HDR Darkroom 2 Review
Mac users, we're pleased to announce Macphun's all-in-one photo editor Luminar is now available for purchase with special launch pricing. (Existing Macphun customers get a further discount.)
We rated Luminar as "Highly Recommended", and you can now visit the Luminar web site to try it for free.
HDR Darkroom 2 by Everimaging is an easy to use HDR platform. The program comes in two versions: Standard and Pro. Features include self alignment, ghost reduction, real time processing, batch processing and a Raw file converter. In this review we'll be seeing what the Standard version of HDR Darkroom 2 has to offer and if it can make our pictures even better than they already are.
Installation and Use
Installation of HDR Darkroom 2 is done from the Everimaging website and you have to simply choose the version you wish to try. It's currently available on a free trial and if you decide to purchase it after that, you can input the licence key from there. If you've bought it and don't need a licence key, you still download from the free trial link and you get the option to input the code at the start.
We have an ultra slow half meg broadband signal at our base in the sticks. With this, the program took a while to download; around 20 minutes. The file is just under 15Mb. We downloaded around midnight GMT. However, once the program was on the computer, it took a matter of minutes to install and launch. At first, you get to choose whether you want to use a free trial, input a licence key or upgrade.
The main window of HDR Darkroom 2 looks similar in layout to a simplified Photoshop. None of the icons are the same. They're actually quick links to most used tools. But it uses an 18% grey background with a large main window in the centre and tools either side. There are only four drop down tabs at the top of the window: File, Processing, Batch and Help. The File tab is surprisingly sparse with only two options to open a file, two to save and close. The quick links are also noted alongside the options.
To start a new project, select Create HDR from the drop down tab, press Ctrl + H or click the icon on the left that says HDR. A small window pops up to load pictures into the system. You can browse your computer's folders but the option to drag and drop isn't possible unfortunately. The images will load into the box as text showing the file path and before clicking ok, you should decide whether to implement the Alignment and Ghost Reduction radio buttons. Alignment is pre-set but it can be undone if you're confident of your tripod skills. Ghost reduction is useful with clouds or other moving objects such as flags and people. It will eliminate ghost areas so that they look solid.
Loading images into HDR Darkroom 2 takes a few seconds for the system to check, align and deghost them if you chose both options. After that, your picture is done. You can now move over to the right side of the screen and make it look utterly perfect. There are two types of HDR that people like. One of them is a natural looking image with a higher dynamic range than if it was just one image. This is the type of HDR merge that Adobe introduced into Photoshop when they released CS4. The other is a more “cartoonish” look that can be obviously seen as a HDR manipulated image. It's all down to the Tone Mapping and neither is a bad way of doing it, it really is your own tastes. Loading the merged image into the program and it looks as though they've tried to balance the two although it may just be our example image.
To the right are the tools to improve the image if you think it needs it. The Tone Mapping tab has three options: Tone Balancer, Tone Enhancer and Tone Compressor. Either of the two sliders below the three Tone Mapping options will take a few moments to load because the program has to remap the image. Under the Tone Mapping tab is a Basic Adjustements tab with sliders for Brightness, Contrast, Saturation, White and Black. The last two are particularly interesting because they manipulate the white or black in the images. This gives you complete freedom over contrast. More so than the Contrast slider. The great thing about the Basic Adjustment tab is that manipulation is practically instant. The Colour Adjustment tab has the white-balance slider if yours is off slightly as well as four colour tint sliders. The top one makes a general change while the three below are for individual primary colours. The Noise Reduction tab is one simple slider to reduce digital noise in a picture.
There's a few simple editing tools in the Processing tab at the top of the page such as Crop and Rotate. There's also the option of zooming in to a 1:1 ratio. However, these are also available at the bottom of the main window, so much more easily available. A Batch processor is available. Clicking on Batch, a small window appears. Select the folder you'd like images to come from and a folder you'd like them to go to (selecting the same folder will end up having the originals written over). You can then decide whether you'd like the images to be saved as JPEG or to retain their original format (if they're Raw, for example). You can even save them as a .hdr file. The great thing is that you can choose the number of images in the HDR process so if you choose one and have a folder full of Raw images, you can Batch process them to JPEG. Simply switch Alignment and Deghosting off. Choose a Tone Mapper that isn't going to change the colours of the image much such as Tone Compressor. Batch processing can also be started by choosing the tile to the left of the main window.
Once your HDR image has been adjusted and manipulated to perfection, you can save it. There's the typical Save and Save As options as well as a Share button. This allows you to upload your pictures to Flickr, Facebook and/or Twitter. However, we strongly recommend not ONLY using this option as the images will be heavily compressed for use on the websites.