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Free software for hdr photography


8 Best Free HDR Software in 2022 (HDR Photography)

Do you love to shoot dramatic landscapes and beautiful interiors? Or often work in complex lighting conditions? Then HDR is a technique you should learn to use.

Software that helps you produce HDR images can be expensive. But there are some free alternatives. Here are the best free HDR software solutions we could find out there.

What Is HDR?

HDR is an acronym for High-Dynamic-Range imaging. Dynamic range refers to the range of light between shadows to highlights. Images with a high dynamic range have detailed highlights and shadows.

We tend to see HDR images more appealing, and it’s because of the greater range of luminosity. Our eyes have a stunning dynamic range which no camera can ever mimic.

Cameras are limited in their dynamic range. This means that you cannot expose for the highlights and shadows at the same time. One of them will suffer.

Exposing for highlights will make your shadows too dark. And exposing for the shadows will make your highlights too bright. It’s not possible to get the settings just right in one image.

HDR photography uses technology to overcome this problem. Instead of taking one photo, with high-dynamic range, you take many pictures of the same scene at different exposures. The images are then combined in post-processing to create a HDR photo. The final image highlights the best parts of each picture.

You need to take at least three photos: One to expose for the shadows, one to expose for the highlights, and one neutral shot right in the middle. This is called “bracketing”. Each exposure should differ by one or two stops (-1 or -2 stops for the darker images and +1 or +2 stops for the brighter images).

Many cameras have a built-in bracketing tool. You can also manually adjust the exposure compensation dial will achieve similar results.

You need three images when creating an HDR picture, but some photographers take five or seven exposures.

 

8. Lightroom (Photo Merge)

Let’s start with HDR software tools you may already have. Both Lightroom and Capture One do HDR image processing.

In Lightroom, the tool is very basic, but it does combine exposures and do ghost removal. It’s called Photo Merge.

Ghost removal aligns the images and reconciles any element that might have moved between the exposures. For instance, clouds or trees.

Simply select the images with varying exposures you want to combine and select the dropdown menu ‘Photo’. Choose ‘Photo Merge’ – ‘HDR’.

7. Photoshop (HDR Pro)

Within Photoshop is a tool called HDR Pro. The tool is located in the ‘File’ dropdown menu. Select ‘Automate’ – ‘Merge to HDR Pro’.

This tool is more advanced than the HDR software in Lightroom. You can adjust edge glow, tone curve, and color. These change how Photoshop layers the exposures.

If you’re new to HDR programs, you might not know how best to edit your HDR photo. That is when presets can help you to enhance your image.

6. Luminance HDR

When asking for free high dynamic range programs, Luminance HDR tends to be on the top of everyone’s list.

Luminance HDR is an intuitive program with an easy-to-use interface. The most recent 2019 edition features many useful tools to bring out the best in your HDR photography.

Developers upgraded the HDR solution with new features like automatic anti-ghosting, FITS support integration with Windows taskbar, improved 1/10 with TIPF 32 bit and redesigned merge algorithms.

Some new sliders have been implemented too, such as ‘Gamma’ and ‘Saturation’.

Luminance HDR reads both JPEG and RAW files. A key benefit to Luminance HDR is the ease at which you can export photographs to additional photo editing software, such as GIMP (a free alternative to Photoshop).

Luminance is available for Windows and Mac.

5. Picturenaut 3

Picturenaut 3 is another free HDR software tool. Picturenaut is by HDRLabs, a project established to create free software for various processes.

Picturenaut is a very light software program. It’s easy to install and even easier to use. Touted as one of the best free HDR software solutions out there, Picturenaut is just as intuitive as Luminance but functions a little bit differently.

The program has a drag-and-drop feature and supports both PNG and RAW files. The tool also includes Alpha channel view, auto-cropping, and is one of the fastest at tone mapping.

The open-source API is also publicly available for programmers interested in tweaking the program for even better results. This German program is ever-changing with new intelligence added every day.

Picturenaut 3 is available for Windows and Mac.

4. FDRTools Basic

FDRTools (short for Full Dynamic Range Tools), is a free HDR software tool for those looking to create a more realistic look to a high dynamic range image. There is a free basic version and a more advanced shareware version.

This program is not as advanced as the two previously mentioned. But it’s an excellent choice for a beginner who doesn’t want a complicated interface or too many different options to be confused about.

A big difference between FDRTools and other HDR software is its goal to bridge the gap between merging and tone mapping. The FDRTools tone mapping algorithm is very advanced in comparison to other programs.

