Photography, Review

Trying HDR Darkroom 3

I used to do a lot of HDR photography, but I have to admit in the last few months I seem to rarely do them.  Well, that isn’t true, I will often think about it, do it, compare it with the non HDR and then often delete the HDR.  It doesn’t always make the image better and I have been learning how to work out which image is better as a HDR and when it is better to use the straight image.  

A couple of months ago I got an email from Everimaging asking me if I would do a review of their latest version of HDR Darkroom 3.  I have reviewed its predecessor and can remember thinking that it wasn’t bad and that it could be quite good for people who were starting to do HDRs.


It’s appearance is quite nice and seems very obvious what to do with it.  Though one of the things I found really weird was not being able to close one image when I was finished to begin another.  It seems as soon as you press New HDR then the previous one if saved is closed for the new one.  It isn’t a big deal but I did find that a little strange.

At first glance it looks like there aren’t a lot of options to change anything in your images, as when you open it there only seems to be a couple of adjustments, and lots of presets.  However, if you look under the adjustments there is a button with Advanced written on it and you can do many other things to it.

hdrdarkroomIf you look on the right above you can see lots of adjustments and lots of drop down windows.

If I had one criticism of the adjustments, well two really, they are very touchy, and you can end up with something very horrible very fast.  You really need to be careful.  The other one would be, that they don’t always seem to default to zero, so if you make any adjustments, and want to start again, it can be hard to get it back to where it was, though that isn’t the case with all them.

Waiting for the software to make the HDR initially is a slow process, you can go and make yourself a coffee while it is happening.  Though, this is no different really to any software that makes HDR images.

ivanhoecentre-20131127-2034_hdrdarkroomI went back through my photos, and since I nearly always take at least three photos of any given subject, I had a few things to choose from.  Above is the Town Hall in Ivanhoe, The Centre.  It has done quite a good job, and while I can see some grey areas, I am sure most wouldn’t notice them.  I don’t think the dark areas have been picked up well, so I decided to look for an image that definitely was a lot harder to photograph.

LC2-1157_hdrdarkroomWith this one, it was quite a dark image, the correct exposure image, as I was coming up from a tunnel.  It has got a lot of the dark areas.  I haven’t done anything else to these images, so they are the raw images process in HDR Darkroom and nothing else.  It has done a fair job here.

I did mention that there are a lot of presets that you can use.  I did go through them, but they are not something I ever use.  I think HDR can be very overdone and very easily can turn into something very weird.  I never use the presets, though it can be fun to go through them and see what they do to your image.

It is interesting using different software and I think for this one, my results would be the same as I previously said, if you are new to HDR, and want to play around with and don’t have a lot of money the HDR Darkroom 3 could be perfect for you.  It costs around $60 so maybe half the price of other HDR software, not sure.  It will process your RAW files as well, so need to worry about taking photos in RAW.

If you are interested in trying it out you can find it here Everimaging, they always provide a free trial period, though not quite sure how long the trial is for.  I think it is worth trying the free trial.

My conclusion would be that if you are used to doing HDR’s with other software, you probably won’t like this as much.  However, if you are new and won’t to give it a go, I think you will have a lot of fun with it and don’t have to pay a lot for it.

I did do some others and I am going to put some more images in a gallery so you can see them a little larger.



    • HDR is when you put a number of images together, like blending, but the software works out the dark areas and makes them light, and with the light areas makes them darker. The idea is that if you are taking photos of something that has very dark areas, but also like very light, then you take some bracketed shots and the software should give you an image that is more like what you see, rather than what they camera sees. In theory should be good for stain glass windows in dark churches, in theory.

      • Yeah, it can be quite complicated, also very easy to get really horrible images if you aren’t careful. It can be fun to play around though.

  1. I like Photoshop and Adobe Elements. I am not a particular fan of HDR preferring my editing options in what I do have. In my opinion, one must weigh the options as to the purpose of what you are taking pictures of. I’m not a high profile photographer so I don’t have the pressure of always doing one better. (sigh) That’s a relief, for I still want to have FUN when I am involved with my photography.

