Making great images with Photomatix Pro 5

A few years ago I used Photomatix Pro to made a YouTube tutorial called Over Saturated HDR Crap I didn’t mean to offend anyone, I was just trying to open some eyes to some things that made HDR images look, well, bad!  Recently, an individual didn’t take too kindly to it in the comments.  I had to try and calm the seas, but eventually gave up.  Part of his complaint is that I was trying to put a set of ‘Rules’ to art.  Somehow a God complex got discussed as well as some form of communism and that is where I stopped commenting back!

However, that conversation had me thinking all week long about the video I had created 2 years ago.  I asked myself things like,

  • “Was I off base?”
  • “Should I take down that video?”
  • “Are there some set rules to HDR & Photography?”
  • “Am I a Communist?”

But after answering, “No” to all of those questions (especially the last one) I began to think about ways that I could have addressed that video a little better.  I rattled the peas around in my head and came up with 5 tips for tone mapping in Photomatix Pro.  I know I discuss these things in a lot of my videos, some are here, some are there, but here they are in one concise video rather than all over the place.  Let me reiterate, these are not ‘rules’… they are tips… please don’t throw tomatoes at me and call me a Communist!

Bad-HDR Photomatix ProGood-HDR - Photomatix Pro

5 HDR Tips for Photomatix Pro 5.0

  1. Presets are not always the best option.  Dynamic Range changes drastically from one image to the next.  A preset can be used as a baseline, but very rarely do they make a ‘one and done’ image.
  2. The Lighting Effects Mode is not nearly as powerful as the Lighting Adjustments Slider.  Let’s face it, having 11 increments (and more) on one slider is more forgiving than 5 quick adjustments (Natural, Natural+, Medium, Surreal, and Surreal+).  I have never met an HDR image that deserved a Surreal+ slap in the face!
  3. Working From Top to Bottom is the best idea when tone mapping an image.  Usually I keep the top the same at all times, 100, 50, 10, 10.  Then I work my way down paying the most attention to the Lighting Adjustments and the Highlight Smoothness.
  4. Over saturating in Photomatix Pro with the Saturation slider is always a BAD idea!  There are so many tools for saturation after Photomatix.  It is not a good idea to over-saturate in Photomatix because you do not have any control over the colors that are being manipulated.
  5. Photomatix Pro should be looked at as a Means to an End, Not the End All Be All!!!  You wouldn’t build a bench with just a hammer, why would a photograph be any different?  Use the tools you have to craft your images and don’t look at any one tool as the end all be all!

Here is the video tutorial covering the 5 tips above and MUCH more!


Like this tutorial?  You will LOVE HDR Insider!

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Blake Rudis

f.64 Academy and f.64 Elite are the brainchildren of Blake Rudis. While he is a landscape photographer he is most passionate about post-processing images in Photoshop and mentoring others.


For Blake, it is less about the art and more about the process. He dives deep into difficult topics and makes them easy to understand through his outside the box thinking.


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