The user has full control over the merging process by looking at the tone mapped image. They can then edit the merging of source images in real-time. Users can choose to include or not include a particular source image or adjust the opacity of individual images.

FDRTools has noteworthy customer service and is constantly updating its features.

 

FDRTools is available for Windows and Mac.

3.

Photomatix Pro

Photomatix Pro is a powerful HDR software program. It is available both as a standalone program and as a plugin for Lightroom. The company is developing a plugin for Capture One.

The free trial version does not expire, but it does watermark your images. Photomatix offers a license for $99, but there are other options depending on your needs.

Photomatix Pro is a flexible tool for processing high dynamic range HDR photos. It includes plenty of presets to get you started. The color adjustments and tone mapping features in Photomatix Pro allow you to fine-tune your image even further.

The program allows you to paint on color effects selectively and blend in the original photo for a more natural effect.

If you want the look of HDR, but don’t have a bracketed set of photos, Photomatix Pro will create an HDR image from a single photo.

For photographers who do a lot of HDR processing, Photomatix Pro includes a customizable batch editing tool.

 

Photomatix Pro is available for Windows and Mac.

2. Nik HDR Efex Pro

HDR Efex Pro is part of the Nik collection. This tool works as a Lightroom plugin.

The history of the Nik collection is a bit complicated. The collection was free for a time when Google owned it. If you downloaded the collection during this period, it is still useable. Since then, this popular collection has been purchased and expanded by DXO. There is still a free trial version available.

The Nik collection is known for its quality presets. If you click through these, you’ll see various HDR options. The program lets you further control how much of the effect is applied.

Saving the HDR image takes it back into Lightroom.

HDR Efex Pro is an easy-to-use and powerful tool which is a must-have extension for Lightroom. Especially for landscape photography.

Nik HDR Efex Pro is available for Windows and Mac.

1. EasyHDR

EasyHDR is just as its name suggests – easy. It is available both as a standalone program and as a plugin for Lightroom. The free version does not expire, but it does watermark your images.

The software may be easy to use, but it is powerful.

Drag and drop RAW or JPEG images into the program and use the presets to get started. Then adjust the tone mapping tools to get a realistic effect. Much of the interface looks similar to Lightroom and Photoshop, making tools easy to find and use.

There’s even a clone brush to take out errant dust spots. The software also includes basic layers for masking and color correction.

EasyHDR allows for batch editing, which automatically identifies the HDR sequences. This is great for photographers who do a lot of HDR conversions.

Single photo enhanced with easyHDR 3.13.0. You can expect such watermarks when using the free trial.

EasyHDR is available for Windows and Mac.

Conclusion

Real estate, landscape, and artistic photographers use HDR software to adjust images with wide dynamic range.

But be careful! Too much HDR can make an image look cartoony and fake. A level of restraint is necessary to use this process.

There are many free options available. Some work as plugins in programs like Lightroom, others are standalone programs. Programs differ in their flexibility, ease of use, and how realistic the final HRD image is. Try them out, and see which one works best for you!

6 Best Free HDR Software in 2022

Top 6 Best Free HDR Software

HDR freeware performs basic tasks in the form of combining images with different exposures into one, moreover, it can also perform tone mapping, image alignment, ghost removal, and noise reduction, while the standard paid programs cease to amaze with something, offering the old, time-tested functionality.

You may always download Free HDR presets or Free HDR Actions if you’ve subscribed to Adobe plan and have Lightroom or Photoshop.

1. Aurora HDR

Best HDR software for Windows and Mac OS
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Editors' Rating (4/5)
Mac OS / Windows

USE AURORA HDR FOR FREE

Pros+

  • Introduced artificial intelligence
  • Advanced Presets/LUTs
  • Non-destructive editing
  • Support for layers and masks

Cons-

  • Some compatibility issues with graphics cards
  • Free version limited in time

It is the best free HDR software option for macOS users is Aurora. Despite being paid, it can be used with no functional limitations for an entire month. It can work on its own or as a plug-in for Photoshop CC or Elements, Lightroom, and Apple Aperture.

Similar to any free HDR photography software, there is a function of combining bracketed photos that have been taken with a difference in exposure or making a tonal map for one shot that has been taken in RAW. Plus, the photo editor has such instruments as layers, masks, and overlays in Photoshop mode.

Highly satisfying is the program’s non-destructive photo editing capability. You can easily cancel any setting and even return to your rough copy and start all over again.

Also, a powerful addition to Aurora HDR 2022 is the Skylum’s latest Quantum HDR engine which is “powered by artificial intelligence” and, according to Skylum, offers impressive color enhancements without ghosting, noise artifacts and chromatic aberration (color fringing).