    Just some of my wandering thoughts……(smile)

    • A couple of years ago I wanted to try HDR and see what it was like, I kept hearing about it. I did try doing and I got okay at it, though some of my early stuff, well, it is horrible. However, it can be fun to do and there are definitely situations where it is fantastic, places where you have lots of dark areas in an image, and lots of light areas, it is perfect for that. I think it is another tool to use, like any, but it is good to know when to use it, and when to stay away from it.

  2. My experiences with HDR haven’t been all that great and I have sort of given up, now working with doing better exposures on single images. I may give it a shot if I find the right software at the right price. But first, I have to pay a few bills:-)

    • I find with HDR that it can be great, but you do seem to have to know what you are doing, however, it isn’t always great on all images, and I have lots of images, that I do a HDR for, and then delete it, because I think the original is better. I think, I think :) I am learning when it is good to use it and when it is best to leave it alone. I still do the bracketed shots, but that is often because I don’t always find the correct exposure, according the camera is the best exposure.
      If you want to try it out, I would recommend the free trial. See what you think first. Though I wouldn’t use this software, I always use Photomatix. I have written a couple of tutorials on using Photomatix.

  3. Sometimes I like the results with hdr, but other times its too unnatural for my taste. I have too little time to learn how to do it as well – oh and I’m too lazy:-)

    • I totally agree Gypsy, I think it has to be an image by image sort of thing, it can be great, but most times now I leave it alone and just work a single image. Love the last bit, you could be describing me.

  4. A really interesting post. I have photoshop, so i guess I could do it in that, although to be honest I rarely have the tripod outside, as am not a serious photographer, more an interested amateur.

    • Yes, you can do them in Photoshop, though when I first started doing HDR’s PS wasn’t great for them, but I have heard the latest versions can be very good. Can I let you in on a secret, I do a lot of HDR’s without a tripod, of course you have to have good conditions and I only do three bracketed shots, but you don’t have to use the tripod for them.

      • Ah I presumed the software needed exactly the same shot. Thats worth knowing as mine has the 3 image bracket facility. I’ll give it a whirl. I have elements 8.

      • No, most of them have the ability to remove ghosting, so they can line the images up, of course they have to be pretty close, but I can see a little movement between mine and it matches them up nicely. I don’t know if you can do it in Elements, but you can always download a trial version of the software and try it out, you can do that with most of them. Good luck with it.

      • Yes, Leanne is correct here – you need not use a tripod – just set your camera to the brackets you want and have it set to fire for as long as you have the shutter depressed – make sure you hold your breath ‘:-)

    • That is so true, sometimes it is best to leave it alone. I often do them, or do one of an image, look at it with the straight image and then decide, I find I delete the HDR a lot these days. Though there are situations where they can work brilliantly, like you said.

  5. I haven’t used any of this type of software, so I think this would be something I’d be able to figure out. Thanks for the review

    • It is fairly easy to use, so I would suggest giving it a go. I guess you don’t know unless you try. Good luck.

  6. I use HDR a bit and sometimes (although rarely) go full-tilt overboard with the effect – but it for a specific reason – not just because I can. More often than not, I tend to blend the HDR image as a layer (in Photoshop) – thereby using most of the good bits from HDR and none of the bad. I too have been throwing away more HDR frames due to the effect not really capturing the scene as I want it. Sometimes no detail in the shadows is what the picture needs in order to evoke (to the viewer) what it really was like to be there: at that place, at that time.
    I’ll give the trial version a try though – you never can tell when a program might have a useful feature. Thanks Leanne!

    • I tend to hate the overboard effects, the halos and the over saturated colours that can happen so easily with HDR. I have worked very hard on my technique to try and make them look natural, but as you say, often it just is over the top and the original single image gives more the result you want.
      Check it out Robert, let me know what you think.

