Sunday, 20 January 2019

Trying out new tools Pt 2 - HDR Affinity Photo

Trying out new tools Pt 2 - HDR Affinity Photo

As part of the game of trying out new tools, this time I've done a HDR merge from a series of five bracketed hand held images (gives the tool the most grief because hand holding causes ghosting as the images are not perfectly aligned). The original images were CR2 RAW files from my Canon 5d taken on Cockatoo Island in 2015. You definitely want to visit there if you ever are in Sydney.

If you're not sure what HDR is, it is a technique called High Dynamic Range, the idea is that you bracket several images (at least three and as many as you want) to capture the full detail across the light range of the image then blend them together later choosing the most detail from each area of the source images. Most digital cameras offer 8 to 10 stops of dynamic range, the higher end around 10 to 12 with some specialised medium format offering more. This is not enough to capture detail in everything from in this case the dark water up to the very bright blue sky. You used to have to do this by hand blending the layers in your editor of choice but today there are countless tools available including those built into Affinity, LR and PS that I'm comparing here.

For the three images I left all settings at their defaults, the output is whatever the tool chose to do on its own without further tweaking. In all cases I used auto alignment and ghost minimisation and left the tool to do the alignment. In Affinity you're forced to choose a tone map so I chose the one that most resembled the LR output.

Left to right its LR, PS then Affinity Photo. If they get mixed up on posting their filename has the tool name in it.

Affinity has the most detail and looks the most HDRish but it has accentuated the Canon foible of red and green pixels in darker areas of the image. You would be able to wipe them out with some further post processing but neither LR nor PS exhibited this trait and perhaps their internal knowledge of the camera let them filter them out without bothering me with them.

I think in this case Affinity is pretty early in its journey and while it yielded as passable result it would take more work to make it truly acceptable. There doesn't seem to be any way that I could find to make manual adjustments to the tone mapping to dial it back, I'm sure they must be there but I want a new tool to be intuitive and this one certainly wasn't.

I think in this case LR yielded the most satisfying (to me) tone mapping that matches my memory of the day, where PS was somewhat more dramatic and warmer with Affinity being the most dramatic and edgy. My idea of HDR is that you shouldn't be able to tell it is HDR. I think Affinity today is where the other HDR tools were in 2012/2013. Everyone else has grown into a more natural looking blend by default but these guys still go for the edgy look.

Note that in fairness I've only had a few minutes in the tool and it is a beta but it wouldn't be my choice for HDR.

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