Photomatix Review


Breaking news!! Aurora HDR 2018 Is Coming To Macs And, Yes… Windows!

Drum roll… 100,000,000 HDR photos (actual number!) have been made with Aurora HDR software, and now… more dramatic drum roll… The NEWEST iteration of Aurora HDR is announced, and this time it’s launching for PC and Mac at the same time! Yes, finally, all of you Windows people (including me nowadays), can experience the greatness of this software! The Mac and PC versions will be available for pre-order in the Stuck in Customs store on September 12!

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Watch this awesome (and silly) video about Aurora HDR 2018!

Mark your calendar for September 12!

Aurora HDR 2018 will be available for pre-order in my store on Sep 12, and released on Sep 28. Current users of Aurora HDR may upgrade at a special pre-order price of $49. New users can pre-order Aurora HDR 2018 for just $89.


Photomatix Full Version or Free Trial

If you end up buying, use the code, TREYRATCLIFF, at checkout for 15% off. You can also get a free trial to play around with, but I think you’ll decide quickly that it’s a must have. There are a few options at the website; personally, I use Photomatix Pro.

For a limited time use the coupon code “TREYRATCLIFF” to save 15% on all Photomatix products.


Great Photomatix Presets

Once you get into Photomatix, you may enjoy using my presets! They are not-so-cleverly-named Trey’s Photomatix Presets. I use these every time to give me a lookbook of many different variations on a photo. If you want to see some of my work that uses these techniques with Photomatix and whatnot, pop over to this portfolio.

Photomatix Pro 5 Review

I started using Photomatix many years ago, and it’s a big part of the free HDR Tutorial here on the site. HDR is an acronym for High Dynamic Range, and it basically lets you see all the range of color and light in the final photo that the human retina can see on the scene. Naturally, Photomatix allows you to create a “subtle” or “extreme” photo using these techniques, and that’s the fun part about it. You can use Photomatix to make your photos look totally unique!

Photomatix Pro 5 – Is it worth the upgrade and what’s new?

Yes, I think i is certainly worth the upgrade. Having the latest tools that are reasonably priced has always been important to me. There’s nothing wrong with the older versions, of course, but generally this kind of software in general tends to get better with time. There are hundreds of minor little changes that you will notice, but here are some of the bigger ones (at least, to me).

First, the new Tone Mapping method called Contrast Optimizer is really good at balancing realism and keeping that cool “HDR Look”. Everyone has their own balance, and this new way is much better at helping you find your own line of comfort.

Second, the Automatic deghosting is much better. I had hit-and-miss success before with de-ghosting, and now am consistently getting better results. It’s not always perfect of course if you have a massive amount of chaos, but it’s pretty dang good.

Third, the Real-Time slider Rocks!! If your computer is fast enough, be sure to pop into preferences to turn this on! In the “olden” days, you’d have to click and wait. Seeing what the slider actually does while you slide it is bizarrely satisfying!

Fourth, the auto-aligning is even better!

Fifth, there are a bunch of other little things that I have not had the occasion to use yet, but I am glad they are there. Things like the batching of photos and more options for creating a tonemapped image from a single RAW.

This is an aesthetic thing, but I much prefer the new “Unified Workspace” option on the Mac rather than having little windows floating all over the place. That always bothered me and made things feel clutter-y !

Photomatix in action

Here is a sample below of what the new interface looks like after I combined the these three images.

Trey_Lightroom_Catalog_-_Big_Computer-2 lrcat_-_Adobe_Photoshop_Lightroom_-_Library

Adjust_and_Preview_-_Milford_Trip__180_of_637_And2more_and_Photomatix_Pro_5 0

Merging to HDR

Before you begin using all the fancy sliders and fun stuff above, the first step is making a few decisions. You can see the updated “Options” box below along with my most commonly checked items.

Merge_to_HDR_Options_and_Trey_Lightroom_Catalog_-_Big_Computer-2 lrcat_-_Adobe_Photoshop_Lightroom_-_Library


If there is movement between the frames, then this is called ghosting. Photomatix has gotten much better in cleaning this up! If you did select the “Show options to remove ghosts,” then you are presented with another dialog. I often choose the “Automatic” one as you can see, but you can also manually draw a shape around the area that is ghosted.

