Last updated on February 21st, 2019
HDR photography is one of the main reasons I took interest in photography – especially travel and landscape photography. Furthermore, HDR images have an eye-attracting feel that makes people stare and wonder.
And that’s how I became involved with HDR software.
Photomatix by HDRsoft is a leading HDR photo-editing software. I’ve been exclusively using Photomatix since 2013 for my HDR photography workflow. This Photomatix review will cover pro version 6 which was released in 2017.
Photomatix Coupon Code: aperlustphoto
5 Free Presets
Download my free Photomatix presets here. The presets come in an archived file so you will have to use a file archiver, such as WinZip or WinRAR (includes Mac OS), to extract them. The individual presets are XMP files.
How to Install Photomatix Presets:
1. Open one or more images Photomatix.
2. While in the editing section, go to the presets window.
3. Click on my presets at the bottom.
4. Select import presets from the dropdown menu.
5. Select your presets via the file folder.
6. Click Open.
The main purpose of using Photomatix is to brighten the shadows and darken the highlights in high-dynamic lighting conditions using bracketed photos through exposure fusion or tone mapping. In addition, many photographers use it to give images a visually creative pop, especially to landscapes and cityscapes in my case.
How it Works
Photomatix uses 1 of 2 methods for the HDR process:
Exposure Fusion blends the bracketed photos in such a way as to make the shadows and highlights viewable. This method involves taking the shadows from the overexposed source image and the highlights from the overexposed source image and fusing them into one LDR image.
Tone mapping is a bit more complicated. First, it merges the photo into a 32 bits/channel unprocessed HDR image, which can’t be displayed on monitors or prints. Second, tone mapping transposes the HDR image into a LDR (low dynamic range) image in order to be displayed or printed.
Note: When we say an HDR image, it’s actually a LDR image that was fused with source images from a high-dynamic scene. But the process is called HDR photography, fusion, or tone mapping.
If you use other image-editing software, then learning how to use Photomatix will be easy as it has some similar adjustment settings like contrast, saturation, and temperature. It’s especially easier for Lightroom Classic CC users since Photomatix comes with a Lightroom plugin. The LR plugin allows you to export your photos from Lightroom to Photomatix and then import the HDR image from Photomatix to Lightroom without the need of a file folder.
However, there are some adjustments that are advanced and even I can’t remember exactly what they do such as micro smoothing. Photomatix combats this problem by displaying an information box explaining the functionality of each adjustment.
New Features in Photomatix Pro 6
- A new tone-mapping rendering method, tone balanced, was introduced to give images a more natural appeal using local mapping.
- Control overall or individual colors with the new hue, saturation, and brightness (HSB) module. The temperature control is now moved to this color settings module.
- Blend the original photo with the rendered HDR image to give a more natural look.
- Brush away changes to color settings or blending with an adjustment brush that controls.
- A new crop and perspective tool allows you to remove distortions.
- The appearance and layout has changed a bit to give the interface a refresh and smoother workflow.
How to Use Photomatix
In order to fully utilize Photomatix, you should have at least 3 bracketed photos preferably in RAW format.
The 3 below images were photographed in Medellin, Colombia, with automatic exposure bracketing at f/16, ISO 100, and shutter speeds of 0.8, 2.5, and .25 seconds. The relative exposure values (EV) to the normal exposure (0.8 s) image are ±12/3.
To create the HDR image, upload your bracketed images into Photomatix, make your adjustments, and save the final file as JPEG OR TIFF. The Lightroom plugin comes in very handy here since Photomatix will import the HDR image into the LR library.
1. Upload Bracketed Photos
Alternatively, use the Lightroom plugin to upload to Photomatix.
2. Preprocess Settings
Photomatix comes with features to improve the HDR image before editing. Make the necessary adjustments and click Export.
- Image Alignment Options
It’s not always easy to take aligned bracketed images. Photomatix comes with 4 auto alignment options depending on the camera setup: on tripod and 3 handheld presets (minimal movement, standard, and large shifts).
