The photo above is the normal exposure of a Waffle House near my studio. Periodically the company remodels one of their restaurants. I saw this one was under what looked more like destruction rather than renovation. I noticed a pair of children with their father standing in front of the remains of a favorite place to eat. I made a quick set of 3 bracketed exposures at 2 stop brackets to use Photomatix Pro.

Opening a bracket set in Photomatix Pro

Before jumping into presets, here’s a quick start for opening a series of bracketed photos.Once Photomatix Pro 5 opens a set of bracketed images, especially in Details Enhancer or Tone Compressor, the choices of controls is kind of intimidating. The first question that comes to mind is “Where in the world do I start???” The answer? Presets.

Photomatix Pro 5 can open RAW photos from most cameras from Canon, Fuji, Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic and many more. Click this link for a complete list. It can also open .TIF (both 8-bit and 16-bit) and .JPG images.

If your RAW format is not supported, use your favorite RAW processor to make a series of 16-bit TIF files at the native camera resolution. What’s great about this method is that the changes made in the RAW processor appear in the bracketed TIFs. The graphic that follows shows the series of dialogs to navigate to merge photos into an HDR file.photomatix-presets-by-kevin-ames-001

  1. Drag a set of images made at least one stop apart into the Photomatix Pro dialog.
  2. Tell Photomatix to Merge for HDR Tone Mapping and Fusion by clicking OK.
  3. Choose the files by clicking OK in this dialog. Leave Show 32-bit unprocessed image unchecked.
  4. Tell Photomatix how you made the brackets. There are settings to help if you hand held the camera instead of using a tripod. When these choices are made, click Align & Merge to HDR

The resulting file is the basis for all of the rest of the work that can be done in Photomatix Pro. It begs the question…

Where to start?

The problem for anyone starting out is, well…. where to start. That’s where the presets that come with Photomatix Pro enter the picture. The sidebar on the right edge of the Photomatix Pro window shows preset previews for the HDR photo displayed in the main area.

Find a preset that intrigues you then click it. The main window updates for you to review what the preset does. The left sidebar shows the style of HDR conversion and its associated controls along with the setting for the preset. You may love the result without tweaks. That’s fine! You photo’s done.

On the other hand, you think it’s a good starting place. Great! It’s time to explore by playing with sliders. While this previously mentioned plethora of controls looks scary at first glance each one has an explanation of what it does at the bottom of the control sidebar. In the screenshot above, the cursor is over the Saturation control. The box at the bottom explains what it does. Each slider has a clarification of its function waiting for you. While the slider names might be intimidating, thanks to the “what-it-does” window, they are not as mysterious as they could be.

Modifying the preset

Pick a slider. Read its explanation. Move the slider. See what it did to the preview. Love the result? It’s done. Not sure? There are two curved blue arrows under the controls. The one pointing left is the go to previous settings. The right pointing one moves back to the one before. This makes it easy to test settings.

Presets & processing styles

Photomatix Pro presets may be viewed all at once or by choosing a category.

Preset categories

  • Artistic
  • Realistic
  • Architecture
  • Black & White

Photomatix Pro is a heavy lifter in the world of HDR conversions. It has four different methods or styles of creating an HDR file. Presets call the style that was used to create it.

HDR processing styles

  1. Details Enhancer
  2. Contrast Optimizer
  3. Tone Compressor
  4. Fusion


Here is a gallery of the Waffle House HDR variations. PMP stands for PhotoMatix Pro. The photographs started with presets built in to Photomatix Pro 5. from realistic to sublime to surreal. There are even a couple made with presets I’ve created.

Good beginnings…

Picking a preset isn’t the end of Photomatix creativity. It’s really the beginning. Explore the sliders, reading the info that each one offers. Before long you’ll know a lot more about how this powerful HDR processor works. You’ll be creating your own presets too, along with making bracketed exposures into compelling photographs!