Considering the filters and functions, they are nowhere near as simple as you might think, judging by the plain interface. Many are powerful and some even unique. Some involve artificial intelligence (Smart Tone, HDR Clarity, HDR Smart Structure), others are completely new (HDR Enhance Filter, Dodge and Burn, Adjustable Gradient, LUT mapping). The abovementioned Enhance Filter works great for increasing image clarity but it is also quite good at achieving a clear and detailed, classical look.

2. InPixio Eclipse HDR Pro

Full control over lighting
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Editors' Rating (4/5)
Windows | InPixio Eclipse HDR Pro Software

USE ECLIPSE HDR PRO FOR FREE

Pros+

  • 50+ impressive features
  • Over 40 creative presets
  • HDR DeNoise function
  • RAW photo editing

Cons-

  • Occasional lags

InPixio Eclipse HDR Pro is a professional image editor that is meant for creating and editing high-quality photos and images of the HDR class. This intuitive software will cope with improving all sorts of shots, like landscape, interior, panorama, architecture, real estate and more.

Eclipse HDR comes with a full RAW image editing module that lets users optimize RAW pictures. Edit color, brightness and saturation in specific areas of pictures with a wide selection of curves. Also, users can completely transform the colors in pictures without branding or artifacts.

3. Luminance HDR

Open-source and advanced HDR tools
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Editors' Rating (5/5)
Mac OS / Windows / Linux

USE LUMINANCE HDR FOR FREE

Pros+

  • Advanced sketches
  • 8 tone mapping algorithms
  • Customizable interface
  • Excellent export opportunities
  • Open-source

Cons-

  • A rather steep learning curve
  • Previews poorly designed

Luminance is an HDR free software, open-source and multiplatform. For more convenience, you can manually configure the interface (change the location of instruments, delete or add them to the working canvas).

The uploaded images can be rotated, resized and cropped. There are eight tone mapping algorithms, picture straightening, ghost removal, and denoising. Plus, the update introduced automatic anti-ghosting, which is especially appreciated by real estate photographers.

  • Learn more about HDR real estate photography.

Among the advantages of Luminance are the sketches that it creates using various algorithms available. This allows users to easily select their favorite thumbnail and then make minor adjustments.

Some fragments of the best free HDR software interface are great, for instance, the EV focused histogram that displays the dynamic range, but other fragments only cause confusion. Among the numerous tone mapping settings, the ‘Operators’ can be found with no explanations as to what they do.

Plus, with each and any change to those image settings, you have to refresh the preview window yourself. It wouldn’t be bad to have the preview updated itself after you adjust the sliders as well because otherwise having to click the "tone map" each time is bothersome.

Once you’re done, save in one of the HDR-supporting extensions: OpenEXR, Radiance RGBE, Tiff, Raw and PFS native format. Except for the cases when you don’t plan to use the free HDR photo software for viewing the photo but will resort to a portable device, then consider using the tonal compression of that photo and saving it in JPEG/TIFF.

4. Picturenaut 3

Great choice for a beginner (has advanced plug-ins)
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Editors' Rating (3.5/5)
Mac OS / Windows

Pros+

  • You can expand the functionality with plug-ins
  • Fast tone conversion
  • Advanced noise correction settings
  • Simple learning curve

Cons-

  • Does not support OpenEXR and Radiance RGBE format
  • Unsatisfactory results with hand-held shots

Another best free HDR software option with open-source code. It is a good choice for beginners, being well-designed and user-friendly. But this doesn’t mean it is functionally weaker.

The free HDR editor is built on a multi-threaded and consistent architecture, which allows it to convert tones carefully in the shortest time.

This HDR software for Windows and Mac provides the viewing of the alpha channel, basic parameters of automatic alignment, cropping, and de-ghosting. All settings for tone mapping and editing are determined prior to creating an HDR composite. Among other settings, there are familiar automatic and manual exposure correction and noise compensation.

  • Learn more about the best noise reduction software.

Working with photos is greatly facilitated by a wide range of plug-ins, such as Gaussian Motion Blur, Diffuse SH, etc. It is worth mentioning that personal plug-ins can be configured here for later use, too, by saving the settings you apply.

Moreover, the newest HDR photography software free update introduced the support for plug-ins written for HDRShop allowing you to constantly top-up your library.

You can save in one of the common extensions like TIFF, JPEG, TGA, RAW. HDR formats are available in TIFF float, OpenEXR, PFM, Radiance RGBE.

