HDR Express

The popularity of HDR has inspired a lot of software development, making it one of the more competitive categories for special-effects apps. HDR Express, the newest offering from Unified Color, is one of the easiest-to-use solutions we’ve seen yet.

The simple, clean interface reduces the steps involved to really streamline the process. HDR Express can merge multiple exposures shot at different EVs into one new HDR image, or you can apply the effects to a single exposure.

HDR Express can be installed as a standalone app or as a plug-in for Adobe Photoshop Lightroom and Apple Aperture. List Price: $99. Contact: Unified Color, www.unifiedcolor.com


HDR Express can automatically import multiple bracketed exposures of a scene, align them and merge them to create your new base image file. Three options, designed for different types of subjects, are available for reducing “ghosting” artifacts that can result from subject movement between exposures.


When you start working with a new image, the first step is to pick a tone-mapping preset. Five presets are built in to get you started quickly. You can always adjust the brightness, highlights and shadows after.


The histogram displays the effects of your current settings. It includes two handy buttons to toggle hot and cold spot indicators on and off. These indicators visually identify areas of your image where there’s no detail in the shadows or highlights as a guide to help maximize your dynamic range without blowing out highlights or blocking up shadows.


In addition to previewing your adjustments on the full image, there are three levels of zoom to check out details.


You say you want things simple? Just eight sliders are here to let you fine-tune your effects. The included presets are pretty solid, so you probably won’t need to make a lot of adjustments, but if you do, it doesn’t get much easier than this.


After selecting your tone-mapping preset, you select a style. Thirteen preset styles are here, ranging from very photo-realistic to some far-out artistic effects. You can remove presets or create your own favorite looks and save them for later use.


If you experiment with the sliders and find a look you really like, click here to create a new preset that you can reuse for future images.

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