Best HDR Software Reviews & Comparison, 2020 Premium to Free

Welcome to the Best HDR Software Review list for Windows PC, MAC and Linux! I will be reviewing all the HDR software out there and separated them into 3 categories- Premium, Mid-Range and Free-Low Range. 

The process of creating a HDR image is called tonemapping which is essentially expanding the dynamic range of a scene. There are a lot of incredible tonemapping apps on the market which can vary a great deal in features and capabilities. I myself am a HDR photographer and over the years I’ve found some wonderful, and whacky, ways to create HDR photographs. It’s a skill that anyone can learn and a great HDR image has the ability to really move the viewer as they are richer and more vibrant when compared to a standard photograph. HDR allows us to show more detail in the shadows and highlights and this makes an image much closer to what we see with our own eyes. Each individual software has it’s own unique strengths, methods and styles… and it is for this reason that I personally use a variety of HDR software.

This list is meant to be a complete library of HDR software, so I’d be happy for you guys to suggest any that I have missed so that we can share them with everyone. I haven’t included smartphone HDR app’s in the list, but perhaps someday I will as they develop better ways of creating them. At the moment they are too gimmicky to be considered true HDR.

I separated the programs into 3 distinct categories:

  • Premium – These guys are the big hitters of the HDR industry and come jam packed with the best features available. If you can afford one of the Premium HDR software then I suggest that you select one of these and get to creating straight away!
  • Mid-range – This range aims to offer you a tonemapping platform with some added stylisation features, but you more than likely need to use it in tandom with a photo styliser.
  • Free – Low – These Free to low priced HDR apps are usually just simple tonemapping apps but they can really spark that love of HDR in you and you may find yourself wanting more… in which case you can look at the Premium HDR apps.

Each HDR software is given a rating in its range and compared to software in that range. E.g. a free or low range HDR software might score 4 stars ★★★★☆ but this is only comparing it to low price ranged HDR software.

For a detailed analysis of each software scroll down where I go into the features and show examples of the HDR software in action and/or HDR images I created with them.

Premium HDR Software – Price Range: US $89 – 149

  1. Macphun Aurora HDR 2019 -★★★★★ (5 stars)
  2. Franzis HDR Project 5 -★★★★★ (5 stars)
  3. Photomatix Pro Plus Bundle  ★★★★☆ (4.5 stars)
  4. Corel Paint Shop PRO Ultimate – ★★★★☆ (4 stars)
  5. HDR Darkroom 3 ★★★★☆ (4 stars)
  6. HDR Expose 3.1 ★★★☆☆ (3 stars)

Mid Range HDR Software- Price Range: US $25 – 89

  1. Easy HDR – ★★★★☆ (4.5 stars)
  2. Oloneo HDR – ★★★★☆ (4 stars)
  3. Franzis Pure HDR ★★★★☆ (4 stars)
  4. Machinery HDR ★★★★☆ (4 stars)
  5. SNS HDR ★★★★☆ (4 stars)
  6. Dynamic Photo HDR ★★★☆☆ (3 stars)
  7. Full Dynamic Range Tool ★★★☆☆ (3 stars)
  8. Fusion HDR ★★★☆☆ (3 stars)
  9. Hydra HDR ★★☆☆☆ (2 stars)

Free – Low Range HDR Software – Price Range: FREE – $11.99/month

  1. HDR Efex PRO ★★★★☆ (4 stars)
  2. Adobe Lightroom ★★★★☆ (4 stars)
  3. Adobe Photoshop ★★★★☆ (4 stars)
  4. Luminance HDR ★★★☆☆ (3 stars)
  5. Fotor HDR ★★☆☆☆ (2 stars)
  6. Picturenaut – Review to Come
  7. Canon DPP – Review to Come
  8. Simply Contrast – Review to Come


Each companies HDR program uses a different algorithm to tonemap your bracket of exposures, so for this reason it is impossible to  produce the same results in each program. So what I felt was a better scenario in this HDR software list comparison was to try and produce the best HDR tonemapped image I could with each app. By using a variety of images I am able to show you the scope of what is possible in modern HDR photography techniques.

All the images I used are shot from all over the globe and the bulk of them were done using the Nikon D800 and Sony A7r combined with the Nikkor 14-24mm, a stunning landscape lens.

