Lightroom 6 New HDR Process
Last week I posted a photo using Lightroom 6's panorama merge function which worked quite well for me. Today, I am posting a photo using the other big feature of the new release of Lightroom, namely HDR Merge. I picked this photo to process because what better subject to pick than an Urbex shot of an abandoned building? This particular location is Pennhurst Asylum, a very eerie place to visit, with stories of mistreatment during its tenure.
When I first started with processing HDR, I used Photomatix Pro, which is probably the premier HDR editing software. It has been used to create some of the best and worst high dynamic range images over the past five years or so. I think most photographers go through a HDR phase as I did. Over the past few years, I have toned down my use of HDR, and, while I still occasionally use Photomatix, I started creating a 32-bit file in Photoshop and brought it back into Lightroom to edit (no editing was completed in Photoshop) instead. This worked well for me, as the 32 bit file had some very serious depth when using Lightroom's slider. For example, on a regular file, the Exposure Slider might let me change exposure in a +5 to -5 range. With the 32 bit file, the range was +10 to -10.
So what does the new HDR process in Lightroom do? It creates basically a similar file without having to go through Photoshop and does so much quicker than round-tripping the file. The file created by Lightroom is only 16 bit, but Lightroom's sliders still have the expanded range to it. In fact, I could tell little, if any, difference on how the edited the new file. Even better, the 16 bit file is a RAW (DNG) file that is significantly smaller that the 32 bit file created in Photoshop.
Does Lightroom's HDR process replace Photomatix? Depends on what you are trying to create. My more recent use of HDR is to bring out the dynamic range and have it appear natural, so for me, I will primarily use Lightroom. For others who want the more artistic use of HDR, I don't believe that Lightroom has the capabilities to do it well, and Photomatix would be where I would go for that type of result.