Deghosting_Options_and_Photomatix_Pro_5 0

Real Estate

Here’s one of the latest Exposure Fusion options — Fusion/Real-Estate. I noticed it actually only works in that exact situation! A lot of people take photos of indoor situations with a very bright outside through a door or window. This is a pretty cool new feature for those sorts of shots.



You can see a bunch of the default presets that come with Photomatix below.

Finishing Touches

This is my new favorite dialog ! After you are done processing the photo, you can do a few final things to it. In this example, I’ve zoomed in pretty far to add some serious sharpening to this crazy mountain. Normally I don’t do it this much, but I was just showing how this feature works!

Crazy results

I’m loving the new Photomatix 5. I remember trying to process this photo below with other versions of Photomatix, and I just could not get something like I wanted. Now it just seems like a much more smooth experience for getting the results I wanted. First, I’ll put up the original photos then one of the many versions that Photomatix can produce below.

Trey_Lightroom_Catalog_-_Big_Computer-2 lrcat_-_Adobe_Photoshop_Lightroom_-_Library

Adjust_and_Preview_-_Trey-ratcliff-france-adventure__28_of_177_And8more_and_Look_at_the_way_-_tratcliff_gmail com_-_Gmail_and_Photomatix_Pro_5 0

Video of Photomatix in action

Below is a video of an older version of Photomatix. Much of the functionality is still the same, so the new versions won’t act much different.

Sample Photomatix Photos

Below, I have put a few samples of my final photos where Photomatix was used!

Moonrise Kingdom

The Mist From The Tree Tops Fell On Me From Above And Behind

An Abandoned Game Trail in China

Inception Reflection New York

Lijiang at Night

Hong Kong from the Peak on a Summer's Night If you want to see how I made this (and how you can too!), visit my HDR Tutorial. I hope it gives you some new tricks!I had a long day waking up at 5 AM to take a series of subways and trains up to Shenzen for some meetings. I had a Chinese VISA, which you don't need to get into Hong Kong, but I had to use to cross the official Chinese border after getting off the train. I didn't realize that it was a one-time use VISA, and I had to go to Shanghai the next day. This caused a lot of problems with the Chinese officials, a body of government with which I do not enjoy causing problems.Anyway, after I got back to Hong Kong after a day in Shenzen, I was hot and sweaty and in the sort of meeting clothes that aren't great for being hot and sweaty in. But, everything about Hong Kong was still awesome and I had too look hard for things to complain about. The sun was setting, and I made it up to The Peak just in time for a shot.This was a 5-exposure HDR shot at 100 ISO, and, of course, a sturdy tripod to get all the lights as steady as possible.- Trey RatcliffClick here to read the rest of this post at the Stuck in Customs blog.

The Secret Workshop Of Jules Verne

The Treetop Temple Protects Kyoto

The Impossible Mountains  The mountain is very spiky and narrow, and it’s embedded in a very rough patch of peaks.So I did my best to capture it in context. There are great super-hairy horses everywhere, and four of them were playing on one side of the river. I set up… and waited…waited…waited…. for them to get in the right spot and then finally took a photo.- Trey RatcliffClick here to read the rest of this post at the Stuck in Customs blog.

Road Trip New Zealand!

walking alone and being somewhat lost on which way

Approaching Mount Fuji from the Old Village What a perfect place this is!I’ve been to Japan many times, but I never had the chance to visit Mt. Fuji! This time, Tom and I made a point to do it, and this was one of our fist stops. You can see much more about it in the video above!- Trey RatcliffClick here to read the rest of this post at the Stuck in Customs blog.

Bryce Canyon National Park

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  • Just to note, the screen shots of the interface are not longer present on the blog post above.

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  • matias

    hermoso una experiencia que jamas se olvida

  • absolutely great pictures you have and absolutely awestruck by the HDR technique! have yet to read your tutorial on how to get it done tho 🙂

  • BK

    Hmm…do you use both Photomatix and Lucis Pro to get the final HDR photo? Or you can use either one of them?

  • Thanks! Yes – I sometimes use both.