The brackets used were either 3 exposure brackets (-2EV, 0 and +2EV) or 5 exposure brackets (-2EV, -1EV, 0, +1EV, +2EV). The dynamic range of the Sony A7r and most modern cameras are so good that we often only need to use the 3 exposures.


For the better part of a decade HDR software have been considered as a starting point in your workflow and then you take the image into another plugin software to finish off the look you want. I like to take my tonemapped images into either Lightroom or Photoshop and then launch my favourite stylisation plugins to create the look that I’m after with presets or customise the image myself. The very latest premium HDR apps like Aurora HDR are getting to the point where it’s a one stop process and you don’t need anything else. But if you are like me you like to tinker on the image to get it to look just the way you want. Here are list of some great photo editors for you to use on your HDR tonemapped image, including the best Complete photo software bundles/packages & Individual Plug-In & Standalone Apps


These premium HDR software apps come packed with features and they are ranked in order beginning with the best. A premium HDR app should come with a variety of tonemapping methods, lots of preset scenarios, a deghosting method and finishing touches to stylise your image. The best of the best are complete packages that don’t require any extra software to finish the image but each of them has their positives and negatives as no one HDR app is the complete package. They all have their own individual looks so I suggest doing a trial of the ones that you are seriously considering and probably do a trial of a couple of the Premium HDR apps to see what you get for your money. I personally use Aurora HDR, Photomatix and Lightroom HDR and depending on the look I’m after I vary my techniques. After creating this list and using each software there are quite a few I’d like to add to my HDR software arsenal.

Premium HDR Software – Price Range: US $89 – 149

  1. Macphun Aurora HDR 2018 -★★★★★ (5 stars)
  2. Franzis HDR Project 5 -★★★★★ (5 stars)
  3. Photomatix Pro Plus Bundle – ★★★★☆ (4.5 stars)
  4. Corel Paint Shop PRO Ultimate – ★★★★☆ (4 stars)
  5. HDR Darkroom 3 ★★★★☆ (4 stars)
  6. HDR Expose 3.1 ★★★☆☆ (3 stars)

#1 Aurora HDR 2019

OS: Windows & MAC Versions!

Rating: ★★★★★ – 5 stars

Price: $US 99.00

Discount Coupon Code: Use the code “lukezeme” to get 15% off!!!

Out now on Windows and MAC PC! Finally Windows users can use the #1 HDR photo editor on the market.

I may be a little biased towards this one as I am a official Skylum Aurora HDR Master, but I think you will find Aurora HDR 2019 is one of the easiest and most polished HDR program to use. The software was co-created by world famous HDR photographer Trey Ratcliff and the result is something built for photographers by photographers. What else makes it great is the way it offers something for everyone from beginners to the most advanced HDR photographers. The 100 or so beautiful inbuilt HDR presets allow new users to create a stunning image at the click of a button which is a very rewarding feeling. The presets in Aurora HDR 2018 are as easy to use as in instagram… just scan through the many choices and click on the one you like! As you become more comfortable with the app you will find that you can dive much deeper where you can find features like luminosity masks, layers, brushes, histograms, create custom presets… and a whole lot more! You will find plenty of tutorials on Skylum’s website to take you on the journey of creating amazing HDR!

If you are still not sold on how amazing Aurora HDR is check out my official Aurora HDR Masters page. All these images were created using Aurora HDR. I also offer a FREE complete Aurora HDR Tutorial on this page where I go through the steps on how to use Aurora HDR 2019 😉 You can even get a 1 month FREE Trial for Aurora, so why not give it a try!

*Don’t forget to use the discount code lukezeme to get 15% off your Aurora HDR 2019 Purchase

Aurora HDR 2019 in Action! Checkout all the amazing presets in the toolbar at the bottom you can scroll through.


#2 Franzis HDR Projects 5 

OS: MAC & Windows PC

Rating: ★★★★★ – 5 stars

Price: Standard $149 & Pro $289

Link: Franzis HDR Projects 5 Standard

Discount:  Get a 25% Discount on HDR Projects 5 Professional by clicking this link!

