Review: HDRtist – excellent software at great price, free!


My brother and Tony have been talking up HDR, the process by which one can achieve “High Dynamic Range” images that compensate for lighting difficulties and differences. A search of flickr for “hdr” reveals some pretty dramatic results. There are lots of software solutions out there (including Photoshop) but me, I’m cheap. So I was thrilled to find HDRtist, a free solution for the Mac. It is simple, elegant, and produces some stunning images. You can see one of my more serious attempts from my recent trip to Finland here and at right. These rocks were shot with my Sony alpha and I intentionally bracketed with three separate shots. I used the extreme setting in HDRtist to show how far you can take the HDR effect in HDRtist.

Below is an example of what it can do with some fairly mediocre images. These two images were taken with my iPhone 3GS and nothing but my big ‘ol body to stabilize the camera. You can see how in the first screen shot the images are slightly off. HDRtist aligns the images (this takes a few minutes and in my case required cropping out the non-overlapping bits). Then you simply use the slider below to get the level of effect you are looking for. The result here is not great because the starting images were not very good. But when you compare the result with the sources, wow! Now I have a reasonable image worthy of being placed on flickr. (OK, not really, but I put it up anyway to illustrate this post.)

Verdict: For free you often get what you pay for, in this case free gets you an excellent and easy to use app that does what it advertises. For a hack who is not interested (right now) in serious HDR manipulation, it is darn near perfect.

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