5. FDRTools

Advanced non-destructive HDR editing
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Editors' Rating (3.5/5)
Mac OS / Windows / Linux

Pros+

  • Non-destructive editing
  • Advanced tone editing

Cons-

  • Outdated interface
  • Does not support ghost removal

FDRTools is among the best free HDR software for creating HDR images and performing tone mapping. It is being mocked for an unreasonably designed interface, featuring lots of windows scattered across the screen (reminiscent of the earliest versions of Windows).

Its biggest difference from other free HDR programs is in the aim to make up for a deficiency between the processes of merging and tonal mapping. If normally the typical workflow is the preliminary selection of source photographs and their combination, after which the tone mapping is performed, this program concentrated on bridging that gap.

You are allowed to see the tonal image and make alterations to the merger of the original images as it happens. Edit at any stage, for example, change the white balance and remove halos even during the final stages of work.

It generates HDRI based on JPG, TIFF, and RAW files and can open Radiance RGBE and OpenEXR formats.

The tone mapping is enhanced compared to the algorithms other HDR freeware uses. After choosing one of the 3 methods, adjust gamma, saturation, brightness, contrast and compression level settings become available.

Unfortunately, FDRTools does not offer any presets for tone mapping and cannot perform ghost removal, unlike the previously tested programs.

6. Photomatix Pro

Can be used as a plug-in for Lightroom/Photoshop
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Pros+

  • Support for a large number of plug-ins
  • Can be used as a plug-in for Lightroom/Photoshop
  • Fast distortion/noise correction
  • Global source image blending

Cons-

  • Weak export opportunities
  • Complex learning curve

If you’re searching for Linux HDR software, take a look at this professional program that also works on Mac and Windows. Advantages include combining, correcting, and editing exposure brackets regardless of whether you’re editing one image or a batch.

By combining the images, you can adjust the saturation and the level of the curve range. In addition, you can fix image distortion, depth perception, and do some more complex work on readjusting the photo. Comprehensive alignment and de-ghosting options also exist, plus, the possibility to apply lens correction, noise reduction, and chromatic aberration is also provided while you’re importing the photo.

You get enough control over your tonal display and nine predefined categories of styles, including natural, realistic, picturesque, architectural, and B&W (more than 30 presets are available in total).

Just like Aurora, it can perform such functions on its own or as a part of Adobe Photoshop CC and Lightroom.

I am pleased that in the latest update, there was introduced support for the selective brush and global blending applicable to the original image with its edited version. That could possibly end up with excessive HDR rendering but Photomatix avoids this trap with its new tone balancing feature.

It is worth mentioning that the program is limited in export variants, it does not send the results to other programs or exchange functions. There is only the classical “Save As” button. Just three extensions will be available for saving finished photos: 16-bit or 8-bit TIFF and JPEG.

What Is HDR and Why to Use Special Software?

In photography, HDR stands for the high dynamic range. Dynamic range refers to measuring the diapason of light intensity from darkest to lightest. It allows you to blend several photos together to get light and shadow details that you can't get in a single photo. Today many software have the ability to merge HDR photos but which ones do it the best?

Images with high contrast have a large dynamic range but even professional cameras are limited in capturing it. As a result, there is no way of preserving both the shadows and the highlights in their full capacity in one image.

You might have encountered that when setting your camera for the landscape and getting a washed-out or blurry sky. If you try to set your camera for the sky instead, the landscape will be just too dark or deprived of the details.

Fortunately, professionals can use HDR photo software free of charge and set several different exposures while capturing one spot to later merge them into a picture with a wider dynamic range.

HDR works on the following principle: when you see a picturesque sunset, your eyes adjust to block out some of the light that reaches them. In the meanwhile, your brain maintains the details of the shadowed spots in the landscape and fills them in on the go, tricking you into thinking that you’re capable of seeing everything equally well.

Your eyes do not actually capture the whole variety every instance, they are switching between shadows and highlights so fast that you don't perceive it.

To recreate the same illusion, photographers use the best free HDR software. It can recover data from the darkest and lightest areas within one photo thus eliminating the need to take separate shots with different exposures.


Ann Young

Hi there, I'm Ann Young - a professional blogger, read more

HDR Software | Free Online HDR Software

High Dynamic Range (HDR) Photography Technology

HDR photos use technology that allows you to capture a much wider range of lighting and colors than is possible with a conventional digital camera. HDR technology combines three or more different processed photos of the same painting into one photo that accurately displays the details and the colors of the world that you see with your own eyes. The advantage of HDR technology is that it preserves details that are lost when shooting with conventional digital cameras and reproduces vivid colors as in the light and dark parts of the photo.

