Updated January 2013 Review (New updated review coming soon!) – This is a review of the top ten best HDR software used for creating high dynamic range (HDR) photographs. I’ve been talking about writing this HDR software review for a while, and finally I decided to sit down and just do it. This is not a thorough review. Since I’m leaving for south East Asia in a couple of days, I didn’t have time to write an in-depth article. I’ll do a complete review of each HDR program when I get back from my trip. However, I did have enough time to play around with each HDR software to see what kind of high dynamic range results I was able to achieve.
Listed below for review, in alphabetical order, are the top 10 best HDR software for 2013. I downloaded and installed each HDR program to find out which software is the best.
- Artizen HDR
- DynamicPhoto HDR
- Essential HDR
- HDR Darkroom
- HDR Photo Studio
- Luminance HDR
- Photomatix Pro
- Photoshop CS5 HDR Pro
Below are the 3 exposures used to create the HDR images. These exposures will be used to test each HDR software.
Each HDR program has different settings so there was no way to replicate the same results for each image. So instead of trying to get the HDR image to look similar, I tone mapped each image the best I could with the settings available.
1. Artizen HDR
Good program for creating HDR images. Artizen has many features making it the most robust HDR software out of the ten.
OS: Windows Only Price: $45.95 Canadian
Pro – Comes with photo editor.
Con – HDR software only available for Windows.
Artizen HDR – Honest Opinion:
Recommended for advance users who want to control the entire HDR process in one program.
2. Dynamic-Photo HDR
Dynamic-Photo HDR has a lot fun controls for creating HDR images. These controls help make stylized HDR photos a lot easier to create.
OS: Windows & MAC Price: $55.00 US
Pro – Easy point and click controls.
Con – Colors seem to blend together, notice the sunrise.
Dynamic-HDR Pro – Honest Opinion:
Recommend for people who like creating more stylzied HDR images.
Easy to use with enough controls to create good looking HDR photos. Don’t expect any bells or whistles with this program.
OS: Windows Only Price: $30.00 EURO
Pro – Easy to use HDR software.
Con – Can’t save presets or select them.
easyHDR – Honest Opinion:
More cons than pros. I would recommend downloading this program and trying a few others before you committing to this HDR software.
4. Essential HDR
Essential HDR is probably the easiest HDR program of the bunch.
OS: Windows Only Price: $48.99 US
Pro – Simple and easy to use HDR software.
Con – No manual alignment tool.
Essential HDR – Honest Opinion:
I would recommend this HDR program for beginner HDR photographers. It’s very easy to use, especially for creating stylized HDR. However realistic HDR might be more of a challenge.
5. HDR Darkroom
HDR Darkroom has a very slick and simple user interface. Great for creating realistic HDR images. However alignment tool needs some work, but it could very well be that this software has a problem with this particular image. I’ll check it out again with a different set of exposures when I get some free time.
OS: Windows & MAC Price: $79.00 US
Pro – Export to Photoshop feature is a time saver.
Con – Auto alignment tool doesn’t work to well.
HDR Darkroom – Honest Opinion:
This HDR program was designed for more realistic HDR images, so if you’re trying to create stylized photos I would recommend Photomatix or Dynamic-Photo HDR instead.
6. HDR PhotoStudio
Straight forward HDR program, simple and easy to use. Tone mapping option was design for more realistic photos.
OS: Windows & MAC Price: $149.99 US
Pro – Simple easy to use interface.
Con – Not designed for stylized HDR images.
HDR PhotoStudio – Honest Opinion:
Similar to HDR Darkroom this program was designed for more realistic HDR images, so if you’re trying to create stylized photos I would recommend Photomatix or Dynamic-Photo HDR instead.
7. Luminance HDR
Luminance HDR has potential… but it’s the most time consuming and difficult program to use. Over time I’m sure this program will evolve to something great.
OS: Windows & MAC Price: FREE
Pro – FREE!
Con – Not the most user friendly software.
Luminance HDR – Honest Opinion:
I highly recommend giving this program a shot since it’s free. If you can get it to work, you can produce some pretty cool stylized HDR images.
8. Photomatix Pro
Photomatix is the most popular HDR program in the industry and it’s the program I use for all my HDR images.
OS: Windows & MAC Price: $99.99
Photomatix Coupon Code: CaptainKimo
Pro – Lots of options for tone mapping.
Con – No manual alignment tool.
Photomatix Pro – Honest Opinion:
Since Photomatix is the HDR software I use most, it’s the one I recommend above all else.
9. Photoshop CS5 HDR Pro
Adobe Photoshop CS5 is an advance photo editing program with an HDR tool that creates very realistic HDR image.
OS: Windows & MAC Price: $699.99
Photoshop CS5 HDR Pro – Honest Opinion:
Unless you want Photoshop I recommend something cheaper. CS5 HDR feature is good but not worth the price.
Picturenaut is a free and easy to use HDR program, but very limited features for tone mapping. It does a great job of creating realistic HDR images.
OS: Windows Only Price: FREE
Pro – Free, simple to use for realistic results.
Con – Limited controls for tone mapping.
Picturenaut – Honest Opinion:
Very easy HDR application to use. Since it’s free I recommend downloading and trying it out to see if it meets your needs.
That’s my two cents, but don’t take my word for it. I highly suggest you download the programs and try them yourself. Each one of these HDR software have trial downloads so download them and play around to find an HDR program that fits your style and workflow.
If you need help choosing a program, just leave me a comment. I’ll be more than glad to help or answer any question you might have.