Nik Software have long been a favorite of mine with their excellent Lightroom and Photoshop plugins. Way back in 2005 when buying some monitor calibration hardware I received a copy of Color Efex 2 bundled with it and have used it throughout all the generations since. Likewise with Silver Efex Pro which I regularly use when I convert images to black and white. So when they dropped the latest version of their HDR software earlier this week, HDR Efex Pro 2 , I headed over to the site and downloaded the trial to play around. Why the trial? Normally, when a new version of software in my workflow is released I upgrade straight away. However, HDR is not something I use very much at all. Months can easily go by without me opening anything into HDR software. I do often shoot 3 bracketed exposures when I’m working which can be used for HDR, but to really get the best of the technique I believe you need at least 5. In fact, to find images to use in this post I had to go back into my archives to 2006 to find the last time I shot a 5 bracket series specifically for HDR (there are probably ones since then but I can’t recall them).
The first thing that you notice upon opening the images in HDR Efex Pro 2 is the new interface. The screenshot below shows it, giving you some additional options for alignment, ghosting and chromatic aberration. Once you’re happy with it, click on the Create HDR button.
It’ll then assemble your HDR image and open into the main window. As with the original version of the software, the left hand panel holds a series of presets and the right a series of adjustment options. I typically start with a preset that gets me most of the way to what I want and then make a few minor adjustments to taste. As I mentioned above, I rarely do any HDR work and really don’t consider myself any kind of expert on it. To get the most control possible you may want to forego the presets completely and do everything yourself.
The right hand panels hold the various adjustment controls. These have undergone some fairly major changes with a lot more control and options being added. The screenshots below are from Nik HDR Efex Pro (left) and the new version 2 (right). The Selective Adjustments and Finishing Adjustments are the same in both but everything else has changed.
If HDR photography is your thing, then this latest update to HDR Efex Pro should be on your shopping list. At only $49.95 to upgrade or $99.95 for the first time customer, you can’t really go wrong. I’m sure I’ll be handing over my $ soon enough to get the latest version even though I don’t shoot much in the way of HDR. Who knows, maybe this will be the software that convinces me to spend some more time and effort on HDR photography.