Sophisticated HDR Technology

Fotor's online HDR tool includes a range of advanced HDR technologies including Alignment, Ghost Removal, and Local/Global Tone Mapping Technology that help you easily produce stunning images at the fastest speed available today.

Alignment

It is not always possible to keep the camera absolutely still when you are taking a series of two or more shots. contract. A huge number of factors can cause the camera to move slightly. When merging photos it is critical that each pixel's coordinates match perfectly to create distinct HDR photograph. Fotor's advanced Alignment technology takes care of this, allowing you to get crystal clear results every time.

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Ghost Removal

Moving subjects are one of the biggest barriers to high quality HDR photography. When you take multiple photos of the same painting, the moving subject will appear in different positions in the frame. Combined with other HDR technologies, these objects can appear ghostly on final combined HDR photo. To solve this problem, Fotor has developed an advanced technology for "Ghost Removal" to intelligently reduce ghost-like effects caused by moving objects.

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Tone Mapping

After alignment and removal of ghosts, photos in different exposures will be combined in digital HDR negative, which is also called a 32-bit floating point radiance map in HDR image terminology. Compared to traditional 8-bit formats such as JPEG or BMP, the 32-bit floating radiance map point has the ability to record a much wider range of values ​​and, thus, with accuracy capture all the dynamics of the real world. However, a 32-bit floating point value cannot be displayed or printed on current 8-bit monitors or printers. Thus, at least a 32-bit map floating point radiance writes incredibly accurate values, at this stage they are just useless numbers from the user's point of view because the results cannot be seen. "Tone Mapping" - is a technology used to convert 32-bit floating point format to 8-bit images for display and printing. Since 32-bit floating point radiance map is also called digital HDR negative, Tone Mapping can also be considered as a kind of photo development, but for digital photos.

More HDR Examples

How to use HDR Image Adjustment Software?

  • 1

    Upload two or three photos of the same painting, but with different exposures and click start.

  • 2

    Adjust using different HDR effect styles and choose the one you prefer.

  • 3

    Change the intensity and other editorial settings to maximize the result. Select "Remove Ghosts" to correct any inaccuracies.

  • 4

    Select the format and quality of your image, then save your work.

Fotor Not Only Gives You The Best Online HDR Experience

The Fotor platform has a wide range of options such as photo effects, photo frames and text, also allowing you to create a collage and develop graphic design. Experiment and try them out to make your image perfect!

World Leader in Online HDR Software

Online HDR software from Fotor can help you show the true colors and details of your photo! For this you do not I need an HDR camera. With the world's leading Leveling, Ghost Removal and Local Tone technologies Displaying your HDR photos has never looked so professional!

High dynamic range imaging

Buy Trial version

Buy Trial

AKVIS HDRFactory is a high dynamic range imaging software .

AKVIS HDRFactory allows you to get a HDR (High Dynamic Range) image from several shots of the same object taken at different exposures.

The result of HDRFactory processing will be brighter, more contrasty, richer and more colorful than the camera allows, much closer to what our eye sees, which is able to distinguish more details than the camera can capture.

The name of the program speaks for itself, this is a real factory for the production of HDR images .

With AKVIS HDRFactory you can get both realistic photos and dramatic stylized images.

The program allows you not only to combine several photos into an HDR image, but also to create the HDR effect on one picture, pseudo-HDR . Just one photo uploaded to HDRFactory will open the door to the exciting world of HDR!

The program is also useful for photo correction, in cases where you need to slightly correct colors, lighting, add details in dark and light areas.

AKVIS HDRFactory brings photos to life and color!

Using the program, you can quickly and effortlessly create the perfect HDR image from several shots or one photo, apply additional correction settings and add effects.

The program includes a set of ready-made AKVIS presets. You can also create your own presets, saving the most frequently used settings.

Tools available for advanced licenses ( Deluxe, Business ) Remove " Ghosts " to get rid of defects that sometimes occur in the HDR image, and Local correction to process certain areas of the photo.

AKVIS HDRFactory is available as a plugin for graphic editors ( plugin ) and as a standalone program ( standalone ) that does not require photo editors.

In program standalone includes additional features: Postprocessing , where you can change the brightness, contrast and saturation of the image, make corrections by channel, as well as the tool Crop , designed to crop part of the image and improve the composition. (When working with plugin , these features are available in the graphics editor.)

The HDRFactory plug-in supports batch processing of files when working with a single image, which makes it possible to automatically edit a series of photos (by recording action in AliveColors or Photoshop).

The program is available in Russian.

Free trial

Try the program for a free trial period!

After installation, the program will work for 10 days without registration.


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