This is the most featured packed and advanced HDR software for Windows PC users, but is also available for MAC users 😉 The Pro version comes with a Pro price tag, but most users will not need those 3 extra added features. So I’d suggest looking at the Standard version of HDR Projects 5. Using HDR Projects 5 to create HDR images is a very rewarding experience because the results are ultra-realistic, just look at the example image of me using the software below. There are loads of presets, 155 built-in (you can purchase extra packs of presets), to choose from and once you decide on one you can really fine tune it with many tools to optimise your image. It’s these finalisation tools which help in creating the most ultra-realistic HDR image possible. The professional options include 4k resolution, the ability to bracket images with up to 55 single images, over 900 camera RAW formats supported and a smart noise reduction tool that even removes dead pixels.

The User Interface of HDR Projects 5! and an image of mine from Sydney’s northern beaches 🙂


#3 HDR Photomatix Pro Plus Bundle

OS: MAC, Windows PC & Linux

Rating:★★★★☆ – 4.5 stars

Price: US$ 159

Discount Coupon Code: 15% offLukeZemePhotography

Hot off the press is HDRsoft’s latest version of their HDR tonemapping software Photomatix PRO 6, adding even more features to the PRO HDR software. Combining all the plugins into the Pro Plus Bundle is a smart buy and I recommend you to choose that one. I have been using this software for 6 years now and have learnt it’s strengths very well. It is very good at what it does, tonemapping your bracketed images into HDR photos. I really like a feature added in the latest release which allows you to pick one of your original photos and blend it into your HDR image at a chosen opacity. If you combine this with the new HDR rendering method called Tone Balancer you can achieve that realistic look you’re after. You can also use the new interactive brush in Photomatix to adjust color to selective areas, remove color casts, enhance skies, adjust saturation, hue, and the brightness of individual colors. Photomatix is one of the best HDR tonemapping software available, but most premium HDR software these days are offering their users a more modern user interface and lots of stylisation methods including layers and masking. Don’t let this hold you back from giving Photomatix a go because if you are wanting to create realistic HDR than this is definitely worth the purchase. I have owned photomatix since it’s very early editions and still enjoy throwing in some brackets of images to see what I can create. To create the best HDR you should combine this with a plugin software- See my list of suggestions here. 

If you aren’t convinced about the software you can check it out and do a trial, and if you love it you can use my coupon code to get a 15% discount– lukezemephotography

Using the NEW Features in HDR Photomatix PRO 6!



#4 PaintShop PRO X9 Ultimate

OS: Windows PC Only

Rating:★★★★☆ – (4 stars)

Price: $129

PaintShop PRO X9 Ultimate is a COMPLETE photo editing package which is a bit like having a combination of Photoshop, Lightroom and other stylisation plugin apps all in the one software suite. So to rate and review the HDR component of Paintshop is hard to evaluate without taking into consideration the rest of the features of Paintshop. The HDR feature alone is good but when you combine with all the features of Paintshop you start to be able to create a really nice HDR image. Some of these extra features I am talking about are Photo Effects, Stylus and tablet support! (very cool), compatible with NIK collection (a free set of photo editing plugins from google, I own these and use them often), lens correction, layers, 4k monitor support, graduated filters, Photo Map using GPS, social media sharing, retro looks, selective focus and the list goes on. So as you can see it’s hard to just give a review on the HDR tonemapping section of PaintShop when you can do so many other things with the HDR image after coming out of the HDR feature.

I really think that beginners can pick up the software and start editing photos straight away because all the tools are clearly labelled and there are tonnes of Video Tutorials online! Paintshop PRO Ultimate also has enough depth and pro features that you could be using this for years to come as you learn and develop your style. This one is definitely worth checking out guys!

Here is the HDR features in Corel PaintShop PRO X9 Ultimate in action!



HDR Darkroom 3 by Everimaging

OS: MAC & Windows PC

Rating: ★★★★☆ – 4 stars

Price: US $39.00 – $89.00

HDR Darkroom 3 offers a variety of styles to create tonemapped HDR images and there are a ghost reduction and image alignment features. It’s another easy to use program that is a simple as loading up your images and clicking on a thumbnail to indicate how you want the images to be treated. After you’ve chosen a style from the options (examples include Classic, Structured, Surreal, Vibrant, Intense, Soft, Sandblast, groovy… and more!) a new set of advanced tools appears. These allow you to fine tune the tonemapping and you can customise each of your images. As with some of the other HDR programs its best to use this software in tandem with some of your favourite stylisation software. Everimaging has their own program for this called Photo Effects Studio PRO, which offers nearly 100 different effects to apply to your HDR tonemapped image. Try Everimaging Photo Effects Studio PRO here

Using HDR Darkroom 3 below with 2 different sets of HDR brackets.



