Nik Software’s HDR Efex Pro 2 is one of the top applications for creating high-dynamic-range images, and the new version upgrades the original in many ways. The most important change is an improved tone-mapping engine—which means the software does a better job rendering color and tonality, making more natural-looking HDR images possible.
You can use HDR Efex Pro 2 to merge multiple bracketed exposures into one composite image, or you can use it to enhance a single exposure. When merging multiple images, improved "ghost reduction" automatically removes artifacts created by objects that were moving during your exposures.
Another key new feature is Depth Control. HDR images typically have a "flat," low-contrast look, a result of lightening shadows and darkening highlights to preserve detail. Depth Control makes it easy to restore contrast for a more dramatic rendering.
HDR Efex Pro 2 is compatible with recent versions of Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom and Apple Aperture. Host software version requirements do vary slightly between Windows and Mac platforms, so check the system requirements on the Nik website to be sure you have a compatible host. List Price: $99 (full); $49 (upgrade). Contact: Nik Software, www.niksoftware.com.
Another new feature in Version 2 is the History Browser, which lets you step back through each individual adjustment you’ve made.
To make it fast and easy to get started, the Preset Library has 28 different looks that you can apply in a single click. From there, you can make finer adjustments using the controls in the panel on the right of the interface. You also can create your own custom presets, and even export and import presets to share with other HDR Efex Pro 2 users.
These buttons let you see before-and-after previews of the effects, split down the middle either horizontally or vertically. Or you can preview the effects on the entire image and hold down the Compare button to see your original. There’s also a Zoom control to magnify your image up to 400% to inspect small details, plus a button that lets you choose either white, gray or black for the interface background color.