Photomatix Pro Review

Posted: 15th March 2013 by ToadHollowPhoto in Review
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Make no mistake, it’s all about the end results.  How you get there is much less important, and in some cases even irrelevant.  I could replace my camera with another model, I could easily replace my post-processing tools with something else, but there is one thing in my toolkit that I just can’t live without.  This Photomatix Pro Review talks about this ground-breaking software and it’s application to our Fine Art Photography.

"The Hollow" - Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

“The Hollow” – Vancouver Island, BC, Canada – Limited Edition: 10 Prints

Our Fine Art here at The Hollow is all predicated on a vision we have.  One that sees us exploring Vancouver Island and all its wonderful landscapes, heritage architecture, whimsical features and landmarks and other assorted things of interest as we come across them.  Our Artist Vision Statement discusses the impetus behind our work, with one of the key points in the statement being centric to my discovery of HDR photography and Photomatix.  Originally launched in 2003 it is both widely considered to be the most mature piece of software in this realm, as well as the one that most professionals go to for their HDR merging and tone mapping needs.

"The Fog Of Winter" - Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

“The Fog Of Winter” – Vancouver Island, BC, Canada – Limited Edition: 10 Prints

This software is designed and created by photographers, for photographers, and it shows.  Other HDR software products out there can produce terrific results, but to produce imagery at the level required in the Fine Art realm, you really need to have the complete arsenal of tools built-in to Photomatix.

The underlying complexity of the software is both daunting at first as well as completely liberating once you’ve mastered it.  I spent quite a bit of time early on in our practice to formulate the look and feel I was going for, and today can always achieve the results desired with this great tool.  It takes in many different RAW formats as input, and can produce fabulous high-resolution TIFF’s out the back-end for easy import into your favorite post-processing tools to put the finishing touches on your piece.

"Misty Reflection" - Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

“Misty Reflection” – Vancouver Island, BC, Canada – Limited Edition: 10 Prints

Once you’ve selected your brackets to import, you are then optionally presented with one of the key tools within the application; the anti-ghosting screens.  No other HDR merging and tone mapping tool out there that we’ve discovered handles this problem as well as Photomatix does.  And it does it almost perfectly.  You can specify areas within your image where there was movement, causing ghosting effects to be introduced.  Once you have selected your area or areas, you can then pick which bracket to use as the dominant bracket during the merging process.

There are a few tricks to using this part of the tool, tricks we will be documenting in our upcoming eBook that we will be making available to all our newsletter subscribers, but once you’ve figured these out the results are absolutely astonishing and quite frankly impossible to create in any other tool.

"Blue Jet" - 2011 Corvette Grand Sport Coupe

“Blue Jet” – 2011 Corvette Grand Sport Coupe

The tone mapping features are incredible.  With a histogram open beside you as you go about adjusting all the myriad of controls you have available, many different effects and styles can be brought out.  You have absolute control over the entire process, second-to-none.  We’ve tried several other HDR applications, and they all pale in comparison, some producing decent results but never competing with Photomatix in terms of the end results that we are honored to add to our portfolio and offer our customers as prints they’ll be proud to hang in their homes or offices for many years to come.

One of our recent Limited Edition Prints was enlarged into a 16×20 print for an exhibition.  Seeing the results in such a large format allowed us to closely scrutinize it, looking for any defects or details we could improve upon in our process.  We were astonished to find no issue that needed addressing, when viewed in such a large format the image was even more breathtaking.  There just is no substitute for Photomatix!

Hatley Park Castle - Victoria BC Canada

Hatley Park Castle – Victoria BC Canada

The great people at HDRsoft even allow you to download it for a trial, making it easy to test the application out.  Once you try it, you won’t be able to work without it!  Head on over to HDRsoft’s Photomatix site today to download your free trial or buy your own licensed copy, and let’s get started on making great imagery!

HDRsoft Photomatix

HDRsoft Photomatix

Enter the Coupon Code “ToadHollow” in the Order Form for 15% off!

  1. Very good review, thank you!

    I have begun dabbling with HDR in camera, and one thing I’ve noticed from time to time is that I will get a halo effect. What makes that happen?? How can I avoid it? Will this software correct it even if working with an in camera HDR??

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Hi Derrick, first and foremost thanks for your visit, and for taking the time to leave us your comments and questions! We love to contribute to the community so questions like this we really appreciate.

      Haloing is definitely a problem in HDR, and one that I’ve only been able to effectively solve 99% of the time in the tone mapping process inside Photomatix. I am going to go out on a limb here and say that I personally believe the haloing you are seeing in-camera is a direct result of the simplified algorithms and interfaces presented to the photographer. In other words, you just don’t have the fine control you get when using a full-fledged tool like Photomatix.

      It took me a bit of time practicing with Photomatix to get the results we achieve here at The Hollow. It’s all in the sliders and parameters you employ! From our work, the application of the “Highlights Smoothness” setting to somewhere around 50 usually does the trick. In more complex situations you also need to add a bit of “Micro-smoothing” to reduce the notice-ability of the gradients produced.

      I just don’t personally believe you can achieve the same results with any other mechanism, and I’ve tried a few here Derrick. Perhaps one of our readers has another experience they could share regarding this question?

      Once again, thank you so much for popping by. Please, don’t hesitate to ask any follow-up questions, we really enjoy trying to help.