HDR Expose 3

OS: MAC and Windows PC

Rating: ★★★☆☆ – (3 stars)

Price: $119

HDR Expose comes with a premium price tag and so you’d expect it to come with a lot of features. It comes with a deghosting function but I found that it wasn’t as smooth to use as the Aurora or Photomatix versions of deghosting which is important for HDR tonemapping because you are usually going to have objects moving through your frames… even if it’s clouds or water. Pinnacle Imaging Systems has a decent amount of tutorial videos on their website on how to use HDR Expose which is definitely a positive for the software and the fact that it is now on its 3rd generation of the software shows a healthy interest in the program. The limited presets are aimed at producing natural looking HDR images with just the one creative preset. I feel like there could have been a lot more presets available like in other software where you might get nearly 100 HDR presets. I was sitting on the fence on HDR Expose on whether I would add it to my Photographic arsenal, but they offer a FREE Trial so it’s worth trying it out and deciding for yourself. Some of the pro features include Pano Prep Batch Merge & Processing.

Using HDR Expose 3



Mid range photo HDR software are generally lower in price tag and often just provide a good way to tonemap your HDR brackets. Each of them has been used by me personally to discover their features and how useful they are for creating HDR photographs. I’ve rated them all and talked a little bit about each software below.

Mid Range HDR Software- Price Range: US $25 – 89

  1. Easy HDR – ★★★★☆ (4.5 stars)
  2. Oloneo HDR – ★★★★☆ (4 stars)
  3. Franzis Pure HDR ★★★★☆ (4 stars)
  4. Machinery HDR ★★★★☆ (4 stars)
  5. SNS HDR ★★★★☆ (4 stars)
  6. Dynamic Photo HDR ★★★☆☆ (3 stars)
  7. Full Dynamic Range Tool ★★★☆☆ (3 stars)
  8. Fusion HDR ★★★☆☆ (3 stars)
  9. Hydra HDR ★★☆☆☆ (2 stars)



Rating: ★★★★☆ – (4.5 stars)

Price: €35.00 – €55.00

EasyHDR produces quite good results and is a dedicated HDR software for both Windows PC and MAC. I’d say it’s most appealing attribute is that you can make high quality realistic HDR images with it… and isn’t this the goal of most HDR work? The 25 presets that come with the most recent version of the program offer a variety of situations such as interiors, night time, dramatic and natural looks. They offer 2 prices for the software and ask you to select the one that suits your intentions, either home (personal) or Commercial use. Both versions of the software are exactly the same so the bulk of customers will only need the HOME version. It’s very well priced for a tonemapping program and is definitely worth a look if thats what you’re after. To create really stunning images I suggest you partner this program with a plugin app to stylise your images please see my suggestions at the top of the page.

Using EasyHDR 3 Home Edition on a bracket of my own HDR images from Cradle Mountain in Tasmania Australia. This was shot on a Nikon D800 + nikkor 14-24mm. I think this example shows the realistic result you can get with landscape shots.


Oloneo HDR Engine 

OS: PC Only

Rating: ★★★★☆ – (4 stars)

Price: $59.00

Oloneo HDR Engine has been around for a long time now and it’s great tonemapping software. The positives of the program are that it’s easy to use and that the results can turn out realistic. The Engine has an auto-tone slider option which is as simple as sliding it back and forth to get the desired strength HDR. If you are after more control you can use the Local Tone Mapper which lets you control elements of the exposure and contrast too. The best way to use this software is to use a photo stylisation program after to add things like glow and vignette. I have some of my favourite HDR stylisation plugin/standalone programs here. List of Plugin Programs to use with OloneoYou can try out a demo of the software and decide if it’s for you with the button below.