  7. I don’t typically HDR since the latitude one has when shooting RAW is quite extensive.

    I find I use HDR mostly when using my phone. I hate using flash, and the phone I have does a decent job in the HDR option . . . it snaps four shots, and combines them. Unfortunately, there is no adjustment to how they are combined, but the Snapseed editor has a single-shot HDR option that can be made to be rather subtle.

    For regular photography, as I said, very rarely do I prefer the HDR shots versus the straight-up properly exposed shot.

    Thanks for the review.

    • I agree with you here, and I think that is probably why I don’t use HDR very much anymore. Camera Raw is pretty amazing.
      I haven’t tried it on my phone, to be honest, I have a hard time getting one shot in focus, let alone 4, though I have just had my camera replaced so maybe I can do better now.
      Thanks for your thoughts Disperser.

      • For some reason, I don’t have the option to subscribe to comments, and I seldom remember to go back to see when you answer.

        Not a big deal at my end, but know that if I leave a comment, and you answer, I might not see it.

        And no, I’m not complaining; just letting you know in case you ask a question and I don’t answer, it’s because I don’t get a notice.

      • There used to be a little box you could tick, but WP might have removed it as so many people were having trouble with it. I don’t know.
        I completely understand how hard it can be, so don’t feel bad at all.

  8. I like HDR for texture and you can get some pretty cool looks in regards to metal subjects but I agree it’s not for every shot. I’m going to try and see how it goes using HDR for Bland and White Portraits over the next year. Good article.

    • I think you do have to be choosy about when to use it. Good luck with what you are trying to do. Thank you.

  9. Suzanne says

    I agree that certain images look really good in HDR and others look terrible. It’s fun to use to get special effects too. Sometimes the results look like something from Lord of the Rings.

  10. Leah J's Word Trips says

    I use to feel the same way you felt about HDR. But, This looks like something I might try. Thanks

    • I don’t think HDR is wrong, but it is good to do it so that it looks good and so people can’t tell it is a HDR, that is what I aim to do. Thank you Leah, I hope you have fun with it.

  11. Sonel says

    I love HDR software but you are right – not all shots are perfect for it. Great review and shots Leanne. Thanks for sharing hon.😀 *hugs*

  12. Based on many of your past HDR images, i’d say that whatever software you’re currently using creates a better result … these images don’t seem to have the same “pop” that your other images do …

    I think your HDR photography is quite good … as you mention above, HDR processing can quickly become overdone. I’ve seen lots of people who’s HDR images are so over processed that the end result is quite bad. Yet you manage to do it so very well … the images are crisp and detailed, the HDR effects add mood and atmosphere to the photo, and enhance, rather than detract from the photo. That’s one of the things I really like about your photos — they’re not overcooked.:-)

    • Thank you so very much John, I have to say this was a great comment to get. I will continue not to overcook. :)

  13. To me, HDR is probably one of the worst aspects of digital photography. I find that its results nearly always look artificial – that’s not how I want my images to look. Sorry to be so negative, but that’s how I see it. Adrian

    • No need to apologise Adrian, I think you can get good results, but you have to work at it, and most of the time it isn’t worth. I do them very rarely now.

  14. Nice review, and comments, Leanne. HDR is a great option, certainly not available some years ago. and particularly before digital photography. Properly used it does exactly as promised, and many of your results and those of an increasing percentage of others, underscore it’s benefits. It can compensate nicely, and easily for the otherwise dynamic range limitations of photographic capture. M

    • I was doing some research on photography and was shocked to discover the first HDR was done in the 1850’s, no idea how they did it, and it certainly wasn’t something that people talked about when I was doing film. I gather from your comment you don’t like my HDR images. I think what you are saying is right though, there are images that hugely benefit from HDR, I can think of many examples, and I think the trick to making it better is trying to make it still look natural, what your eye sees as opposed to what the camera sees.

