The last two weeks brought articles about correcting lightness differences in landscape pictures. Photomatix Pro is able to merge multiple photos of the same theme but of different lightness to smuggle back more details into overly light or dark areas. Last time we became acquainted with the more important methods of the application, so today we'll discuss the refining of the processed photo.
The features that help you finalize your pictures can be found under Photomatix's Tools menu. The first one, called by the cryptic name of 48-bit Compression, is a bit of an exception. Essentially, it is another dynamics increasing tool in the line, similar to those we introduced in the previous articles. It is only available when processing 16-bit TIFF images. Its dialog presents an extremely simple view—a scrollable preview image area and a slider named Brightness Shadows. The latter does exactly what its name suggests: it lightens shadowed, dark areas. It can be used to conjure a few details to shadowed picture parts, but you should be careful as using too high values will make the picture look as flat and dull as the sheet of paper upon which you'd print it.
The Crop feature will be obvious to all who have seen a photo editor of any kind. You can cut out a part of a larger picture and discard the edges. You need to press and hold Ctrl while drawing a rectangular selection marquee by dragging. The box selects the area the Crop command will preserve.
Resize is a similarly simple tool for resizing the whole image. The dialog lets you specify Width and Height in pixels. Keep Aspect Ratio fixes the original ratio of image dimensions.
Rotate is yet another basic editing tool. You can use it to rotate the picture in steps of 90 degrees. A submenu offers the direction choices of Clockwise and Counterclockwise.
Sharpen won't give you a headache either. It carries out a fully automated sharpening action, that's all. Unfortunately you won't have any means of precise settings, the application always uses the same values. You can repeat the command for additional sharpening. As the illustration shows, this produces rather hard edges and a so-called halo along them. It is a pity, really. Sharpening is definitely a feature that needs options for fine tuning.
original / sharpen 1x / sharpen 2x
Brightness & Contrast, on the other hand, works quite as expected. The dialog contains two sliders, surprisingly called Brightness and Contrast. Do you need anything more?
Advanced Align might ring a bell if you have read our previous articles about Photomatix Pro. The Align feature played an important role when fitting the pictures onto each other precisely. If you took the pictures without a tripod, even a quick series can contain a small shifting due to a minimal shake of your hands. Align tends to the precise fitting of such images. Advanced Align is a similar feature, but the options for the alignment can be specified in advance. If you don't wholly trust the automatic fitting, use it before aligning the pictures. It also includes an automatic option with two choices. "Translation only..." cares for vertical and horizontal shifting, while "Translation AND Rotation" can also correct unintended rotation.
The Semi-automatic option lets you specify a couple of reference points on both images for the application to use when aligning.
The last item in the Tools menu is at least as cryptic as the first one was. Unwrap Mirror Ball is made for the lovers of panorama photos, and in fact for a very narrow segment of them. The feature "stretches" distorted panorama photos taken with mirror balls into a normal state. If you apply it to a usual photo, you'll get a strongly stretched picture. Not bad for a weird effect!
The photo editing features of Photomatix Pro are not very versatile, but really, it was not made for such a purpose. Its lightness adjustment tools and the possibilities they offer, on the other hand, are bedazzlingly close to unlimited. Well, we hope that after reading these articles, you'll find them less bedazzling and more like good old acquaintances.
(Trial version of the software can be downloaded from www.hdrsoft.com.)