Using Oloneo HDR Engine. In the Final result I used On1 Perfect Effects to add a bit of the my own personal style to it.



OS: MAC & Windows PC

Rating: ★★★★☆ – 4 stars

Price: On Sale $29.95  MRSP -US $49.95

Pure HDR by Franzis is kind of like the core engine of HDR Projects 5 without all the added bells and whistles. I’ve rated it so highly because it is on sale for $29.95 down from $49.95 and if you are just after a good tonemapping software then $30 is a pretty good price. They offer a trial to use Pure so I suggest you download it from the link provided and see if it’s what you are after. Keep in mind though that it won’t have the 155 presets from HDR Projects 5 and the custom tuning is very limited as well. To best find out the differences for yourself you should get a trial of Pure HDR and also get a trial of HDR Projects 5.

Using Pure HDR user interface


OS: Windows PC Only

Rating:★★★★☆ – (4 stars)

Price: €30 – €85

SNS HDR was surprisingly good for creating realistic HDR and seems to be aimed at people who want quick HDR images created perhaps for real estate or other online purposes. SNS was simple enough to use, just load up your images into the program and select one of the main presets on the right. There are about 6 of these presets and they act as starting points and then you can fine tune the settings with sliders on the right. SNS comes with a fairly reasonable price tag and it’s great for those quick HDR creations, in the example below I did this in a couple of minutes. The software lacks any kind of stylisation to the image like glow, specialised contrast, vignette, heal… but I would combine this software with On1 Perfect Effects, and get the Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop Photography Plan. It has a similar pricing structure to Easy HDR where if you are using the software commercially they ask that you purchase the Professional and if you are using it for personal, purchase the non-commercial license.

Here is the user interface of SNS HDR and me using it with a bracket of my images shot on a Nikon D800 + Nikkor 14-24mm in Japan. This glass museum appears to float on water off the coast of Osaka and to get inside you travel in a tunnel underwater that begins on the mainland. Very very cool!!!


Dynamic Photo HDR

OS: MAC and Windows PC

Rating: ★★★☆☆ – 3 stars

Price: US $65

I found it hard to enjoy Dynamic Photo HDR because it comes with a premium price tag but it doesn’t quite stand up to the competition in this range. Whilst it comes with a lot features like ghost removal and tonemapping presets they were often clunky to use. Also the user interface is very dated and probably takes away from the software overall. The HDR tonemapping itself is very overcooked and I had to fight very hard with this software to get a natural looking image. I was using 36MP files in it from a Sony A7r and it crashed when I tried to save my result as a TIFF. This was very disappointing because I had spent 10-15 minutes going through all of its features to create a nice image. I also found that the ghost reduction feature wasn’t up to scratch with other software. There was an effects feature to finalise the image at the end which was nice, but this was an intuitive process. You can layer your effects and there were many to choose from which was a positive. The other issue I had was that there is not a lot of tutorials out there on this software. I searched youtube and watched a few of those but they were really awful tutorials that didn’t explain anything. Media Chance offers up some tutorials on the website but they are fairly shallow in their explanations of the software. I gave it 3 stars because it had potential but with the premium price tag it is up against some heavy hitting HDR apps.

Using the Dynamic Photo HDR software, in the final tab- Effects


Machinery HDR

OS:  Windows PC Only

Rating: ★★★★☆ – 4 stars

Price: US $39

Actually Machinery HDR was a pleasant surprise for its price! I As you can see from the image below the results are realistic, bright and vibrant. I found that I was able to play around with the software and it was easy for new users to figure out what to do. What I liked most about the software was that it had filters to stylise the image at the end of your tonemapping like vignette, sharpening and even add your own watermark. This product also can be used through an Adobe Lightroom Plugin, so it would be great to launch your HDR bracket of images from Lightroom > Create your HDR image in Machinery HDR > then import back into Lightroom. You could then also do a lot of finishing touches in Photoshop and Lightroom if you had a subscription to the Adobe Photography Plan. This one is definitely worth giving a trial and then deciding after if you want to purchase, but for a mid-range HDR software it does offer a nice easy to use software.

Using Machinery HDR, this was a pretty good HDR software to use actually. Smooth controls and lots of options!


