I wanted to give you a quick start guide on loading and processing images into Photomatix Pro to create the initial tone map.  The process is straight-forward and quickly generates results. Here’s our streamlined approach.

Step One: Up and Running

Launch Photomatix Pro from your applications folder.  For quick access add to your Mac’s Dock or Window’s Task Bar.

Step Two: Load Bracketed Photos 

Choose File > Load Bracketed Photos to load a series of images.  Ideally these images are shot using the tips in our HDR Primer.

Step Three: Choose Preprocessing Options


You have several choices in Preprocessing Options dialog. Not all of these are relevant for every image. Make any changes then click Preprocess to continue.

  • Align Source Images — If you shot your photos handheld or had any camera shake\.
  • Remove Ghosting — Only use this option if there are moving objects or subjects in the series.
  • Reduce Noise — Check this box the if the series contains RAW files.
  • Reduce Chromatic Aberrations — Minimizes the appearance of color fringe or shifting at the edges.
  • RAW Conversion Settings — Adjust the white balance and color model used when converting the RAW images.

Step Four: Adjust to Taste


Click the Tone Mapping / Fusion to change how the images combine. The Settings window lets you adjust the settings. There are several controls (which we’ll explore in future posts).  Mousing over a slider will give you details about its purpose (see the helpful text at the bottom of the window). With the buttons at the bottom of the window you can undo or redo settings, restore the default settings, and load and save presets.

The Preview window shows a preview of the final tone mapped image. You can adjust the preview size using the magnifier icons on top. Remember, the preview is just that (a preview).  Final result may differ slightly when using the Details Enhancer and Fusion/Natural methods.

The Presets panel lets you select a style for your images.  If you don’t see the presets visually, choose View > Show Show Preset Thumbnails..  Try different presets to choose a style you like from the thumbnails listed on the Presets panel. You can filter the preset display to show only those of the type you are interested in, by selecting a category name from the pop-up menu item on top of the panel. For example, you could use this to show only presets categorized as “Realistic.” Once you’ve chosen a preset, it will load new settings into the settings window which can be modified to taste.

Step Five: Finish and save the image


Clicking on the Process button located at the bottom of the Settings window processes your image at original resolution so that you can then save it.

Before saving, you can add a finishing touch to your image. The Finishing Touch panel lets you increase the contrast of your image, sharpen it, or adjust the saturation of individual colors.  The use of this panel is very desirable for many images.

To save your image, choose File > Save As. The processed image has 16 bits per color channel. However, you can choose to save it as 8-bit JPEG or 8-bit TIFF, if desired. Saving as 16-bit TIFF is recommended for further processing in other image editing tools.

More to come on Photomatix.  Give it a try today.

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Join the conversation! 1 Comment

  1. I started playing around with HDR late last year and initially used a workflow similar to what you describe above. I quickly found that exporting the images from aperture, loading them into the HDR program, saving from the HDR program, reimporting the HDR image back into Aperture, and keeping track of which images I had worked on and which I hadn’t yet became tedious enough that I’d just put off merging the images.

    Then I purchased Photomatix because it was available as an aperture plug in. Being able to select a group of images in aperture and click on ‘Edit with Plug-in > Photomatix HDR’ makes working with HDR images fun again. The time you will save using the plug in alone is worth the cost of the whole program.

    (Photomatix has a plugin for lightroom as well)


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About Richard Harrington

Richard Harrington is the founder of RHED Pixel, a visual communications company based in Washington, D.C. He is the Publisher of Photofocus and Creative Cloud User as well as an author on Rich has authored several books including From Still to Motion, Understanding Photoshop, Professional Web Video, and Creating DSLR Video.


HDR, Shooting


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