HDR Comparison: Photoshop Against Photomatix

I admit I haven’t worked in Photomatix for a while, and things have changed, but I do have the latest copy of the program and I wanted to see what it could do.

Saturday, over in Wisconsin for dinner and birthday fireworks (I know two people who are licensed to set these off; how weird is that?), I took bracketed photos of the old tractor. As you can see, it hasn’t been moved for a while; grass has grown up around the wheels and the daisies are happily surrounding it.

These are the photos, straight out of the camera, nothing done to them but resizing. They were bracketed at -2, 0, +2. This means three shots were taken in fast succession at those settings. A tripod is recommended, but mine is broken and I haven’t yet replaced it, so this was handheld, the camera braced on my knee. The first shot is “normal,” the one you’d get if you were shooting a single frame. The second is underexposed, the last one overexposed.


HDR means “high dynamic range,” and that means three different exposures combined into one in order to capture the widest range of darks and lights. I threw the three photos into Photomatix, played with the sliders, then saved and opened in Photoshop for more processing. I used curves to set the white and black points (necessary for balanced contrast), ran it through Topaz Adjust (spicify filter), and this is what I got:

Tractor PM hdr sm

That’s pretty good. A little on the cartoony side, but I quite like it.

Photoshop can do HDR, too, so I followed the exact same steps with the same photos, and this is what PS produced:

Old Tractor PS 6.29.13 sm

Which one you prefer is a matter of taste. I like them both, but I lean toward the one done entirely in Photoshop. More realistic, but I also like the slightly garish colors of the one I did in Photomatix.

Sunday afternoon, I went off on the scooter while AJ worked onΒ Queers,Β and visited Raspberry Island. It was a nice sunny afternoon, and while I was leaning over the bridge on my way back to the scooter, I spotted this pigeon. He was thirsty. Ducked his head for a quick drink from the river.

River Pigeon 6.30.13 sm

I did NOT make that pigeon’s legs more red. They were that way to start with! Same with his red eye. I know people consider these birds vermin akin to rats and squirrels, but look at the pretty colors! So beautiful.

Fourth of July coming up, and I have four days off! I will be traveling once again. Looking forward to it. πŸ™‚


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Fenraven happily lives in south Florida, where it is really hot most of the year. Find him on Twitter, Google +, and Facebook by searching on 'fenraven'.
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15 Responses to HDR Comparison: Photoshop Against Photomatix

  1. Christine Johnson says:

    Your photos are beautiful! Are you going to take some fireworks photos on the Fourth? Would love to see how those turn out. Safe travels!

    • Possibly. If you can’t get a good distance from them in order to give context, they don’t look great. I’ve learned this from experience. πŸ™‚ A hill overlooking the shoot site is best.

  2. I had the same experience with Photomatrix–my HDR shots looked too cartoony for me. For now, I do any HDR work entirely in Photoshop CS5. To each his own, I guess. And the secret for getting people to like the pigeons is to call them “Rock Doves.” Or “Squab.” πŸ˜‰

    • Trey Ratcliff gets incredible mileage out of Photomatix, but I guess I don’t have his delicate hand… and I’d have to work with the program a lot more to get the effect I want.

      Sometimes, cartoony is what you want. I really did like the effect produced by Photomatix for the tractor, but generally, I like photo-realistic results that are close to what my eyes see.

      I continue to be amazed at how many people accept photos straight out of the camera and consider them done. Digital sensors are catching up, but they aren’t there yet.

  3. A.M.B. says:

    It sounds like a nice weekend! Great pictures, as always.

  4. I can’t pick between the tractor photos. They are both really amazing for different reasons.

    And pigeons…I love pigeons! They have beautiful markings and people don’t appreciate that, and you really showed it in your photo here. Your photo is gorgeous. I’m glad to find a fellow pigeon lover! *hugs*

  5. Helle says:

    Gorgeous photos – as usual…
    Have you ever tried Paint Shop Pro? I’ve been too stingy to buy PhotoShop, so I’ve settled for Paint Shop Pro, if that is indeed settling.

    • I was a big proponent of PSP about twelve years ago. The program was affordable. But since diving into PS, I haven’t looked back. Yes, PS is expensive. I pirated it until CS6, which I finally bought because I wanted to be legit. And then they stick it in the cloud. *sigh*

      I’ll be staying with CS6 for a long time. I don’t want to rent my software, I want to own it.

  6. Valerie says:

    Can I have the tractor,too? πŸ™‚

  7. Valerie says:

    Been there done that but it was me bowing down before the all powerful Photoshop……the second one…..:)

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