IT Cooking

Success is just one script away

Top 5 HDR Software in 2024

6 min read

What is the Best HDR Software to create HDR pictures in 2024? If you are a Real Estate photographer, you would simply use Photomatix like any other pro. Instead, dive into the Latest HDR Software Reviews! Captain Cook, your go-to source for HDR expertise, has meticulously reviewed a comprehensive list of HDR software in 2024. Having experimented with numerous programs, here’s a curated list of the 5 best HDR tools currently available. Remember, preferences vary, so test them to find your fit. Among these, Photomatix Pro offers renowned features. EasyHDR remains a timeless favorite for many.

 

💽 Top 5 HDR Software to consider

Here is a list of the best HDR Quality Software I have tested and use myself. Price is not a consideration, this guide is not about Open source software.

1: HDRsoft Photomatix

Used by the pros, results guaranteed. Explore Zillow or Redfin for more examples. One of those software that just get the job done.

PhotomatixPro 7.1.1 main
PhotomatixPro 7.1.1 output screenshot
  • PRO:
    • makes stunning HDR, ready to use online to sell houses
  • CON:
    • Noise reduction is sub-par
    • DNG output is broken and cannot be post-processed, use TIFF instead
  • Lightroom plugin: yes
  • AUTOMATION: yes
  • outputs DNG, TIFF, JPEG, and also HDR, EXR
  • regular releases, current is 7.1.1
  • price: $39, Pro is $99
  • my take:
    • Very old software from the Windows 98 era, outdated UI but don’t get fooled: it’s totally worth its price.
    • Its true power lies in the automation it comes with.
    • Outstanding results, automation, it’s the preferred choice for Real Estate photography.
    • GET THE JOB DONE and make money.
photomatix pro 7 how to featured
Want to know how to use Photomatix?

2: EasyHDR

I love its white balance and the supernatural look it gives to you HDR.

easyHDR 3 Presets
easyHDR 3 Presets selection screenshot
  • PRO:
    • One the few to offer EXR and HDR format
    • White balance (color profiles) is awesome
  • CON:
    • Noise reduction and sharpness are sub-par
  • Lightroom plugin: yes
  • AUTOMATION: no
  • outputs EXR, HDR, TIFF, JPEG
  • regular releases, current is 3.16.1
  • price: $39
  • my take:
    • Produces beautiful HDR, but has lots of intermediary, manual steps.
    • Very promising, I wish it was available on the dark web for more testing.
    • No idea what you would use EXR or HDR file format for.

 

3: Slylum Aurora HDR

Its key features are the ton of filters it offers, and its simplicity. It would be #2 if it wasn’t deprecated in favor of Luminar NEO.

Aurora HDR 2019
Aurora HDR screenshot
  • PRO:
    • Makes stunning HDR
    • Few steps process: load pictures, quickly select options, boom done
  • CON:
    • outputs heavily noisy and large pictures
  • Lightroom plugin: no
  • AUTOMATION: no
  • outputs PSD, TIFF, JPEG
  • no new release since 2019
  • price: not for sale, check the dark web
  • my take:
    • Easy and efficient, top quality, tons of filters available, tons of options.
    • Unfortunately outputs very noisy and fairly large files.

 

4: Machinery HDR Effect

More testing needed, I could not get anything outstanding after meddling with many options. Still better than Lightroom, but impossible to by atm.

Machinery 3.0.86
Machinery 3 main screenshot
  • PRO:
    • Offers lots of filters like Aurora
  • CON:
    • Yet another non automated software
    • Their official website lists examples that clearly look and feel like it some sort of diffusion AI was involved, I smell foul play
  • Lightroom plugin: yes
  • AUTOMATION: no
  • outputs TIFF, JPEG
  • regular releases, current is 3.1.0.2
  • price: not for sale, their website has a bug
  • my take:
    • They showcase HDR examples that smell foul play.
    • Dark web version available is broken, needs more testing.
    • Cannot buy it online, that’s also suspicious.

 

5: Adobe Lightroom Classic

THE picture manager. Besides this title, it also can make HDR. Sort of.

Lightroom 12 Library
Lightroom 12 Library screenshot
  • PRO:
    • easily and quickly makes decent HDR
  • CON:
    • Not a single HDR option available, why did they even include HDR?
    • There are far better quality solutions out there
    • HDR white balance looks wrong
    • LRC is slower and slower with each new release, despite me improving to better CPU. I can’t catch up
    • Prone to crash with large pictures, must be regularly restarted.
  • Lightroom plugin: this is Lightroom, you dummy
  • AUTOMATION: no
  • outputs TIFF, DNG, JPEG
  • yearly releases, I use version 2022
  • price: not for sale, for life subscriptions.
  • my take:
    • A good HDR starter, that you can further improve with Topaz!
    • A software we do not present anymore: Picture manager, edition, retouch, it does everything, and nothing perfectly.
    • More tips & tricks for LRC:

 

👎 Sub-par HDR Software

Darktable

An in-place replacement to Lightroom.

