HDR Efex Pro, Stand Alone Mode

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(Go here for the complete HDR Efex Pro Tutorial)

[7/15/12 - HDR Efex Pro 2 Tutorial is here]

Before exploring some unique features of HEP in subsequent posts, I first want to discuss a little known HEP feature -

In spite of being sold exclusively as a plug-in with the following system requirements

Adobe® Photoshop® CS4 through CS5 , or Adobe Photoshop Lightroom®,  (add Aperture to the list for Macs)

HEP can be run in a stand alone mode!

I have run it extensively under Windows 7 64 bit and just a few times under XP. It ran flawlessly with Win7 but I did have one crash with XP. Based on this experience I’d guess that it will work with Vista also (but I can’t test Vista or a Mac – the interested reader can give them a try based on what follows here. Use the reply area below for comments/questions.).

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Why might one choose to do this? In my case, I don’t own one of the plug-in hosts (but have a copy of HEP due to my beta tester status). There might be other reasons such as host/HEP problems with crashing and/or faster performance – speculation.

When running HEP stand alone rather than as a plug-in there may be minor disadvantages, mainly workflow changes such as -

  • No RAW conversion (this is provided by the plug-in host) so you must use JPEG or TIFF for your source images. The possible adverse effect is that this may add an extra step to your workflow.
  • I can’t confirm based on experience, but suspect stand alone may provide a speed advantage. Maybe a reader using HEP as a plug in can give this a try and let us know.

NOTE – As I’ll cover in the next post, there is a Settings option at the bottom left of the HEP screen. Among other things, this is where you can choose your output format options (JPEG, TIFF 8, & TIFF 16).

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Here is how I run HEP in a standalone mode.

  1. Locate the folder where HEP is installed
  2. Create a desktop shortcut to the HEP application file (this step is for convenience & not necessity – execute this file however you please)

With the shortcut available, I run HEP and when the program executes here is what appears – (click images to enlarge)

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Note the single menu option “File” in the upper left corner – and shown below. This provides all that we need to select, open, save and close images and exit the program. The actual HDR processing is done in the various program windows in a manner identical to what we’d do were HEP actually running as a plug-in. Processing will be demonstrated in later posts.

There is no menu bar when running HEP as a plug-in – there is no need.

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Stepping through the select, open, save and close steps is illustrated in the following images -

Select & Open

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My experience thus far is that the exposure compensation values occasionally turn up missing and must be entered manually. I plan to explore this further  as I know they are present in the EXIF data. No big problem – small annoyance.

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Once the files are loaded, we proceed with the HDR processing (in later posts).

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And then it’s time to save the finished product.

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We can now close the image and be ready to start with the next one – or exit the program. As you can see, the process is identical to that which you’d use with any other stand alone program – including other HDR programs such as Photomatix. No big deal – just a surprise that HEP is capable of doing this.

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More to come later. To finish this post, here’s an example of an image produced by HEP. This is from the “Default” setting – no tweaking or adjusting, nor any subsequent post-processing. Pretty darn good IMO, but then it wasn’t too tough of a test.

First the three input images exposed at -2, 0, +2 EV.

And the HEP output

The actual HDR processing is done in the various program windows in a manner identical to what we’d do were HEP actually running as a plug-in. Processing will be demonstrated in later posts.

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