  • I was passed your details by a Fellow Flickr & work collegue your work with HDR on buildings especially is outstanding and I would love dealy to reproduce this in smoe small way as most of my Flickr worj is based around Liverpool/Manchester and Local buildings and castles
    I am still reading your notes etc so bye for now

  • Steve – great – thanks and welcome to the blog! 🙂

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  • RochNem

    I havn’t seen such amazing HDR pictures than these! Wow, it’s just beautiful!

  • What a beautiful collection.

  • erwin

    Really interesting collection!
    But do you really like these shadows, which Photomatix produces in difficult lightning situation? Sometimes they look like some artwork and improve the image. But in cases like the picture of the fire works and the one of Dresden they are really disturbing and ugly.

  • Barbara Yasuhara

    Ok, I am ready to buy, is it just me, or is the link to buy now not here????

  • MizzGinn

    These pictures are absolutely beautiful. The Christmas picture melts my heart. I might NEED to buy this program. Thank you for sharing!!!

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  • very good…………………..

  • Farrukh

    This is a test comment….

  • Some of these images are quite lovely (good composition, subject matter,) but others are a bit eerie, somehow overdone, unnatural and creepy. Does Photmatix always produce images with such unnatural results?

    Certainly, there are many instances I think HDR can be very useful especially when trying to photograph some scenes with more contrast than can be captured by a single frame. Ansel Adams would have loved this software, I am sure, but his photos never looked gimmicky. Just because we have the technology does not mean it has to be used or overused!

    Sigma’s Photo Pro 4 is fantastic with things like highlight and show control. It works with Sigma raw very well.

    Please keep up the (basically) good work!

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  • Thanks for the info! A small typo in the ‘What are Your Results So Far?’ section – you write ‘Photoshop Pro 3’ but you mean ‘Photomatix Pro 3’

    cheers, lior

  • Thank you for this wonderful review of Photomatix. I just purchased the software myself…well the light version anyway. I plan to upgrade to the pro version soon. I’m absolutely fascinated with HDR images. When they are done very well, such as yours are, the results are absolutely magical. Some people criticize HDR as looking too painterly or unreal. I think that this look is what I actually love about HDR. Sometimes the effect can be almost TOO real. The purpose of HDR, beyond the technical aspect of exposure merging, is often described as a way to evoke the same feeling from a scene as actually looking at it. I often feel more from looking at an HDR image than from looking at the actual scene. I like that…

  • Steve Clarke

    Hi Trey,
    I just finished watching an online sneak peak of Nik Software’s upcoming ‘HDR Pro’ application and I must admit, it looks pretty darned impressive. Nik seems to have handily raised the bar for HDR software vendors. Sadly it seems to make Photomatix 3 appear to be pretty primitive, comparatively. I notice that Photomatix have been holding off on their version 4 release, I assume in order to see what Nik would be doing with their entry into the marketplace. Let’s hope that Photomatix respond with an equally impressive and competitive v4 release. Competition is good for HDR!
    Nik HDR appears to be wrapping the functionality of several of their products into this latest release. Most notably and impressively, the complete functionality of Viveza’s ‘Upoint’ technology is wrapped into Nik HDR. I currently use Viveza on many of my HDR’s (the underlying technology of which made it’s debut in Nikon’s Capture NX software), in order to correct colour, saturation, warmth, etc., on an entity specific basis. I’m particularly excited about the potential of Nik HDR because the power of ‘Upoint’ is that it permits such corrections to be applied in very specific areas of a photo while allowing the rest of the photo to remain unchanged.
    You mentioned on this site and in your book ‘A World in HDR’ how the human eye takes in a scene on an entity by entity basis, and our mind then stitches together all those disparate pieces to form our memory of that time or place. Reading your explanation (lacking and poorly paraphrased on my part, I’m sure), switched on a light for me… I then understood why I would so often look at a photo and think, “gee, that sure did look better in real life.” Memories are vivid, but single photos, no matter how good, always seemed to be missing some intangible quality that left them lacking.
    HDR processing with Photomatix makes those photos significantly closer to what I remembered, but as my critical ‘HDR eye’ has developed, I have found that while the broad brush approach of Photomatix produces a great result, that result is often a trade off for a good overall look versus accuracy in all areas of the photograph. Post processing a Photomatix HDR photo with Viveza transcended this problem as it is the best way I have found to translate my memory of a scene into a photo that I feel accurately represents what I saw.
    Thus my excitement about Nik’s upcoming HDR release!