Full Dynamic Range Tools

OS: MAC & Windows PC

Rating: ★★★☆☆ – 3 stars

Price: 39 €

Full Dynamic Range Tools is a fairly basic HDR software but new users might find it difficult to navigate. There is a fairly limited amount of functionality and there aren’t any extra photo editing tools as found in similar products. FDR Tools is available in 2 versions, basic and advanced. The software has a ghost removal function built into the program and there are ways to fix your ghost issues manually by changing the blending points. I think it would take a bit of playing around to fix ghosting in your HDR images with FDRTools so if you are going to be shooting a lot of HDR with moving objects I would suggest a trial before you buy this one. As you can see from the screenshots below the user interface is pretty dated when compared to other software. You can produce fairly realistic tonemapped images with this software so it’s worth a look if you are on a budget.

FDRTools user interface


Fusion HDR

OS: Windows PC Only

Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3 stars)

Price: US $25

I actually found Fusion HDR not a bad little tonemapping software for the price. The workflow is very similar to other HDR software where you input your bracket photos > align them > do ghost reduction > then edit your photo using a series of sliders. There are about 15 or so sliders that help you to develop the look you want with about 5 presets to get you started. I found it wasn’t too hard to create a realistic result but it was very easy to overcook the image. There are some nice features within the sliders to do with shadows and contrast that enhanced the results nicely. In terms of comparing it to other software in this range it stands up quite well in terms of tonemapping. But it can’t hold its own in terms of preset options and other things like colour correction, stylisation or any finishing touches. The User Interface is quite dated compared to more recently made hdr software as well.

They do offer a free trial, so if you are considering this one it’s worth following the link and downloading and installing the program (which is what I did!). As you can see you get access to the program but when you save your result there will be a watermark on the image.

Fusion HDR user interface and the final result. Obviously I would take the result into Photoshop and other stylisation programs to correct a few issues with the image like cropping, horizon, saturations, colours and anything else that needs fixing.


Hydra HDR 

OS: MAC Only

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ (2.5 stars)

Price: AUS $59

Hydra can be purchased in the apple itunes store and it comes with a pretty hefty price tag for it’s features. The software is easy to use though and can produce some good quality HDR tonemapped images. What I found disappointing in the app was there was only a few presets but I find it best to just start with either the photorealistic preset or no effect preset and then make my adjustments. You can get some nice clean results this way even though there are only limited adjustments available. Whilst it does have image alignment and ghost removal the ghost removal struggles at times. I wasn’t overly impressed with Hydra as you can tell from the 2.5 star rating, but they do offer a free trial so if you guys would like to see for yourself you can download a trial using the button below.

Hydra HDR being used below with an Nikon D800 HDR bracket of images of mine from Sydneys coastline.



These are either free or very low priced HDR software. They often don’t come with the bells and whistles of the premium HDR programs and usually just offer simplistic ways of creating HDR images. You could start out with one of these to see if you like HDR or if you are on a budget and just want to create HDR photo’s for fun then some of these might interest you.

They are rated in comparison to the free-low ranged hdr software, it wouldn’t be fair to compare them to premium HDR app’s. 

Free – Low Range HDR Software – Price Range: FREE – $11.99/month

  1. HDR Efex PRO ★★★★☆ (4 stars)
  2. Adobe Lightroom ★★★★☆ (4 stars)
  3. Adobe Photoshop ★★★★☆ (4 stars)
  4. Luminance HDR ★★★☆☆ (3 stars)
  5. Fotor HDR ★★☆☆☆ (2 stars)
  6. Picturenaut – Review to Come
  7. Canon DPP – Review to Come
  8. Simply Contrast – Review to Come


OS: Windows PC & MAC

Rating: ★★★★☆ (4 stars)

Price: FREE

HDR Efex PRO was initially created about 5 years ago by NIK and I personally purchased the complete collection of plugin software from NIK back then. I still to this day use the collection in editing my photos as they are great plugins! My favourite has to be the stylisation plugin Color Efex PRO as it just has filters that I love the look of. A year or so ago Google bought NIK outright and straight away offered the NIK collection for free. They also rebranded the product the Google Collection. Whilst this was great for photographers who didn’t already own the collection, I believe I paid $149, they could now download it for free! So this had everyone in a state of dismay, what was happening to their favourite photography editing plugin suite? Well to answer that, absolutely nothing! There will be  and were no more updates or changes to the collection and it will eventually become incompatible with Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom. If you are looking for a complete set of Photo editing plugins for PS and LR then I suggest you purchase either On1 Photo RAW or Topaz Collection because they provide constant support and updates. I own both and I always find myself reaching for one of their plugins.

