HDR Photography is a style of photography which allows you to have a high amount of Dynamic Range in an image and you can achieve effects which are virtually impossible in other styles of photography. What I like about the methods the most is that I can add a very high amount of creativity into the process and I also find HDR to be a intuitive art practice which suits me much more than standard photography where you might go out and just use a LEE big stopper for long exposure landscapes.

There are two parts to making an HDR image;

  • Shooting- A series of images called a bracket
  • Post Processing- editing your photographs on either your Mac or PC.

HDR Tutorials

Post Processing

Editing your images is known as Post Processing or PP for short. Once you become proficient you will be able to achieve almost any look or feel you can imagine.

Essentially HDR PP can be broken down into 3 Steps

  • Platform Software
  • Tonemapping Software
  • Plug-in Software

There are various methods and workflows for producing HDR photography and the method you go with ends up being a matter of personal taste. When you are getting into HDR my advice is to purchase Adobe Photoshop or Aperture and also get yourself a copy of Lightroom. Obviously you will need a HDR program and Photomatix is the most popular choice. Then you should start exploring Plug-in Software programs. Since you would have spent quite a few hundred dollars so far I suggest next looking at the main companies OnOne, Topaz, NIK and Imagenomic and using their FREE 30 day trials ! I’ve supplied the links for many of the most popular plug-in programs below.

Platform Software

Adobe Photoshop & Lightroom are the best programs on the market for editing photos.

For a more professional platform you can try Phase One Capture Pro.

Tonemapping Software

This is the crux of creating an HDR image and there are various options, which one you go with is a personal choice. The reason that all of them produce different results is because they have written their own tonemapping algorithm to process the image files data. Tonemapping can be done on a single image and you can acheive great results but for the best results it’s better to tonemap an entire bracket of images.

  • Macphun Aurora HDR PRO- The new kid on the block that has blown other HDR software. It offers you an end to end editing process for your HDR images.
  • Photomatix 5 – This is the most common used HDR software out there.
  • NIK HDR EFEX PRO 2– If you were to use HDR EFEX I suggest you purchase the entire NIK collection for $149
  • Oloneo HDR Photo Engine– Very similar interface and process to Photomatix but has it’s own unique look.
  • Adobe Photoshop CS6 & CC- Has a Merge to HDR function


Plug-in Software Bundles/Packages

Plug-in programs are used to make almost any alteration to an image you can think of including Filters, lens effects, Resizing software, portrait adjustment, noise reduction and many many more effects. You can purchase software separately or in bundle packages.

The four main contenders in the Plug-in Bundles/packages are:

  • OnOne Photo 10– This is the Bundle I use as I really like the OnOne workflow and the huge variety of filters in Perfect effects 4, with over 450 filters.
  • Creative Kit 2016- Includes 6 award-winning photo editing applications, made exclusively for Mac
  • Topaz Photoshop Bundle– Use the Code LukeZemePhotography to get 15% off. Topaz has an amazing bundle of software and its main filter program is called Topaz Adjust 5. If you can’t get the look you are after using it then you just haven’t explored the filters and sliders enough.
  • NIK collection– NIK has combined all their filters into one package and I also own this package as I like to own a variety of options to create imagery. It’s kind of like having differently coloured paints 🙂

Individual Plug-in (Filter) Software Programs

Whilst the bundles are used from start to finish in your post-processing workflow. The Filter programs are essentially how to achieve the various looks in photography and even though they are in the bundles/packages you can purchase them individually. The best ones by far are these ones:

Other Plug-in programs


This is a pretty comprehensive list and covers your entire Post-Processing range in some way or another. I have supplied you with all the various options so you have the choice to make up your own mind on how you want to attack it. If you aren’t sure then just get a free 30 day trial of the software and then go ahead and purchase the item later if it suits your work style. The main ones you should look at though are Photoshop, Lightroom, Photomatix, OnOne Photosuite 7, Perfect Effects 4, Colour Efex Pro 4 and Noiseware 5. These will provide you with everything you need and then it’s a matter of just getting some diversity on this which you can do by expanding on them using the lists I provided above.

Learning, tutorials and teaching aids links

Finally each of the companies who creates their software supply free training ! and they have everything from live webinars to video tutorials, below are the links to the main hub for each of them.

  • OnOne– has many different tutorials and training resources under the LEARN tab
  • Topaz – also provides its users with a variety of learning platforms under the RESOURCES tab
  • NIK– Also offers a great educational community under the LEARN tab.
  • Photomatix– Has heaps of training material at this link

You now have everything you need to get you started and tutorials and webinars you can jump on and do in your own time. Looking forward to seeing you share your own HDR soon !

Thanks Luke 🙂


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4 Comments on "Best HDR Software and Tutorials List"

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Jason Borg

Since Lightroom 4.3 it can now process 32 bit tif files. I have since been merging to HDR in photoshop, saving as a 32 bit tif, then importing into lightroom and using it to have great control over the look of my image. I suppose that would put Lightroom as in both the platform category and the plugin category. Here is a link of image created in this fashion.


hehe and then after your adjustments you can then export it back to Photoshop again and make Photoshop your Plug-in 😉 Nice image Jason


[…] I used Photomatix PRO, Adobe Photoshop & Lightroom from the Adobe creative cloud, OnOne Photosuite 7 & Perfect Effects 4, and from NIK I used Color Efex Pro 4. As this was a HDR workflow the software has been previously listed along with explanations and discounts where I could get them for you at this link…  LINK TO HDR SOFTWARE […]


[…] A Comprehensive list of HDR software & plug-ins […]

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