    So, just a couple of things:
    First, have you seen the Nik HDR Pro software yet and if so what are your thoughts on it’s functionality versus Photomatix 4?

    Second, and more importantly, a big thank you Trey, for being the catalyst to force me to think outside of the current photographic paradigm. I am certain that have touched people’s creativity and thought processes in ways that you will never know. Your continuing contributions have without a doubt advanced this current photographic revival and driven this fairly static art form of photography forward in leaps and bounds!

  • Steve Clarke

    I just discovered a typo, and I wanted to correct it so that it makes more sense (sorry about that!)Here it is again:
    Second, and more importantly, a big thank you Trey, for being the catalyst that forced me to think outside of the current photographic paradigm. I am certain that you have touched people’s creativity and thought processes in ways that you will never know.
    Your continuing contributions have, without a doubt, advanced this current photographic revival and driven this fairly static art form called photography forward in leaps and bounds!

  • Thank you for this tutorial. I think it is the most comprehensive tutorial I have seen. The fact that I love your images helps!

  • Ed

    I was researching HDR techniques and software, and happened upon your site. Tres cool! (pun intended)

    Question: If Topaz is basically designed to create HDR effects using a single image, is Photomatix mostly used for merging several bracketed exposures?

    So…would I start with Topaz and play with non-bracketed shots, and then add Photomatix and experiment with multiple exposures? Or do I buy both right from the get go?

    Thanks and terrific site.


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  • Jim

    Trey, thanks for these great pages. Very inspiring images. Just wanted to give you a heads up that in the Noise Reduction section you specify “Photoshop Pro 4.0” and I’m pretty sure you meant Photomatix.

    I’m looking forward to your thoughts on the comparison between Photomatix and Nik’s new HDR Efex Pro!

    Thanks again.

  • Joseph

    Great review Trey – Joseph :o)

  • Dawn Eve

    Thank you for this. Is the Nikon D 7000 a recommended camera?? I am shopping. Thank you, Dawn Eve

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  • Ok, this has been bugging me for the last few months now. I’ve been doing HDR for about 6 months now since using Photomatix Pro and the big problem I’m having (not sure if Trey is or not) is Photomatix Pro re-samples the process image slightly bigger than the original(s). So when I take the processed image from Photomatix into Photoshop with the original images, I get an alignment problem compared to the HDR image and originals. Is there a way in Photomatix Pro to fix this issue? I merge RAW files into Photomatix when doing my HDR. I heard converting images to tiffs first fixes this issue. Want to hear if this is a issue for anyone else.

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  • iva

    wow… all i could say is wow! i have just heard about photomatix and seeing all your photos at the end of your post, i was just in awe… wow!

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  • 😉

    Ibiza, Girl, stuck, customs, stuckincustoms,, travel, blog, travelblog, photography, photoblog, photographyblog, hdr, high, dynamic, range, imaging, digital, processing, software, tutorial, hdrtutorial, trey, ratcliff, treyratcliff, world, travel, Europe, spain, España, Reino de España, Mediterranean, pine islands, pityuses, Illes Pitiüses, Islas Pitiusas, Balearic, eivissa, Eivissa, Iberian, Illes Balears, archipelago, autonomous, community, province, Comunidad Autónoma, Ibiza, island, beach, surf, rock, sun, set, sunset, candid, hiney, clouds, scenic, water, ocean, sea

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  • Jeremy

    I didn’t see this posted in here about Photomatix, But if your a current college student they off 60% off their software, unless your a Photography student then they off 75% off. Trey I hope you don’t mind me throwing that out there.

  • Laura

    Hi Trey,
    After reading your review I decided to jump right in and downloaded Photomatix Pro 4. I also used your coupon code and I thank you for that nice savings. I have a question. I have been reading the Photomatix has a “Fuse Exposures” option when you drag your photos into the Photomatix icon. Mine doesn’t have this option at all and I wondered if you might know why. Also I have been waiting hours for it to “Generate an HDR”. I have yet to see an HDR photo of mine. I am kind of at a loss of where to turn and I thought of you. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Btw, I love your photos and I aspire to produce some great looking photos some day. Thanks again.

