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Author Topic: Contemporary HDR?  (Read 3832 times)

earlybird

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Contemporary HDR?
« on: January 02, 2018, 11:31:32 am »

Hi,
 I have used Photomatix and Nik HDR tools to merge HDR composites in the past, but transitioned to using tone mapping tools on single 16 bit files.
 
 I just got back from a trip to the desert where I made a few bracket sets so I may try HDR merging again.

 Last night I downloaded the SNS-HDR software and found its results to seem much better than anything I have tried in the past.

 The experience has caused me to wonder; are there any other new HDR merging softwares to try out or has SNS set a new standard?

 Thank you.
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Bart_van_der_Wolf

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Re: Contemporary HDR?
« Reply #1 on: January 02, 2018, 12:23:19 pm »

Last night I downloaded the SNS-HDR software and found its results to seem much better than anything I have tried in the past.

 The experience has caused me to wonder; are there any other new HDR merging softwares to try out or has SNS set a new standard?

I'm a big fan of SNS-HDR, in most of its features, it's much better than the rest of the applications for tonemapping, IMHO. Not sure about how far the author has come with his Mac OS version, but it is reported to run fine under Parallels.

While it can handle Raw files, it really shines with optimally converted TIFFs. It automatically adopts the Colorspace Profile settings of the source documents, and with TIFFs one can e.g. already steer the color balance of different exposure levels with the Raw conversions.

Cheers,
Bart
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earlybird

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Re: Contemporary HDR?
« Reply #2 on: January 02, 2018, 12:32:40 pm »

Hi Bart,
 Thanks for the helpful info.

 While working with the demo this morning, I had stumbled on the idea of prepping with CR2 to TIFF conversions for the very reasons you suggest.

 Thank you.

 
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stockjock

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Re: Contemporary HDR?
« Reply #3 on: January 29, 2018, 07:38:20 pm »

It looks like this thread is pretty much dead but I wanted to suggest looking at both Aurora HDR and Luminar 2018 from Skylum.  Aurora is explicitly for merging HDR photos although it can also operate on a single image.  Luminar doesn't have the photo merge functionality but it incorporates most/all of the other features of Aurora plus a whole lot of other features.  I use the programs on Windows and they are still incomplete for that platform versus the Mac versions but I've achieved some really remarkable photos that I couldn't with Photomatix, HDR EFex Pro or Merge to HDR in Lightroom.  You have to be careful not to get heavy handed and go overboard on the whole HDR look but using the features judiciously can add a lot of value to your image processing.  Luminar, in particular, is aiming to be a full featured image processing program.  I don't think it is there yet (especially on the PC) but if you use it as a plug in to Lightroom I think it is well worth the $59 you can usually buy it for.  Both programs have demos although Skylum doesn't make it easy to find them.  https://macphun.com/luminar-trial or https://aurorahdr.com/downloads.  I haven't tried SNS-HDR yet.
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kirkt

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Re: Contemporary HDR?
« Reply #4 on: January 30, 2018, 09:55:58 am »

Aurora has come a long way since it was first introduced, and it can produce some high-quality images.  The workflow that it supports is severely lacking though - it cannot read or write any standard HDR formats (Radiance, EXR, TIFF) and the batch processing feature does not even write their own proprietary ".mpaur2" file format (which presumably stores the HDR result of a merge).  That is, if you have a batch of exposure sequences for HDR merging and you want to have Aurora segment each set, merge them and output a floating point, 32-bit per channel file for each merge operation, you cannot.  You can only output an LDR image for each sequence that has been toned with a single preset.  If you use it for HDR imaging, then you are bound and wed to it to the point of producing toned, LDR output.  That includes alignment and deghosting, merge algorithm and toning.

