Before this sudden rise in the people’s love for HDR photography, one of the only dedicated HDR photo editors that existed was Photomatix Pro. Photomatix, for this reason, still has a very loyal following of professionals who love making HDR images. It brings speed, advanced features, and multiple useful presets to help you edit better. So, if you are already invested in Photomatix Pro, it may keep meeting your HDR photography needs for years to come.
However, if you are new to HDR photography and would rather spend your money on something newer that might offer better value for money, more advanced features, better speed and flexibility, or more automatic controls, HDR photo software has come a long way in recent years and you might be better off giving something else a chance to help you create your stunning HDR photos.
First, a Look at HDR and Photomatix Pro
First of all, let’s take a brief recap of what an HDR file is. An HDR picture is one that has a much higher dynamic range than a usual photo that you might take with your camera. The reason for this is that it is created after merging two or more photos together, each with a different exposure setting. What this does is it creates one single image from multiple ones, which now has all the dynamic range information from the individual images within itself.
This allows you to edit the highlights, the mid-tones, and the shadows in a much more flexible way and across the much wider range than you could before, hence giving you way more control over the light in your image than otherwise. That is why this type of photography is so popular among landscape shooters because they don’t necessarily need to go and take a photo just on the very perfect of days but can adjust their exposure to a great degree later in the post.
Now, before we talk about the best programs you can use to potentially replace Photomatix Pro, you should know that if you’re already using Photomatix, you may not need any other HDR software. Photomatix Pro comes packed with features that both beginners and pro photographers can equally enjoy. Its strengths really lie in its tone mapping engines that are all different than one another and can be used depending on the kind of look you want for your photos. Combine these with advanced editing tools focusing on exposure, contrast, color correction, and many more, and you have a pretty great overall package for your HDR needs.
The Best Competition for Photomatix Pro
If you do want something different, whether it is because the software isn’t working well for you, or you would rather have a free HDR software with lesser features then here is a list of some of the best Photomatix alternatives you can give a try.
1. Aurora HDR
One of the most famous and complete alternatives to Photomatix is Aurora HDR. This is a fairly new HDR software but has made itself a staple in many professional photographers’ workflow because of its combination of speed, ease of use, advanced features, and affordable price. The software helps create very natural-looking HDR photos with the help of built-in presets that can be applied with a single click. These presets can then be further tweaked to create your ideal HDR images. All of that combined makes Aurora HDR much more than a simple photo merge program but rather one of the best HDR software programs available today. Aurora HDR also comes as a plugin for image editors like Lightroom, Photoshop and Apple Photos. This makes it even more compelling because if you prefer to use Lightroom for your RAW editing and don’t want to have a completely separate piece of software for your HDR work, then you can add the plugin and work from within Lightroom.
Another very important factor that makes Aurora HDR such an attractive HDR photo software is its comparatively lower price as compared to other programs. Considering the number of features it brings with regular updates and continuous support, Aurora HDR may be a much better overall deal than Photomatix.
2. Luminance HDR
If you are looking for a free HDR software, then Luminance HDR is a good choice. It’s a basic photo merge software with which you can create a nice-looking HDR photo. You can combine different exposure brackets together to generate an HDR photo. You can reframe the photo by cropping or rotating it. You can use tone-mapping for an HDR effect. In short, you can use Luminance HDR to develop HDR images free of cost. So, if Photomatix Pro is too expensive for you, this is a good choice.
However, with no price come compromises. The software is not as well polished as some of the best HDR software out there. It does not have many advanced features or deep controls that will make your HDR images look amazing. So, only use it if you are not a professional who needs the best possible image quality but are rather someone who enjoys creating an HDR photo every now and then. Luminance HDR is an open-source editor, however, so you can rest assured that it will get better with time if people stick with it.
3. Easy HDR
If you find Photomatix too hard to understand and want something that is much easier to work with, Easy HDR is worth a consideration. This is an HDR software that aims to make the process of creating HDR images simpler for those who have just started working with high dynamic range files. The program starts by acting like a photo merge program when you load your exposures into it, and gives your photos a convincing hdr effect right away. After this, you can work in more detail on your hdr photo by changing the exposure, adjusting the colors, and much more. But do remember than Easy HDR cannot be considered a complete Photomatix Pro replacement because it simply does not have all the features and tools of more advanced hdr photography software.