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  • Thanks, Trey. Been taking “snapshots” for 30 years. You have opened my eyes to a whole new world of photography. Heard you on TWIT/Mostly Photo………I am hooked. Just downloaded Photomatix……do I need a version of Photoshop to make this all work? Again, thanks from Texas!!!! Go Mavericks!

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  • Love your work and the fad of HDR composition. It is striking. I have a cheap old Canon that shoots 8 mega pixels. I dream of holding and being able to take a picture with such a powerful, legendary camera like you have. Its just that money is tight since I have been relying on social security after a surgery to try to correct some things that have made my paralysis worse. Living in a wheelchair from age 26 is bad enough but these extra things are dragging me down. Photography is the only thing I have left, and that, in it of itself, makes this life so wonderfully beautiful. Capturing time, space, and the wonders of this vastly complex world in which we are lucky enough to be able to spend some time is something to cherish.

    When I win the lotto I will buy the Nikon D3x like you have. Wow I can’t imagine downloading pictures to my computer from that. I have an iMac and the entire Adobe suites production and web premium 5.5 for free through school. A pretty nice perk – roughly $5,000 in software (but that’s the least they can offer for the cost of tuition!. I was hoping I could do it all with lightroom and photoshop but it looks like buying photomatrix is a must. Im going to try to save for that.

    So, with all that said I am going to follow your very kind tutorial into the world of HDR. I call it a fad since I would assume that it will be built into new cameras very soon. It is already showing up in apps for the iPhone I saw on the apps page. since I dont have a cell phone I am not able to try. I was lucky to get the government to help me buy the iMac for my education. I am very blessed that I have my camera, computer and the knowledge you are sharing.

    The first thing I noticed about your work is how involved I feel with the subject matter. Many of the pictures remind me of the well known John Sexton, Merced River and Forest, Yosemite Valley, California. The clarity of the floating ice, almost seems as though it was placed there and is not part of the truth of the entire landscape. The images, many of them almost seem staged. The last launch, Im so glad you captured that for us…especially in the way you did, wow. I had a condo in Florida when I was walking and working and would love to see the night launches from the other side of the coast!

    Thank you so much for sharing. I am so, so , so glad I found your site, everything is creatively awesome. I just hope my camera will work (Im going to go check the bracketing right now). If not I will be very unhappy but find a way to just use the single raw image.

    Thanks again Trey

    God Bless


  • Robert Weir

    (1) Do you have any thoughts about in-camera processing of pictures vs in-computer processing?
    (2) The cameras I have checked out all seem to offer 3 exposure range vs the possibility of 5-8 exposure range if youdo it yourself with software — any thoughts about this?

  • Todd Gunderson

    I want to do HDR but only have iphoto, if i purchase photomatix will my computer(macbook pro) and software that i currently have be enough to get the job done with photomatix or do i need additional software. I shoot with a canon t2i. thanks, Todd

  • Yvette


    Trey you have inspired me big time!! I am new to HDR but not new to digital photograph. I want to learn HDR so very bad. I was wondering if you have used Nik’s HDR Effect Pro software, if so, do you still recommend Photomatix? I appreciate any advice you may have regarding this.

    Thank you,


  • Yvette

    Hello again,

    Trey I forgot to ask if you would so kindly consider doing a tutorial on the Christmas pic you have posted here. It is so very beautiful. I would love to be able to achieve this effect.

    Thank you,


  • Jim Plante

    I am strictly a Photoshop Elements type of photographer, but I really love the pictures that you are showing in this newsletter. I have forwarded it to friends who are like me and to others who will enjoy every word you write.


  • ” For the RAW files, Photoshop took an average of 8 seconds and Photoshop CS5 Merge to HDR Pro took a whopping 51 seconds (two tests at :50 and :52). “

    …Huh? Didn’t you mean Photomatix Pro?

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  • Thanks for catching the typo. I’ve corrected it in the article.

  • When you shoot bracketed shots do you take the time to manually shoot 5 shots or do you manipulate a RAW file to adjust exposure afterward? And how do you keep your images from showing too much motion if you shoot multiple times?

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  •  I agree, that would be great for family portraits.  Particuarly how do you get the kids to be in identical positions so there is no blurring between the photos of different expoures!!

