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I’ve been digging really deep into Photomatix lately (I’m working on a new Lynda.com class). I’ve come across a feature that I absolutely love, and I’m using it on many images that I’d never though of using HDR on.

Lizard

The Exposure Fusion method in Photomatix brings out some great details in the image. I particularly like how the leaves and shadows provide a good frame for the red iguana.

A lot of times, running HDR on a single image results in a lot of noise and grain. In the series below, I tried to run HDR on a long exposure image shot at night.  This type of image has a lot of noise naturally, and HDR only accentuates it.  But enabling a somewhat hidden option can take that single raw file and develop it multiple times.  These multiple passes lead to a much cleaner HDR method that expands the dynamic range and reduces noise.

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You’ll note that the image on the left is filled with noise and grain. The original long exposure was shot ISO 800 with a five-second exposure, so the HDR process just compounded the noise.  But enabling Exposure Fusion (a method for single raw files) the noise is virtually removed.

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Here’s how it works.

  1. Launch Photomatix Pro (get the demo here or free upgrade for version 4 owners).
  2. Open a single raw file (you must use a raw image for this to work).
  3. Check the Enable Exposure Fusion checkbox.
  4. Check the Reduce Noise option if needed and adjust the slider to taste).
  5. Click OK to convert the file.
  6. Use the Exposure Fusion method.  I prefer the Fusion Natural and the new Fusion Real Estate methods for a very subtle enhancement to the images.
  7. The Highlights Depth and Local Contrast sliders really provide the effect so tweak those first.
  8. Use the Shadows and Highlights sliders to control the exposure.
  9. Click Apply to create the file.
  10. Save a 16-bit TIFF file.
  11. In the Save dialog you can choose to send the file to any photo app on your computer like Aperture, Lightroom, Photoshop, etc.

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In this image, I opened the file into Lightroom and applied the Upright photo correction.  I also applied a little color noise reduction to further clean up the photo.  I really like the new option to develop raw photos with multiple passes for detail and to merge them.  I find myself using it when I’d like a little extra clarity in the image.

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Just be sure to not overdo it.  If you crank the depth up to high, you can see clipping.  Use the Loupe view to spot check bright areas of your image.  Like most HDR, a little goes a long way.

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Join the conversation! 8 Comments

  1. Thanks for the brief intro to this feature I have been reading about. I am using 5 now but have stuck to my old methods still, looks like I need to give fusion a chance!

    Reply
  2. I frequently use Exposure Fusion in Photomatix rather than Tonemapping with my bracketed images, but I never considered using Fusion on a single RAW file to reduce noise. Thank you.

    Reply
  3. I tried to use this exposure fusion, but it is not even shown in the box. The manual says, exposure fusion is only possible for bracket exposures, not for single raws. That’s just the contrary. Am I doing something wrong?..

    Reply
  4. Nice tutorial. However, there is no depth slider only local contrast, shadows and highlights only show up in tone mapping which you might mention. Also, if somebody is using the Lightroom plug-in the use fusion checkbox is not available. It’s only available when opening without using the plug-in.

    Reply

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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 Lynda.com. Rich has authored several books including From Still to Motion, Understanding Photoshop, Professional Web Video, and Creating DSLR Video.

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