Now back to HDR Efex PRO. If you don’t have it, what are you waiting for? Download it now! It’s free! I personally have used it over the years and from my experience I’ve found that it works best if you use it conjunction with the other products in the collection. There are some great tutorials out there for using NIK collection software from back when it was a supported and updated product. Just be warned that some day on the horizon if you are using the latest Adobe Photoshop, which you should be haha, that the Google Collection won’t work in Photoshop anymore… Where ever all those wonderful programmers at NIK went to I am sure they are still creating fantastic software.

Loading up images into HDR Efex PRO is a fairly simple process if you are familiar with other HDR programs. It makes the import of images easy with your options being set out into segmented clickable features.


Inside the software you will find around 25 presets and these are all adjustable in the settings on the right.


Lightroom CC 

OS: Windows PC & MAC

Rating: ★★★★☆ (4 stars)

Price: US $9.99/mo

The Lightroom HDR feature is fairly simplistic, in fact it pretty much only requires you to make one or 2 selections. But the beauty of it is that you get very realistic results and you can then take that result into the develop module of Lightroom and create a really great HDR image. I’ve give the rating of 4 stars because the HDR feature is the whole package of Lightroom and the HDR feature included in it. When it first was released the purist HDR photographers were not impressed with the feature, but Adobe believed that the true value of the editing process was in their Develop module. I personally own a subscription to the Adobe Photography Plan, which is US $9.99/month and you get access to both Lightroom and Photoshop. You get free updates to the very latest version and it’s a lot more affordable compared to what Adobe Suite you used to cost you outright.

Adobe has a 1 month FREE trial for Lightroom if you want to give the HDR feature in Lightroom a try.

The simplistic interface of Adobe Lightroom HDR merge function. The Auto Tone is a nice little feature and your other choices are how much Deghosting to do.


Below is an image I edited using the above HDR feature in Lightroom and then edited in the Adobe Lightroom Develop Module, which is just the main area to edit photos in Lightroom. As you can see the result is VERY realistic and it only took a few minutes to create… hence why I keep coming back to Lightroom to create HDR images.


Photoshop CC 

OS: Windows PC & MAC

Rating: ★★★★☆ (4 stars)

Price: US $9.99/mo

Adobe Photoshop CC offers up a feature within it called HDR PRO. It has limited features, but more than the Lightroom HDR feature, but offers you the power of Photoshop at your fingertips to develop your image further. Photoshop can be a little more advanced than Lightroom for new users so it depends on your level of experience. If you get the Adobe Photography Plan though you can actually use both Lightroom and Photoshop. A lot of people like the choice to develop in either 32, 16 or 8-bit images but I usually just develop in 16-bit as this is more information than I need for monitors and prints.

So I gave Photoshop 4 stars because it comes with Photoshop! If it was just the HDR PRO feature alone then I would give it a much lower score of 2stars. But since you can use all the features of Photoshop after you’ve created the HDR image then it means with a little work you can create a pretty nice image.

If you are new to the Adobe programs then I would suggest starting with Lightroom as it is a lot easier to learn, and then later on add Photoshop skills into the mix and you will be a PRO HDR photographer in no time!

I suggest the Adobe Photography Plan- There is a 1 month free trial- it includes Photoshop and Lightroom CC for US $9.99/mo. 

Photoshop PRO also has a simplistic interface when compared to the premium HDR software apps. But what they don’t have is Photoshop’s pro photo editing features. I personal edit HDR photos in many of these apps and it depends on the type of image I am trying to create. Using Photoshop to create an HDR image is a little bit like manual and automatic cars, where Photoshop is a manual car. Photoshop can do amazing things! but it will take time for you to learn how to use them. I’ve been using it a long time so I know a little more than the average joe about it, but it is a software that anyone can create great images with. If you are committed to it, then there are a lot of great tutorials online or you can watch a few free ones on youtube!


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