I have contacted their support a few times over the last year or two to suggest adding features and improving their toning, etc., and providing test image sets that demonstrate errors and artifacts and they usually respond, even though it is a somewhat generic response.  Hopefully they will improve the ability for their application to accept and integrate a standard HDR workflow and also improve their batch processing.  If you are interested in the application, download a trial and try to ignore the Trey Ratcliff hyper-promotional videos.  His over-the-top cartoonish HDR ship sailed a long time ago.

kirk
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Alan Smallbone

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Re: Contemporary HDR?
« Reply #5 on: January 30, 2018, 10:06:53 am »

As another option, although I cannot say that I have actually tried it, Affinity Photo has a tone mapping persona(tool section). Maybe try your optimally processed tifs in that as well, can't beat the price. I have moved away from Adobe, and my PS replacement is Affinity Photo.

Alan
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guido

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Re: Contemporary HDR?
« Reply #6 on: February 19, 2018, 06:12:34 am »

Another Affinity Photo fan. I'm new to the HDR party, but I've been quite happy with the result I've been getting with AP. The interface is nicely laid out and the ghosting prevention is first rate (manual override if needed) and the ToneMapping controls are powerful yet very easy to use. It reads raw files directly so there is no extra steps involved. My one concern is the processing time for merging 50mp images, it is the only time my i7 7700 seems slow... ::)
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guido

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Re: Contemporary HDR?
« Reply #7 on: February 27, 2018, 09:08:42 am »

Here is an example of some current HDR play with Affinity Photo:

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earlybird

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Re: Contemporary HDR?
« Reply #8 on: December 29, 2018, 09:15:48 pm »

 I have a current project that requires HDR and was surprised to see that my last inquiry about state of the art Tone Mapping software was one year ago.

 Today I tested SNS-HDR, Skylum Aurora, and Affinity Photo for suitability with an emphasis on getting the most natural yet effective results on wide range subject matter.

 I am left with opinion that SNS-HDR is the most effective of the three mentioned here. It provided the most natural looking output, and has the most detailed set of controls should you need to work through a challenge.

 The Skylum website talks a big talk, and goes so far as to explain why it is much better than SNS-HDR, but what I found is that the basic HDR merge and tone mapping was cruder than SNS-HDR, and it had few useful controls for improving on the basic result. Admittedly it does have dozens of parameters which you can use to hype up your image and turn it into some sort of spectacle. It seems to me that Aurora is meant to be a one stop solution that frees you from using a bunch of apps or plugins, but for me the most basic natural settings could not match the grace with which SNS-HDR handles lighting challenges, and I was confident that I could easily use other plugins and apps to pump up the hype, should I want to do so,
 I would also like to mention that the install on my Windows 7 x64 machine seemed laboriously slow as the "installer" .exe is just a download manager, so you end up watching files download that you may have hoped had already downloaded.
 Finally, I had some insights into the way Skylum operates, as my install ran the merge process and then halted with a "Upgrade to Open GL 3.3" dialog and a blank screen. I learned that I am not the only one to have this issue. I got to review how Skylum handles support, and was amused to see suggestions that if users want to use powerful software that requires OpenGL 3.3 they should get a new computer etc. My computer was running Open GL 4.+ and I knew it, so I figured out that Aurora, which is seemingly written by Macintosh aficionados, just doesn't do a good job of communicating with Windows computers that have display managers set to automatically choose between on board and accelerated graphics hardware. I fixed the problem, by adding an entry in my Nvidia console to make Aurora always use the acceleration. I have nearly a hundred full featured applications on my system and Skylum is the only vendor that can't get their app to work with the automatic assignment function. It was disheartening to see that Skylums support did not know how to support their customers with technical solutions, and I figured that was a warning sign to keep in mind. Luckily for me, the lackluster HDR merge and tone mapping results relieved me of a compulsion to put up with further inconveniences.

 I also tried Affinity, and I am very enthusiastic about it as a free standing photo editor. It installed fast and it felt very intuitive to jump right in and use with a sense of familiarity. The HDR capabilities worked ok, but don't seem to compare to the capability of SNS-HDR. The tone mapping controls were very basic, and I was incapable of matching the subtlety that I achieved with SNS-HDR.

 Thank you for the great suggestions.

 I did try these all last year, but It took me a while to sit down and focus with the recent tests. I am glad I did. I always feel like the technology improves faster than I can stay aware, so it is a relief to think that I can spend some time using SNS-HDR without thinking about the tech.