Tip: Use the handheld preset for bracketed photos taken on a tripod but on a windy day: tripods can still shake.
- Ghost Removal
Merged bracketed photos with moving objects cause unwanted artifacts. Examples of this would be people, animals, clouds, and leafs. As a result, Photomatix comes with manual and automatic deghosting options to avoid these artifacts.
- Reduce Noise and Chromatic Aberrations
Noise removal and color-fringe reduction are nice-to-haves; however, Lightroom easily solves these problems prior to exporting to Photomatix.
3. Deghosting Options
The next window that loads is the deghosting options if you selected deghost. Manual selective deghosting is more accurate but takes longer.
After you are finished with deghosting click Ok.
4. Adjust and Preview
Here is where you actually edit your HDR image. The left panel contains several adjustment options. The lower-left area provides information on each adjustment you hover your mouse over.
The right panel has presets which are helpful. Sometimes it’s better to start with a preset and then make adjustments.
Fine tuning your HDR image takes time and practice. When you are completed, click Next: Finish.
5. Finishing Touches
You can make final adjustments before saving or exporting the HDR image: contrast, sharpen, crop, and straighten. I prefer to make these types of adjustments in Photoshop or Lightroom.
Next click Save & Reimport. I’m using the Lightroom plugin so the final image will be re-imported back to Lightroom beside the original 3 bracketed photos. Otherwise, you’ll save the image to your hard drive.
6. Final HDR Image
Below is the final, cropped image after tone-mapping the 3 bracketed photos in Photomatix Pro 6.
Pros and Cons of Photomatix
- Comes with LR plugin.
- Adjust images using exposure fusion or tone mapping.
- Standalone photo-editing software.
- Industry standard in HDR software.
- Presets are included.
- Overwhelming if you have never used photography software.
- Adjustment brush is basic with poor edge detection.
- Lens correction not available.
HDR Time-Lapse Video Capability
An added benefit is that Photomatix helps with producing HDR time-lapse videos through its batch processing of bracketed photos.
The hard part is getting those time-lapsed, bracketed photos, which can take hours to photograph using an intervalometer.
After you photograph your time-lapsed, bracketed photos, you’ll have to batch process the bracketed photos to produce a sequence of HDR images in JPEG format. It’s similar to editing one HDR image but you’ll be merging a few hundred of them with this automatic setting and a preset.
Supported File Types
- TIFF 8-bit and TIFF 16-bit
- PSD 8-bit and PSD 16-bit
- Camera RAW (Canon, Nikon, Sony, Olympus, Panasonic, Pentax, Minolta, Fuji and Sigma, Digital Negative)
- 4 GB of RAM (16 GB recommended)
- 1 GB of hard disk space
- HD monitor
- Operating System – MacOS 10.6 or higher, Windows XP or higher
Price and Upgrades
Photomatix Pro costs a one-time fee of $99 and includes a free major upgrade. This means if you buy version 6, then all updates to version 6 will be free and a future upgrade to version 7 will also be free.
Photomatix comes with a free trial that never expires. HDR images exported with the trial version are watermarked.
Photomatix also offers a HDR tone-mapping plugin for Photoshop. It costs extra money and has limited features. The main advantage of the plugin is you don’t need to leave Photoshop. I personally don’t think it is useful for my workflow.
Who should purchase Photomatix? Photomatix Pro is for photographers that shoot in poor light or want to add creative photography to their images. As a result, you should have at least an intermediate level of image post-processing or looking to improve. Use the Photomatix coupon code aperlustphoto for a special 15% discount.
Photomatix Essentials ($39) might be a better fit with its simpler interface and features if you are looking to only touch the surface of HDR post-processing or make basic edits.
I mostly use Photomatix for landscape photography during the twilight hours. My workflow consists of using Lightroom and Photomatix together including making final adjustments in Photoshop. Most of all, the real power of a Photomatix HDR image is to make final detail adjustments with Photoshop layers and masking.