4. SNS HDR
For those of you who are new to HDR photography and are looking for an easy to use HDR photo editor, SNS HDR is a good choice. This is the kind of software where you don’t really have to know the detailed answer to ‘what is HDR’ in order to end up with good-looking HDR images. It comes with a good enough collection of tools from ghost reduction to masks, all designed to help beginner photographers create their own HDR photos. The software also doesn’t require many resources to run so even if you don’t have the latest computer with a strong graphics card, you’ll be able to run it just fine. If you’re not looking for the best alternative to Photomatix Pro just rather something to get you started with this kind of editing, give this a shot.
5. Picturenaut 3
Another one of those Photomatix alternatives that aren’t trying to take the top spot in the world of HDR editing but bringing an easy-to-use HDR software to users, Picturenaut 3 labels itself as the fastest tone mapper in the world. It focuses on creating an HDR photo faster than many others. This new version comes with an updated user interface, support for 64-bit systems, support for PNG files and newer raw formats, and some unique features like AutoCrop. It’s not an all-in-one Photomatix alternative but is much better than some of the free HDR software or photo merge programs you can find on the Internet.
6. HDR Expose
Unlike the previous two programs, HDR Expose is a much more powerful and complete Photomatix alternative. It not only create very good high dynamic range images but gives Photomatix a run for its money. It goes beyond basic HDR software and involves powerful ghost reduction algorithms to make sure each HDR photo you create is clean and looks natural. One of the most hyped aspects of this editor is the inclusion of adaptive tone-mapping, which analyses your particular image and then decides what kind of tone-mapping algorithm to use in order to get the perfect photo. On paper, this is one of the strongest competitors for Photomatix Pro but since it’s a very new entrant in this world and isn’t cheap either, it might be wise to wait a little to see how well it fares before spending a significant amount of money on it.
7. HDR Darkroom
HDR Darkroom is for those of you who want to create HDR photos in a minimalist, thoughtfully-designed interface. It might not replace Photomatix Pro for you unless you don’t need advanced editing tools but it handles basic HDR photography quite well. It can merge images and edit the merged files with the essential controls that anyone making HDR images would require. All in all, HDR Darkroom is a capable program for making high dynamic range images but you shouldn’t expect it to replace something like Photomatix if you’re a professional with very advanced needs.
8. Machinery HDR
No HDR software review article would be complete without mentioning Machinery HDR. This is one of those programs which can easily become a complete replacement for Photomatix. Machinery HDR is packed with useful editing features, many of which compete directly with those in Photomatix. It has advanced exposure control, a number of very good-looking and customizable presets, and much more. To top that off, it also has a very well-designed interface that anyone making HDR photos would appreciate. The only thing that slightly holds it back from being the best HDR software is that its interface is slightly difficult to get used to and the included manuals aren’t a lot of help.
For people looking for alternatives to Photomatix, Hydra could be one of the best choices, and it still is but for a limited number of people only. The reason for this is that Hydra is available only for Mac.
Anyway, if you do use Mac and want a great HDR software, then Hydra’s clean design, advanced tone mapping algorithms, and set of advanced controls will be great for your HDR photo needs. Like the best HDR software on the market, Hydra also has many presets to choose from when you want to have a base to start your editing process off of. These can be used to achieve very natural or more creative results, depending on how your HDR photography looks.
10. Dynamic Photo HDR 5
Creating HDR images is easier and simpler with Dynamic Photo HDR’s newest update, thanks to a completely new interface design. The 5th iteration of the software also brings more speed and additional effects that you can use in your hdr photography. You can also work in layers and have access to tools like ghost removal and ‘unlimited undo’. It even lets you work on single images and turn them into convincing HDRs. With all of these improvements, Dynamic Photo HDR 5 becomes a compelling replacement for Photomatix.
11. HDR Projects 4
For HDR photography enthusiasts, the best HDR software is one that combines a good interface with advanced controls, and HDR Projects almost hits the nail on the head with its new version. It includes its own technological advancements to make sure your HDR images are as good as, or even better than, what you get with Photomatix. It can handle single files just as well as it handles multiple exposures, comes as a plugin for Lightroom and Photoshop for those of you already invested in Adobe’s programs, and is fairly quick to provide great results. The only reason you may want to skip it over Photomatix Pro is that its interface, while modern and clean-looking, can be too confusing especially if you’re new to HDR photography.
So, there you have it. A list of all the programs that you can use to replace the original famous hdr editor. Image editors across the board have come a long way in recent years, and the world of HDR is no different. If you have ever wondered ‘what is HDR’, you should stop wondering and download any one of the programs in this list and you’ll be surprised to see what you’ve been missing from your photographic skill set. It’s a great way of creating breathtaking images in the most mundane of lighting conditions simply because you have so much more control over your exposure after you’ve taken the shot. So, go out, take photos, and then use something like Aurora HDR to merge them together and create a piece of art with them.