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Software Review: HDR Expose 2 From Unified Color

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HDR Expose 2 is the latest version of the professional HDR image creation program from Unified Color. This is a major upgrade that includes real-time processing, automatic halo reduction, and improved batch processing. It is a full feature application that provides much more than just tone mapping capabilities.

HDR Expose 2 performs all of its operations in the full 32-bit Beyond RGB Color Space which gives you direct access to the full human-perceptible color range while you are working. What this color space does is it separates the brightness channel from the color channel and that provides for better processing and little to no color shifts or halos.

HDR Expose 2

With its completely redone architecture, improved performance, and new tools this makes for a significant release. For full system requirements check out the requirements page on the Unified Color website. You can also compare the feature details between the three versions of HDR products on their comparison page.

With HDR Expose you can create an HDR image by merging multiple exposure images individually or by dragging and dropping the images into the system and performing the merge. You have options to align images to handle ghosting artifacts which can occur due to slight differences in between each exposure.

Once you merge the images you are presented with a screen that gives you the ability to manipulate the image. The first area is the brightness histogram that displays the image brightness channel in EV units (f-stops). You can then use the Display Zone (the highlighted range) to see changes in your image. If you want to zoom in on your image you can use the navigator to set the zoom amount and then pan around the image.

HDR Expose 2

The operations area is where you can edit your image to get the final results that you want. You have four standard areas that you can work with that includes Tone Mapping to adjust image exposure, brightness, and contrast, Tone Tuning that is used to fine tune the image tonal range within the Display Zone in the Brightness Histogram, Color Settings tool lets you adjust the colors in the image, and Color tuning lets you fine-tune specific color tones without affecting any of the other colors in your image.

You also have three Advanced Controls. The Geometry tool that lets you crop, rotate, and resize images and the Veiling Glare tool can remove lens glare and/or haze. You can also use this tool to obtain very deep blacks, especially for night shots. The Sharpening and Noise Reduction tool adjust image sharpness and eliminates brightness and/or color noise from the image. This tool contains separate sharpness and noise reduction functions. Once you have processed your images you can save them as JPG or TIFF files.

HDR Expose 2

What is new in HDR Expose 2?

• Increased speed gives you much more snappy performance. Everything you do is instantly updated. Every change you make is reflected in the interface. Nothing has been down-sampled or preview image, this is happening to full resolution images.

• Interface changes have been rearranged into a logical workflow that will have you starting off with tone-mapping going down through tone tuning and color changes until you are done with your images

• User defined presets have been added and HDR Expose 2 gives you a few to get started with and then you can add your own as begin to work with the program.

• The batch process tool is completely new. It has been redesigned from the ground up. You just point HDR Expose to the directory with your images and it will group them into sets based on the exposure settings. These can be sequences of different sizes and different lengths and it will automatically recognize them and merge them into 32-bit files. After that they can be processed individually or as the total grouping.

• Select multiple user presets in the batch preset mode so that you can take an image and create five different copies using five different presets treatments.

HDR Expose 2 really does run very fast and everything about it is snappy. As opposed to prior versions, the order of operation is fixed – you have to step through each section in order, but the order is preconfigured to create a proper result.

HDR Expose 2

I like the layout of the interface as its workflow seems very natural. The user defined presets are a welcome addition and will become a real time saver as you work with HDR Expose 2. The batch processing capabilities is a breeze to work with, and the multiple user presets is a nice addition as well. When you add in the increased speed, this makes for an attractive upgrade.

Because HDR Expose 2 is a standalone product, is the only one that stays in 32-bit mode for the entirety of processing, and it has the tools for cropping, rotating, sharpening, and other finishing tools, it could be the only product you have to use to create great HDR images. HDR Expose 2 is priced at $149.00 and it can be found at the Unified Color store and it is for these reasons I can easily recommend this product.

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About T. Michael Testi

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