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  • Tim Arnett

    I hope it’s not too late to ask questions. I’m new to editing and looking for a software program that will let me edit and yet is fairly easy to use. This all looks very advanced; would you recommend this for beginners or is there something on a simplier scale you could recommend? Thank you. Your pictures are absolutely amazing.

  • Tim,

    Photomatix is for processing for HDR – if you’re looking for basic things like cropping and adjustments, your operating system has adequate tools. For the next step up, you might want to look at Lightroom:

    Also, you might want to consider Trey’s new webinar for beginners and beyond that is launching tonight:

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  • Bryan Wayne

    I hope it’s not far to late to ask for feedback. However, I am a recently new photographer (about 3 years now). I am a Freshmen in college and already own Adobe Lightroom 4.1, instead of going with the more expensive $99.99 route, I was wondering if anybody had feedback on the HDR-Pro Plug In for Lightroom?

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  • I see that Photomatix now has a plugin that supposed to work with Lightroom. Have you tried it or do you have any idea how well it works?

  • I understand that Photomatix has a plugin now that works with Lightroom. Have you tried it or do yo have any idea how well it works? Do you lose much of the functionality that the full program provides?

  • Daniel Gordon

    Two things: 1 – Not even the latest Photomatix (4.2.5) natively processes the .NEF raw format for the D800 without artifacting on single exposures (thank goodness for the Lightroom 4 export process) and 2 – I’ve briefly used Nik Software’s HDR Efex Pro 2, and while 1 was lack-luster to say the least, 2 in many ways seems to give Photomatix a run for its money, and in some regards even pass it – especially in clarity. I see you use many Nik Software products, and I’m sure you’ve given HDR Efex 2 a try. Any thoughts Trey?

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  • Marc

    I create 3 copies and then adjust 3 of the RAW files, save them as JPEG and import 3 together into Photomatix. Works very well for me.

  • Fred

    Hi everyone! I have a Sony a6000 and wend i process a file in Photomatix they come purple or pink! :/

    It’s must be a setting in the camera because i don’t have this issu with my others cameras? Someone can help me please? Tank’s ! 🙂

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  • Marc

    That’s what’s happening, when you put RAW files into Photomatix. Try JPEG-files, then it works!

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  • cari

    quick question…i have 3 computers…if i purchase photomatix will i be able to load all 3 computers?
    thanks…looks very cool!

  • yes! 🙂

  • Let me try, I was using Photoshop CC to stitching photos

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  • Bill Huggins

    I hope this isn’t a dumb question. The results shown of landscapes are spectacular. Should I assume it isn’t an advantage to use Photomatix for portraiture?

  • Bald Rick

    Hi…sorry to ask what seems a really stupid question, but the question that is never asked is stupider….is Photomatrix or Lightroom a better option? I have Windows based computers, and don’t realyy want to get a Mac – even though I acknowledge their superiority in graphic work

  • Hi there,

    For Windows usually for HDR it would be both Photomatix and Lightroom. Photomatix for your HDR processing and Lightroom for fine-tuning it.

  • Bald Rick

    Thanks for that it clears up what I need to invest in, which is looking like Adobe Creative Cloud & will in time include Photomatix. Thanks again @lukesic:disqus

  • teila

    Bill, HDR is used in everything from landscapes, to product photography, to architectural to portraiture. There are literally millions of portraits in stock photography that have been run through HDR software, then tweaked in Lightroom or Photoshop. So to answer your question, Photomatix or any other HDR software *can* be to your advantage *if* the software helps you obtain the results that you’re wanting.

  • Dave McLaughlin

    Been following your work for a little while now. I have few questions. 1. I have a slightly older Sony Nex-6, will the techniques you share work with this camera or should I upgrade? 2. The last question asks which option Photomatrix or Lightroom, your indicate both. Is there a bundle that includes both or do I need to get them separately? And is LR necessary?

  • Hi Dave – NEX 6 will do you just fine – Trey used it extensively not that long ago! Photomatix does HDR process – LR does too, but it’s not very well-regarded. They’re two separate companies, so there isn’t a bundle. If you’re on Mac, you can use Trey’s Aurora HDR program that pretty much does everything Photomatix and Lightroom does, besides the organizational functions in Lightroom.

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