really amazed at the results so far, people really were in one piece and they had a subtle HDR effect applied to them – something you lose with masking in from the original image.
I also enjoy the interface with the presets on the left and all your options on the right. Besides the strength of the tone mapping you also get a drop down with several options for the tonemapping, like sharper details or extra halo reduction, which gives you countless options for the look of your HDR. It also gives you the ability to do some advanced editing like adding a cross-processed look to the photo or going B&W in the app. You can even add a vignette in there (which I think is super handy).
I processed several photos these last few days with the new app, simply to get a feel for the options and I really, really enjoy using it. It’s very different from Photomatix but I like the added options and the ease of use of HDR Efex. I’m suddenly plowing through edits again after spending hours to get a similar result before, which is really great for the number of photos I tend to take.
If you want to try it yourself, there is a 15 day trial available for Aperture, Photoshop CS 5 and Lightroom.
(As always, click any photo to see a larger version)