High dynamic range from a single photo? That's what excited me about Dynamic Photo HDR.
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983

Original photo.

Photo edited by Dynamic Photo HDR.

Get startling realism with HDR photo software

July 26, 2009

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2009, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2009, The Post-Standard

   Most digital cameras can't capture the full brightness range of a typical scene. The light areas will end up too bright or the dim areas will be too dark. But new software for both Windows and Macs compensates for this failing in a spectacular way.
   Traditionally, the only way to capture the full range of brightness, or luminence, of a scene has been to take two exposures using varying lens openings. As long as they were taken from exactly the same spot with precisely the same focus, these multiple exposures could then be blended into a single photograph.
   This blended photo would show the lightest areas properly (since the bright-area exposure took them into account) and would still show the dim areas without turning them completely dark (since the dim-area exposure captured them properly).
   This is a lot of work, and standard cameras can't use this method for moving objects or action sports scenes.
   What's needed is a way to apply some clever exposure tuning after the fact -- after the picture has been taken. That way, you could turn an ordinary photo into one with a lot of dynamic light-to-dark range.
   And that's just what a $55 program does. The software, Dynamic Photo HDR from www.mediachance.com, has two modes -- a full-bore professional mode that creates an HDR (high dynamic range) photo out of multiple exposures and a semi-pro mode that creates a simulated HDR photo out of a single picture.
   Let's pause right there. The folks who make Dynamic Photo HDR call this second mode "pseudo HDR" for good reason: They want you to know that the true-blue method of making an HDR photo is by blending two or more exposures. And their software does a great job of that, it's true.
   But the "pseudo" mode is so good that you won't care if there's a better way. And, besides, you'll be able to use it on any of the hundreds of badly exposed photos in your collection.
   So that's what excited me about Dynamic Photo HDR. I seem to have a patent on taking poorly exposed pictures -- maybe because I shoot first and ask questions later. I like to get shots quickly, and that often means I'm not paying attention to proper exposure.
   You can see what I mean from the comparison photos. The first version is the original, taken by my wife, Nancy. (She's a shoot-first person, too.) It's a disaster. You can barely tell I'm in the scene, and the mountain in the distance is too faint and wispy. The second version is superb. The sole difference is that the second version was edited with Dynamic Photo HDR. (I used the default settings in the software, and the entire editing process took less than 30 seconds.)
   MediaChance has both Windows and Mac OS X versions of the software, which is now at version 4. Both cost $55, and you can buy them from the Web site. Updates are free.