I shoot my beach calligraphy into the sun a lot. In fact the sun is hard to avoid when you’re using a Nikkor 14-24mm lens, so when I saw HDR Effex come on sale I got my hopes up but I have to say, after trying it for a few days, I’m disappointed. I’m going to give my reasons and hopefully someone can explain to me how I’m just not using it right because I really do need a decent HDR solution and I’m not willing to commit to Adobe’s monthly USD with my pathetic ZARs.
My immediate impression was bad because all the preset modes are way too garish for my taste. I couldn’t help wondering if it shouldn’t it be called HDR Effex Extreme? Nonetheless, I figured I could try using them as starting points and just tone them down. It was hard work and the results … frankly, I’m not a professional photographer, but I fount the results unacceptable.
The first image was the best I could do on this two-exposure image using the Effex Pro default as a starting point. I had to fiddle endlessly to get it to this.
The second image shows the lower exposure of the two and the third image is the result I got my old way of working directly with it in Photolab. There’s a lot of tweaking involved but the result is way better.
The app’s controls were frustrating in places:
• The fringing is awful on hand-held shot. It looks like a failure to align the shots (see my last image) and there is no way to tweak the alignment manually.
• It is impossible to tell ordinarily where the upper and lower blend is happening. My solution is to whack the lower tonality down 3 stops so you can see where it is, position it and then continue with trying to get a natural-looking image.
•It is impossible to delete a node you’ve added to the levels and curves (this can happen by accident if you miss-click one). You have to reverse out with Ctrl-Z or revert to scratch by switching between presets and then back to neutral.
• Zooming in and out is frustrating because HDR Effex talks a different language to PhotoLab. I keep trying to zoom using my mouse wheel (a feature I love in PhotoLab) and then have to revert to the crude zoom thing top right.
• The selection control points are simple circular, gradated masks, nothing like the nice, colour and brightness -selective ones I had in Capture NX2. With NX2, if you placed a control point on a highlight, it would give you selective control over the highlights in that region. This just bluntly affects the whole region. However, you can counter that by placing a neutral control point on a nearby shadow if the opportunity arises.