Photomatix Light is designed for photographers who want a clean, straightforward introduction to HDR, but is powerful enough to produce superior-looking results. Photomatix Pro is the software preferred by the majority of professional HDR photos, but this light version was recently made available for photographers looking for a quicker and easier solution to producing professional grade HDR photos.
Photomatix can be a bit daunting at first – loads of sliders and controls, some don’t seem to do much, others alter the image radically. It can take a while to get to grips with it.
What settings to use depends on the effect or look you are after. On the whole I have been through a phase of making images full of drama with dark stormy skies, pushing the Photomatix settings to the limit. I soon got fed up with that.
I have decided that on most of my HDR images I prefer to get a much more natural look, using Photomatix to help me overcome the wide dynamic range in a scene that even modern DSLR’s can’t handle in a single exposure. (dynamic range is the range of light from the very blackest black areas to those of pure white).
So here are some average settings I have found myself settling on. However, and it is a BIG ‘however’, you will then need to tweak these settings to get the final look that suits you – regard them as a starting point for natural looking images.
Strength – 60
Colour Saturation – 60
Smoothing – very high
Luminosity – 5
White Point – about 1.5%
Black Point – about 2.7%
Gamma – Around the middle position
Temperature – 4 to 8 depending on how warm you want the image
Highlight Saturation – 6
Shadow Saturation – 4
Micro contrast – 9
Micro smoothing – 9
Highlights smoothing – 28
Shadow smoothing – 71
Shadows clipping – 80
The settings that affect things the most are ‘strength’ – I do sometimes go to 100%, sometimes as low as 20%
The gamma slider makes the image much darker or lighter – go to the left for a darker more moody image or to the right for a brighter, lighter image.
I also check the different smoothing settings to get the look I am after – although I do usually end up at the ‘very high’ setting in most instances.