 Thank everyone.

 Happy New Year.
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LesPalenik

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Re: Contemporary HDR?
« Reply #9 on: December 29, 2018, 11:00:15 pm »

I used PTGui's HDR mode for panoramic photographs which handles automatically the tone-mapping and stitching for large group of HDR images. The advantage of this approach is that you can drop, let's say 150 images (30 positions in 5-HDR) into one folder and leave it to PTGui to make one combined panorama. I am wondering how does the quality of the PTGui process compare with SNS-HDR and whether it would be worthwhile to retain PTGui just for stitching and then run the resulting 5 HDR panoramas through SNS-HDR.

Garnick

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Re: Contemporary HDR?
« Reply #10 on: December 31, 2018, 09:30:16 am »

I took a peek at SNS-HDR a while ago, but since it's not Mac friendly I decided to pass it by and use the Aurora for the rather few HDR images I process.  It's interesting that the "heavy handed" approach has been mentioned here along with a warning to be careful about how one uses any of these HDR processors.  I just checked the SNS-HDR site again, since it had been a while and I wanted to see any possible signs that a Mac version might be in the works, but no mention of that.  However, while there I decided to check some of the "example" of the SNS-HDR in action.  In my not so humble opinion, all but the interior examples exhibited the epitome of heavy-handedness.  All of the landscape scenes were most definitely overcooked and had the appearance of a cartoonish approach.  Possibly somewhat due to the web processing, but my calibrated NEC PA27 certainly didn't like them any more than I did.  I just checked a couple of other HDR sites and they seem to have overcome that gaudy look to the images they use to show off their app.

Just my opinion of course, but it would seem to be a rather important part of advertising ones wares.  No?

Gary       
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Gary N.
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Bart_van_der_Wolf

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Re: Contemporary HDR?
« Reply #11 on: December 31, 2018, 10:05:41 am »

I took a peek at SNS-HDR a while ago, but since it's not Mac friendly I decided to pass it by and use the Aurora for the rather few HDR images I process.  It's interesting that the "heavy handed" approach has been mentioned here along with a warning to be careful about how one uses any of these HDR processors.  I just checked the SNS-HDR site again, since it had been a while and I wanted to see any possible signs that a Mac version might be in the works, but no mention of that.  However, while there I decided to check some of the "example" of the SNS-HDR in action.  In my not so humble opinion, all but the interior examples exhibited the epitome of heavy-handedness.

Hi Gary,

One has to work pretty hard to achieve heavy-handedness with SNS-HDR. When used with normal settings (which can be saved as presets), things look very natural, so natural that people might be tempted to exceed their own boundaries of good taste. It is simply too easy to achieve a normal look, so that may trigger such exaggeration because people try to see "something" happening when it's already good.

I had a try with Aurora HDR myself, and immediately experienced 'overprocessed' images, especially when comparing the same images after being processed in SNS-HDR. It was a really good wakeup call (I almost purchased Aurora), because I thought it looked good in Aurora, until I compared it to SNS-HDR.

Cheers,
Bart
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Redcrown

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Re: Contemporary HDR?
« Reply #12 on: December 31, 2018, 02:02:37 pm »

I do a lot of HDR and have used or trialed every package. I too prefer SNS-HDR over all others. The most amazing thing about SNS is that it's a one-man show.
 
Sebastian Nibisz is the lone programmer, designer, website operator, and customer service rep. He does it all. Considering that the other HDR sources have a staff, maybe small maybe large, I think it says something.

My fear is that Sebastian will cash in some day and sell out to the highest bidder.
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Garnick

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Re: Contemporary HDR?
« Reply #13 on: December 31, 2018, 02:24:58 pm »

Hi Gary,

One has to work pretty hard to achieve heavy-handedness with SNS-HDR. When used with normal settings (which can be saved as presets), things look very natural, so natural that people might be tempted to exceed their own boundaries of good taste. It is simply too easy to achieve a normal look, so that may trigger such exaggeration because people try to see "something" happening when it's already good.

