HDR PhotoStudio is an amazing program for High Dynamic Range Imaging. If you think HDRI is all about–and only about–cartoonish colors and dodgy halo-masking, this program will make you think about it again. It takes some practice, but it excels at tonal range compression and photorealism.
Selective saturation is but one of the advanced editing options in HDR PhotoStudio.
I am very excited that Unified Color's HDR PhotoStudio is now officially available for Macs. As you may recall, I was seriously considering running Win7 on my iMac or buying a laptop just to run this program because I was getting antsy waiting for the Mac release.
Quite simply put: HDR PhotoStudio is one of the most impressive programs I've seen for photorealistic tonal range compression from a 32-bit high dynamic range gamut to the traditional low dynamic range space–as well as native 32-bit image editing prior to, or in place of, hard tone mapping involving bit-dropping.
How serious is the Unified Color team about HDRI? Consider this: They've made a new color space and file format for lossless compression based on a new unit of perceptual measurement called the VE Unit or Visual Error. And there's also a Photoshop Plug-In for their 32-bit .BEF format.
HDR PhotoStudio is different from many of the other small-shop HDR programs in market, insofar as the bulk of their image adjustment power lives in 32-bit space. There's no bit-dropping to 16 or 8-bit space to compress the tonal range and colors. It's all done in the 32-bit Unified Color HDR space.
On the merging side, there's an alignment utility and a batcher that will merge sets of images–provided all sets have an equal number of source shots. No ghost-fix here, but HDRPS does open 32-bit TIFFs and OpenEXR images if you want to deghost elsewhere and tone your image in 32-bit space here.
For HDR photographers used to working in Photomatix Pro, FDRTools Advanced, or other programs where all the action happens at once in the bit-drop tone map dialog box, it may take a little time to realize that HDR PhotoStudio is more like a traditional image editor, except that it works in high dynamic range space.
There's no button or function called "Tone Mapping." Just work up your image like we've been doing for years in good old-fashioned image editors. Just keep in mind that all operations are global: no localized selections are offered. Work up the image, compress the tonal range into your screen gamut, save it into 8, 16, or 32 bit space as WYSIWYG and away you go!
A couple of pointers:
- Use the Veiling Glare function to set a black point.
- Experiment with Brightness/Contrast and Shadow/Highlights alone and in tandem to compress the tonal range of the image.
- Use the Reduce Halo Artifacting checkbox to tame high contrasts edge masking even more than the impressively clean default settings, when necessary.
- Get comfortable with the White Balance, Color Tuning and Saturation operations as these are exceptionally powerful tools, but do take a little time to feel confident in.
- When you're comfortable with the on-screen appearance, save to lower bit depth for printing, sharing, or to 32-bit space for potential tone mapping in other HDR programs.
HDR PhotoStudio is an amazingly powerful 32-bit image editor. Because of this, processes can take a few seconds to run, even on fast computers–but that holds true for most HDR programs and operations. But I am so very impressed with the photorealistic results this program is capable of that I am more than happy to watch and wait for the results as the progress bars fill, because it can be just that amazing.
HDR PhotoStudio is the sort of program that will make many photographers re-think and re-realize the potential of High Dynamic Range Imaging beyond the realm of the hyper-saturated cartoonish look that has, for many, become synonymous with all they think of when they consider 32-bit space and HDRI. Like the soft tone-mapping workflows in Adobe Photoshop CS4 I describe here, HDR PhotoStudio shines a light on true 32-bit image editing for photorealism, either in place of, or prior to, subtle or surreal bit-drop tone mapping.
Consider this: Of all the new HDR software programs I've checked out since publishing the original edition of Practical HDRI, HDR PhotoStudio is the only program I have chosen to add into the mix for the second edition, due late spring/early summer 2010. Whether you're experienced with HDR photography, or have been thinking about giving it a shot, HDR PhotoStudio is well worth a look.