      • Heaven forbid, no. Your work, including use of HDR, is nothing less than phenomenal. I use the word UNDERSCORE in the most complimentary sense – to show your excellent work stands by its own merrits, and the use of HDR is a fine example of the remarkable and inspirational results possible with the technology. Virtually all of your photography, and writing, is why so many of us learn from, and thoroughly enjoy following. Marty.

      • Thank you Marty, I didn’t really think that, nice to know though. I appreciate you responding. Thank you very much.

  15. Leanne, I have a feeling this is fare too advanced for my level of photographing – but it was very interesting to read about your professional view on the program. Love the lighthouse , but I already told you that .. when you published it the first time.

    • I think if you are interested in doing HDR images, then it would be good software, but if you aren’t interested then, I completely understand. Thank you Viveka for reading it.

      • HDR stands for High Dynamic Range, basically by doing the HDR process you should get detail in the darkest areas and the lightest areas. So if you have a scene that has very bright areas and very dark areas, you can take a series of images, or bracketed shots, that expose for the different areas, and then the software puts it together, and you end up with more detail. I hope that helps explain it Viveka.

  16. Tried it: Relatively easy and intuitive interface for easily processing HDR or, if you wish, allows for more complex tone mapping based on a preset. Can I get the same results through other programs? Sure, but these programs will have a steeper learning curve and are several times more expensive. Processing did not take too long (on a Macbook Pro w/4GB RAM running OSX 10.8) – overall worth a look – trial version places a watermark on your image.
    Thank Leanne for suggesting this program.

    • Thank you Robert for trying it out and letting me know what you thought. I agree with you, I think it is great software for someone who is learning, and doesn’t know if they will want to do a lot, so good place to start.

  17. From the time I first heard of HDR I liked the idea of it and it made sense to be able to pull the detail out of the shadows and save the detail in the highlight areas, either of which can get permanently lost on a single exposure. That is not necessarily bad since blown highlights and deep darks can be artistically appealing depending on the photographer’s vision. I have yet to officially try HDR but would like to and this year will. I figured when I heard of it that I do cheap and dirty HDR, sort of, when I take a shot for the sky and another shot for the subject or ground, and then combine them in layers in photoshop so I can have any lost detail that I want. I think bad HDR can look very artificial. It can look natural, like what the eye sees and it can also be deliberately artificial for an artistic purpose and some I have seen do work that way artistically. When HDR techniques are good, I do really love must get to some learning soon..definitely past due!!:)

    Great post and good luck to all in learning new techniques!

    • It works if you have a camera that can take bracketed shots, that way the series of different exposures make up the HDR. I agree with you about bad HDR it can look revolting. I think many of my first attempts go under that heading.
      Thank you and good luck.

      • LOL revolting is a good word!! My camera can do bracketed shots even though I haven’t even tried using that feature. I do tend to get stuck in a rut concentrating in single efforts. My Bad…need to play more! And, you inspire that!! Thanks!!

  18. how does it compare to photomatix? i use photomatix as plugin to LightRoom, whic owrks very well, ( occassionaly glitches when re-importing into LR fopr firther editing). Thank you for sharing, wil have a look for ease of use.

    • I would say if you have Photomatix, then I wouldn’t bother with this one. I think Photomatix is probably better and you can do a lot more with it.

      • Shaun says

        I completely agree with this reply, there is better software out there, however, the best way to do High Dynamic Range imaging is to bracket three or five images together and layer them in whatever software you use, obviously providing the software allows for it. Just my 2 penneth….

      • I think you have to use what you have, but if you aren’t sure of whether or not you will do HDR images, then this is not a bad place to start. Other software costs a lot more money.

  19. Pingback: Saturday review: HDR Darkroom 3 | Endlessly Restless

  20. Jerry Smith says

    I downloaded a trial version and it will not load CR2 files from a Canon 70D. The website says it supports Canon CR2 but does not list camera models. RAW file layouts unfortunately are not standardized and can vary between models

    • I’m sorry Jerry, not something I can help you with, you would probably need to contact them directly. It was fine for my nef files.

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