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Software Review: HDR Efex Pro 2 From Nik Software

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HDR Efex Pro 2 is the latest release of Nik Software’s highly successful High Dynamic Range (HDR) imaging processing tool that gives you the full gamut of photographic possibilities, from artistic to realistic HDR images. The goal of HDR Efex Pro is to give you everything you need to create high quality high dynamic range images.

HDR photography is a process in which multiple exposures of the same scene are captured using various levels of exposure and then they are aligned and merged to generate a single image that enables a much wider range of colors and tonality. HDR techniques are typically used to enhance landscape, architectural, nighttime, and artistic photography.

HDR Efex Pro 2

HDR Efex Pro also provides precise selective photo editing through the use of U Point technology. By placing a control point on your image and adjusting the size of the coverage area, you can change the brightness, contrast, or color within your photo giving you much more control. You can check out the system requirements to find out what you need to run HDR Efex Pro

So what is new with HDR Efex Pro 2?

• New tone-mapping engine – now gives much more improved color rendering with more natural results and simplified controls. It appears that much of the improvement is based upon the graphics processing unit that you have so those with faster graphic cards and more memory on their cards will see the most increase in speed.

• Unified workflow – now means that no matter what platform you work in – Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Lightroom, or Apple Aperture, you will always have the same functionality, features, and experience.

• Updated merging interface – will now show previews of each exposure and you will have the ability to enable Smart Objects when importing your images and streamline the merging process. This also gives you the ability to readjust the filter settings even after you close the interface.

HDR Efex Pro 2

• Improved ghost reduction and alignment – has now been enabled through the use of new algorithms and the ability to select a reference image to dramatically improve the initial merge results.

• Chromatic aberration reduction – now brings new controls to reduce the appearance of the unsightly purple and blue fringes where the dark tones meet the lighter tones.

• Update tone mapping and enhancement panel – has completely redesigned the controls for enhancing your image. This gives you better overall control over you image and making it much faster and easier to get the look that you want.

• Depth control – will allow you to pull out the areas in your image so that you are not left with the flat, dull look that sometimes comes with HDR imaging.

• Improved White Balance controls – now gives you a tint control providing a much more complete White Balance system and better leverage when processing your images.

HDR Efex Pro 2

• Graduated Neutral Density control – lets you correct or stylize your image with access to the full 32-bit depth of the merged image. This will provide you a much more natural effect especially on images with a strong horizontal line.

• Improved visual preset browser – gives you the ability to single click starting points for a wide variety of HDR looks. They have also been newly categorized for quicker results.

• History browser – gives you the ability to quickly compare your results to previous edits or even the middle exposure of a series.

• Improved Loupe tool – now can show you clipped highlights and shadows.

• Extended language support – now includes English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Brazilian Portuguese, Chinese (Simplified and Mandarin), and the Japanese languages.

HDR Efex Pro 2

On my machine, I could tell the difference in speed from this version from the last, I suspect if you have an older machine with an older card, it may not be as noticeable. Some of the things that I really did like was the updated merging interface where you could see what you were importing and could do some analysis on the images. If you had any problems with some of the images – such as the same exposures, you would get a warning.

I also like the importing into Smart objects as well and the fact that you can use that Smart Object technology to your advantage after saving. The Alignment control was very much improved as was the de-ghosting. The chromatic aberration was good, but I couldn’t tell much difference from HEP1 to HEP2.

I did like the change to the new tone mapping controls – the more I worked with the ones in HEP1 the less I liked the drop down method. I really do like the new layout with the tone compression, tonality, and color at the top and the selective adjustments below. I also like the way that the new tone-mapping algorithm works in that it seems to go for a more natural look on initial processing, but then you can make it your way from there.

HDR Efex Pro 2

Overall I really like this update to HDR Efex Pro. To me speed is not always a critical thing to a process like HDR as much as the quality of output is. In this regard HDR Efex Pro 2 is very much improved – even to the point of outstanding results from the same images I processed in version 1 and for that reason I can very highly recommend HDR Efex Pro 2.

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.