I had a try with Aurora HDR myself, and immediately experienced 'overprocessed' images, especially when comparing the same images after being processed in SNS-HDR. It was a really good wakeup call (I almost purchased Aurora), because I thought it looked good in Aurora, until I compared it to SNS-HDR.

Cheers,
Bart

Hello Bart,

As I had hoped, you have indeed replied to my previous post.  By that I mean I have always put a large degree of confidence in your posts here on LuLa and this one is no exception.  I believe I made it quite clear that the opinion I voiced concerning SNS-HDR was directed solely on the part of their site showing a number of examples of what their app can do, and the fact that I found those examples to be anything but natural.  Now of course the old adage "One should not judge a book by its cover" can be applied here, and I am totally aware of that.  However, since I cannot try the demo on my Mac OS without adding yet another app (Parallels), I have not had the luxury of the other adage, "The proof is in the pudding", or in this case, the app.  I do wonder though if perhaps the SNS-HDR site management have posted such Super-Natural examples simply due the unfortunate fact that it seems to be what many folks accept as natural now.  I have seen far too much of this C**P on the net, posing as something that we should all strive for.  As with many things in life, it now seems that the "Over-Cooked" approach can eventually become the norm.  Certainly not the norm I will ever except and I imagine you will agree Bart.

Now my next decision will be Parallels or No Parallels = SNS-HDR or No SNS-HDR  :-\

Gary         

 
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Gary N.
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kirkt

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Re: Contemporary HDR?
« Reply #14 on: December 31, 2018, 04:17:38 pm »

Hi Gary - I am a Mac user and I am not a big fan of running virtualized software; however, one of the few exceptions on my machines is SNS-HDR for natural toning.  I arrive at my base image data from a few different routes:

1) Guillermo Luijk's "Zero Noise" compositing of multiple raw images into a single 16bit tif with noise-free shadows (this algorithm is now available as an R script here: http://www.elmomentodecisivo.com/2018/07/fusion-hdr-de-imagenes-con-r.html);

2) Anders Torger's application called LumaRiver HDR, which takes a similar segmentation approach to compositing multiple raw files into a single DNG, EXR or TIF;

3) Traditional merger of exposures into a 32bit file.

In each case, SNS-HDR produces results superior to Aurora, and gives a much more neutral starting point.  I have been trying Aurora since it first came out and I routinely email them a list of problems with example files - although their algorithms have improved, they are geared more toward a punchy image most of the time.

Of course, the trade-off is you have to install parallels or similar and also install Windows.  My copy of SNS-HDR is run on Windows 10 running on Parallels and it works flawlessly.

Good luck!  Kirk
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earlybird

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Re: Contemporary HDR?
« Reply #15 on: January 01, 2019, 03:16:29 pm »

Continuing with tests, I found that I continue to regard the results with SNS_HDR as more natural and balanced, but for the project at hand my best effort to tame Aurora 2019 with custom settings seem remarkably similar to the pictures I am making with the SNS-HDR workflow, because I am doing several post merge steps in Photoshop with TOPAZ Clarity and Photoshop adjustment layers to get a mildly hyped final result. 

The promise of saving time by means of using Aurora seems attractive, so I am trying to learn more about it.

I came across two facts that are discouraging.

1) I use a Wacom pen tablet exclusively. I use the tablet for everything from advanced photo retouching to browsing Windows Explorer. I haven't used a mouse in years. Unfortunately, the parameter sliders' in Skylum's Aurora HDR do not work well with Wacom tablets. The pen tablet cursor rarely grabs the slider button and the movement is glitchy. I searched and learned that users have been informing Skylum of this problem for several years, and there has been no forth coming fix. The problem is attributed to the pressure sensitivity function in the tablet. I found that if I switched my tablet's behavior from "tablet" mode to "mouse" that everything worked well, but this introduces a general loss of functionality where the graceful response of the tablet is reduced to the crude response of a mouse. That is not good. I, as well as many others who commented at Skylum's forum, have come to enjoy full tablet functionality with nearly every desktop application on the market. Indeed, Aurora is the only product on my system that isn't 100% compatible with my Wacom. The annoyance of the glitchy behavior and the extra time spent trying to enter parameter changes, negates my perception that there may be a benefit to using Aurora.

