What is the best HDR software for Mac

6 HDR software to the test: high dynamics in the twinkling of an eye

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HDR or "High Dynamic Range" combines differently exposed photos into one impressive image. The right software is required for this. We tested six HDR programs.

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HDR photography continues to divide people's minds: While some prefer high-contrast images especially for landscape and architectural photos, others automatically associate artificially exaggerated colors and structures with the high dynamic range. In fact, however, our ways of seeing have evolved - just like the programs that are used to create HDR images today.

HDR software

Thanks to the HDR image, recordings in complicated lighting conditions are eye-catching and still look realistic with the right settings. If used carefully, beautiful backlit shots can be taken with a series of exposures, where dark spots or overexposed halos dominate the individual image. In order for this to work, the right software is required in addition to the best possible exposure series. HDR software superimposes different exposed individual images and creates an overall composition with a high dynamic range. Of course, many image editing programs also offer HDR functions, especially Adobe's top dogs Photoshop and Lightroom. When it comes to the creative design of HDR images, such all-rounders quickly reach their limits. Specialized HDR programs still deliver the best results (and that without the mandatory subscription). In our test, we compare six tools for HDR development.

Beginner-friendly

The good news: All HDR tools in the test field produce at least decent HDR images with the right source material. This even works with little effort: After starting the program and selecting the corresponding exposure series, all tools show an initial result after a few seconds. You then use presets to determine how the finished image should look. If the result is not yet convincing, tonal values, colors and HDR effects can be readjusted in detail. Most programs also offer layer masks to specifically edit image areas. For example, highlights can be reduced or pale blue tones in the sky strengthened. With Aurora HDR 2017 and Franzis HDR Projects 5 professional, two programs in the test field have proven to be particularly versatile and efficient. They not only convince as dedicated software, but thanks to plug-ins they can also be seamlessly integrated into both Lightroom and Photoshop - the latter in particular is a unique selling point of our favorites. Practical: All programs in the test field offer automatic batch processing of exposure series to HDR photos. If you trust the default settings and have properly pre-sorted the auto bracket series, you can save a lot of time.

Trying it out is worth it

All the programs presented offer test versions that are either time-limited or functionally restricted. Since personal preferences ultimately determine the quality of the results in HDR development, we recommend first chasing a few brackets through the trial versions before buying. If you like the results and the way there, nothing stands in the way of the purchase.

Tips for getting the best HDR photos

In order for the tested programs to deliver optimal HDR results, the right preparatory work is of course required. The most important thing is a motif that is as consistent as possible. Ideally, take your bracketing series with a tripod and try to avoid movement in the image. All HDR programs offer functions to reduce so-called "ghosting", but the results are seldom convincing. In this case, it is often the better option to simulate an HDR image from a single photo, which all tested programs can do. You can also achieve the best dynamic range with as many intermediate steps as possible. We recommend taking at least three, but better five pictures with different exposures. You do not necessarily have to expose manually: Most cameras offer an auto-bracketing function that automates series of exposures and usually delivers good results.

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