Unified Color: HDR PhotoStudio 2

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HDR photography has opened new ways to capture high dynamic range than ever dreamed of in photography. Although photographers like Dan Burkholder and Bettina and Uwe Steinmueller have incorporated this effect into a strong and purposeful aesthetic, many photographers are using HDR to create the “HDR look” of exaggerated color and contrast boost. While it was unique a year ago, the HDR look is getting overused. Fortunately, a new product called Unified Color HDR PhotoStudio 2 has been released for both the Mac and PC.

Simply stated, this is high dynamic range photography, but without the halos and exaggerated colors. While HDR PhotoStudio 2 can give you all the pizzaz and punch, it also creates a really normal extended range photograph.

In most HDR programs, you merge to 32-bit, then tone map down to 16-bit. In HDR PhotoStudio 2, you stay in 32-bit and then make adjustments with each control independent of the others. Because you stay in 32-bit throughout all of the adjustments, there is very little degradation in the image quality.

A special note is its integration with Photoshop Lightroom. There is a direct transfer of RAW files from Lightroom that aligns and starts the merge automatically in HDR PhotoStudio 2. Not only is HDR PhotoStudio 2 intuitive, it also has tools placed in line for an organized workflow.

The first tool, the Veiling Glare tool, identifies a black point and then you set its darkness amount. Moving to the Brightness and Contrast controls, you set your Brightness and Contrast that will yield the HDR halo effect. However, in the same box, there are tools to remove it. The next control tool in line adjusts Highlights, Shadows and Midtones. There is a tool to set White Balance and another great tool for adjusting individualized color saturation based on the six additive and subtractive primary colors. Last, but not least, is a Noise Elimination tool that offers an automatic Zoom for critical control.

The file is then saved in HDR PhotoStudio 2’s proprietary BEF format. HDR PhotoStudio 2 comes with a BEF plug-in for Photoshop, where the image is finally taken down to 16-bit and further enhanced using all of Adobe’s tools. For more information, go to www.unifiedcolor.com.