2) I noticed that when I used both programs to merge the very same CR2 files, and then save both instances as projects in their respective native formats, that the resulting Aurora .auh file is nearly twice the size of the corresponding .snsx file. The reason I have looked at these statistics is that reopening a saved project in Aurora takes a surprisingly and disappointingly long time to open. Aurora seems to go through the entire merging process as if it has started from scratch. The SNS-HDR file, on the other hand seems to open up fairly quickly, and appears to access previously processed information, so the project file seems handy and ready to be used. I had noticed that in general Aurora ran merges much more slowly, but assumed it was doing more stuff, how ever, I also assumed that after it was done, that the saved project would open quickly. I imagined that I could batch process several merges, have the projects saved, and then open them quickly for final adjustments before exporting the output I hoped to use. The time it takes to open the project seems negligibly quicker than the time it takes to process a merge from scratch. The long waits seem to negates my perception that there may be a benefit to using Aurora.

I have not given up yet, but I can not ignore these issues.

I am glad to have gotten the chance to learn this in demo mode.

Thank you.
 
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kirkt

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Re: Contemporary HDR?
« Reply #16 on: January 02, 2019, 05:26:28 pm »

Another issue with Aurora is that it does not permit an open 32bit HDR workflow.  It will not accept any other HDR file formats as input, so you are stuck with using its alignment, deghosting and CA/noise reduction algorithms, if you need those features applied during the creation of your 32bit file.  That's a real bummer.

kirk
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earlybird

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Re: Contemporary HDR?
« Reply #17 on: January 03, 2019, 08:46:38 am »

As a follow up: I had contacted Skylum's support about the Wacom Pen tablet issue, and I just received a response, which was as dismissive and uninformed as the replies I witnessed being proffered to the people inquiring about the erroneous OpenGL 3.3 missing dialogs. To make a long story short the service representative does not know what a Wacom Pen tablet is and so answered that "tablets" are not supported.

In the meantime Skylum advertises this: https://skylum.com/blog/wacommacphun_unlimited_creativity

I nearly bought an Aurora licensee to entertain the whimsical notion that it would be nice to continue trying it as HDR projects came along, but I do not think the developers are going to be able to fix the problems that support seems unable to acknowledge.



In the mean time, my appreciation of SNS-HDR has increased as I have continued to run parallel processes with the two applications and compared the results.
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kirkt

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Re: Contemporary HDR?
« Reply #18 on: January 03, 2019, 10:27:38 am »

I think your observations and experience with each piece of software is generally leading you in the right direction.  I think Skylum are trying to expand their software offerings in too many dimensions too quickly and cannot keep up with the pace, regardless of whether or not the applications are worth investing one's time and money.  They went from a mac-only company making small applications to mac and PC trying to expand into the HDR market and the filter-driven photo editing market, with AI, and promising a DAM for the photo editor, and....  Etc.  Their tech support has never really struck me as impressive, frankly.

Kirk
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Garnick

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Re: Contemporary HDR?
« Reply #19 on: January 03, 2019, 12:07:56 pm »

Thanks for the info Kirk.  I do have a couple of questions, but before that I think my bank account has answered one of my former questions.  For me to compile all of the parts to run SNS-HDR on my MacPro it would amount to a $460.00 CDN total investment.  My rather small volume of HDR images really doesn't call for such an investment at this time, so I believe I'll continue using Aurora and as mentioned, and tame it to a point of acceptability if possible.  Therefore that particular decision has been made, at least for the foreseeable future.  You have mentioned Guillermo's "Zero Noise" compositing approach as well.  After checking it out, it does seem to be a viable app to at least try.  On his site you also mentioned that you had installed that "script" in R Studio, but I cannot seem to find any information about R Studio.  Would you please point me toward such an app and where to download it, as well as any other pertinent information.  I've also downloaded Lumariver HDR as a demo.  At least I can give that one a go without breaking the bank.

Thanks again Kirk,

Gary

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