  2. avatar Captain Photo says:

    If I may add my experience? Haloing is a perennial problem in HDR Derrick. Some HDR photographers don’t even notice it so, that you do, is a great accomplishment already.

    I have discovered a great software combination that almost eliminates haloing 99% of the time. It’s using Adobe Lightroom in combination with the Photomatix merge to 32-bit Lightroom plug-in. It’s much easier for beginners to get stunning HDR results this way. The Photomatix Pro that you and The Toad are talking about Is a wonderful piece of software. But it’s virtually impossible to get a good HDR result as a final image directly by using that software. Images then need to be cleaned up in either Photoshop or Photoshop Elements for a perfect HDR resulting image. You would use layer masking to bring in the sky, or other area of haloing, that is objectionable to eliminate it in your final image.

    It’s great that you care about producing optimum HDR photography. Keep asking questions and keep practicing your craft.

    ~Captain Photo

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Great comments, Keith, we sure do appreciate you weighing in on this! I am really looking forward to checking out the plugin you mention here one day, I’ve seen some of the results and they are astounding. For my practice, though, the lack of ability to deal with ghosting in the merge phase is something I just can’t live without and thus continue to look to Photomatix Pro for all our merging and tone mapping needs. But as you mentioned the results from the plugin are astounding, and I am sure it’s a simpler interface to use.

      Thank you so much for your kind visit and your very valuable insights and comments! For those who haven’t seen Keith’s work in this realm, head on over to his blog at “Essence in Photography” and check it out, you’ll be amazed!

    • Thanks Captain – I know a lot of folks bash HDR – and sometimes with very good reason – but as far as I’m concerned, the ability to use in camera HDR has opened up 180 degrees of the sky for taking pictures that otherwise would either be too dark or too light! I don’t always shoot HDR… but when I do…. 🙂 Thanks again!

      • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

        I would love to see some your HDR work, Derrick, have you posted any? It’s really exciting when you can utilize the tools and processes to really make your art sing, just the way you want it to. Love your comments, Derrick, thanks for taking the time to come around like this, I am sure all our visitors will appreciate it too!

        By the way, if you haven’t seen Derrick’s work yet, I highly encourage you to swing by his blog, it’s full of awesome imagery!!

  3. Great info Toad! I first started using Photomatix way back when. I can’t even imagine doing without it. Also like Captain Photo, I have been using the Lightroom plugin from Photomatix to merge to a 32 bit HDR file. Then I use Lightroom to tonemap the image instead of Photomatix. It seems to work very well and the results are great. Also on a side note, if you are using Lightroom 4.4 release candidate, Photomatix just updated the plugin to work properly with it. The results are awful if you don’t update it. It plays nice with LR 4.3 but in LR 4.4 RC I didn’t know what was happening. Photomatix sent me an email to alert me to an update to correct this issue.

    As always, stunning work my friend! Hope you have a great wekend!

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Thank you so, so much Michael, we really appreciate you taking time time to pop by and see us, and for leaving these really great comments that everyone will enjoy and benefit from! You ongoing support is most definitely appreciated here! And for those who haven’t seen Michael’s work in the realm of HDR head on over to his blog, his work is spectacular!

      • Thanks for the plug and the compliments Toad! You can actually take care of ghosting in the plugin now. And the best part of it is the plugin is free for registered users of Photomatix pro. If you use Lightroom for your post processing, you should definitely check it out!

        • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

          I didn’t know that, Michael, that’s terrific news! I haven’t transitioned yet to Lightroom, but it’s something I really want to do and now with this news I am even more compelled to do it. Thanks, kind sir!

  4. I use Photomatix for all of my Seattle area HDR images. As you do, I too love the effect that it provides in my fine art urban images. Like Porche, there is no substitute.

    Beyond Photomatix, I use Topaz de-noise, adjust, and clean. I further use Photo Perfect 7 rather than Photoshop because it is easier to use and provides outstanding effects. Finally, if needed and usually not, I use Aperture to fine tune.

    Thank you for sharing your outstanding fine art images. I wish you luck with your upcoming book.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Thanks, Spencer!!! Great, great comments here my friend! It’s really great to connect with folks like you who share this passion. I really hope to see more of you here around The Hollow, good sir!

  5. avatar Edith Levy says:

    Excellent review Toad. Photomatix is definitely one of the most important tools in my toolbox.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Thanks so much, Edith, I really appreciate your kindness. It sure is great being able to enjoy such great tools as the ones we use for creating our art!

  6. Great post Toad, I LOVE Photomatix!

  7. avatar Len Saltiel says:

    Really nice review Toad. Whenever I have any images that have a wide high dynamic range, they head off to Photomatix which does a great job. My fine tuning is usually done in Photoshop witha bit of masking and blending.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Thanks for taking the time to pop by today, Len, and for your great comments here! I know that we really like to hear about how people we admire like you go about creating your incredible pieces. Thanks so much, my friend!

  8. avatar Val says:

    Great review. I actually don’t do any editing of my photos at all apart from cropping in picasa. I really should think about doing more though.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Thanks, Val, these are great comments that we really appreciate you taking the time to leave! We love your work from your area and wish you the best of luck!

  9. avatar Jim Nix says:

    I love Photomatix and have used it for years. I can’t imagine photo-life without it or Color Efex Pro. I use them both every day! Nice summary Toad!

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