updated 06:55 pm EST, Mon December 6, 2010
Eliminates color shifts and "halo" artifacts
Unified Color Technologies has unveiled a new tool for photographers and photo enthusiasts,HDR Express, that seeks to automate some of the more complex parts of high-dynamic-range (HDR) photography -- such as tone mapping and halo elimination -- while speeding up the process of making an HDR image.
HDR photography attempts to restore and balance both shadows and highlights to more accurately recreate what the human eye has seen, but can also be used to create surreal, high-contrast color images. Photographers start the process by creating an image at several different exposure settings, which will be "merged" in software into a single image.
In HDR Express, the various exposures are first "played" as an animated range, then the user picks one of five included tone-mapping presents. A full set of nine different controls allow each preset to be adjusted if desired, then the user can choose from several color and style presets, from "natural" to "retina burn," and again make adjustments. New presets can be made and saved to apply to similar shots.
The software works with RAW and JPEG images and can output the results as TIFF, JPEG or a 32-bit BEF image files for further work in other image processors like Photoshop. In addition to the standalone program, the package comes with plug-ins for Adobe's Lightroom and Apple's Aperture programs.
HDR Express retails for $99, but is on sale through December at the promotional price of $85. Owners of other Unified Color Technologies products can add HDR Express for $50. A 30-day fully-functional trial version is available. The program requires an Intel Mac 2GHz or faster running OS X 10.5.8 or higher and 2GB of RAM minimum.