Darktable 4.6.1 darkroom
Darktable 4.6.1 darkroom screensot
  • PRO:
    • freeware
    • Uber complete and complex suite of tools for photo edition and management
    • More powerful than Lightroom, minus the retouching abilities
    • Very good noise reduction
    • Faster than Lightroom, more stable
    • plug-ins!
  • CON:
    • Complex
    • HDR is clearly broken. Tone mapping is wrong, alignment is wrong, and highlight artifacts clearly visible
  • Lightroom plugin: no need
  •  AUTOMATION: yes
  • outputs TIFF, DNG, JPEG
  • quarterly releases, current is 4.6.1
  • price: free
  • my take:
    • 👎 DO NOT use it for HDR generation. Alignment is wrong, it’s broken in its current version 4.6.1
    • A clear competitor to Lightroom, provides more options and incredible UI customization
    • A clear replacement for Lightroom, but I don’t use it anymore

 

🪦 HDR Software Graveyard

Just for posterity, below are some of the abandoned HDR projects I came across. No need to waste your time trying them, I lost mine for you.

AutoHDR

AutoHDR 2.1.8

  • PRO:
    • freeware
    • single executable: 333KB only
  • CON:
    • Cannot open raw files
    • slow AF
    • Results beyond atrocious. Broken to say the least.
    • No rotation detection
  • Lightroom plugin: no
  • AUTOMATION: no
  • outputs TIFF, JPEG
  • abandoned since 2016
  • my take:
    • Clearly a proof of concept, not worth your time.

 

HDRmerge

HDRmerge

  • PRO:
    • freeware
    • Produces raw DNG HDR
    • They say it reduces noise
  • CON:
    • Only produces raw DNG HDR, Tone Mapping must be post-processed by another software like LRC
    • It does NOT reduce noise
  • Lightroom plugin: no
  • AUTOMATION: yes
  • outputs DNG
  • abandoned since 2015
  • my take:
    • It’s broken because the alignement does not work
    • Seemed like a good idea, but not worth your time. Results are atrocious and noisy.

 

Luminance HDR

Luminance HDR 2.6.0

  • PRO:
    • freeware
  • CON:
    • You need a PhD to use it
    • HDR quality is atrocious, maybe I need a PhD
    • Artefacts visible on over-exposed areas
    • Incorrect colorimetry, unusable output
    • Cannot process pictures larger than 2500px, or it will crash
  • Lightroom plugin: no
  • AUTOMATION: yes
  • outputs TIFF, JPEG
  • last release since 2019: 2.6.0
  • my take:
    • This is not photo edition, this is science.
    • Using default settings as they advise, produces complete garbage.
    • Cannot process standard 24M pixels size pictures
    • Not maintained anyway, forget it.

 

🗂️ File extensions considered

Depending on the process, some intermediary files can be generated and should be dealt with. Ordered from purest to crappiest:

  1. .RAW, .NEF: proprietary raw formats coming from your camera
    1. bitness: 12bit, 14bit, depends on camera
  2. .DNG: Adobe proprietary raw format
    1. bitness: 16bit or 32bit
    2. Can embed original raw formats
    3. Only Adobe software can use lossless compression, as it’s proprietary
  3. .TIFF, .TIF: the largest size of them all. Can be used as intermediary file
    1. bitness: 8bit or 16bit
    2. lossless compression: LZW is best
  4. .JPEG: what you upload online
    1. bitness: 8bit
    2. lossless compression: set quality=100

 

🧰 Extra software you may need to handle HDR files:

  • Batch/scripts: the more pictures you process, the more likely they will come handy
  • exiftool: command line tool to extract metadata, tags manipulation
  • exiv2: command line tool to extract embedded JPEG from a raw file
  • IrfanView: free and small, quickly view a picture of any format
  • CameraRaw: Installed with Lightroom, make sure it is up to date
  • AdobeDNGConverter: free converter from Adobe, converts raw files to DNG
  • RawTherape: free editor for raw files, needed by other free software such as HDRmerge or Hugin
  • Topaz Photo AI: improve pictures with diffusion, aka machine learning, aka AI
    • best noise reduction software we know of
    • beware of its sharpening
    • 3rd option: upscale images = doubling or tripling their size. Removes noise at the same time. Works best with raw files.

 

Wraping Up

Photomatix is without a doubt the best HDR software tool ever in 2024, period. Automated, easy, fast, powerful options. No other HDR software is close to compete with Photomatix. The next best thing is EasyHDR, and the 3rd one is Aurora. Unfortunately, Aurora is deprecated (not sold) in favor of Luninar NEO, and nowhere does Skylum indicates if it can do HDR.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Copyright IT Cooking© All rights reserved. | Production by Doctus IT LLC.