HDR Express 2 FAQ

FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions

Most other HDR programs available today are "tone-mappers" — although they merge to 32-bit floating point HDR format, to process the image these applications have to convert it to 8- or 16-bit integer mode. Unified Color products are the only HDR digital photography software applications that edit and save full HDR images in the 32-bit floating point format, which preserves most of image definition in dynamic range, color range and retains its precision. Every tool and operation in our products always works in the high-precision 32-bit floating point/channel mode (96 bit/pixel). Other HDR tools may claim 96 bit/pixel processing, however it is very easy to check on this claim — just try to save the resulted image in 32-bit/channel format (32-bit TIFF, Radiance HDR or OpenEXR). You'll see that only Unified Color provides true 32-bit editing capability.

In the tone-mapping workflow paradigm you lose image quality when you convert to 8- or 16-bit representation. This significantly reduces the dynamic range, clips the color range and degrades the precision of image data definition. Keeping image data in the 32-bit floating-point representation ensures that none of these essential image qualities are lost.

Unified Color tools use the Beyond RGB™ color model, a significant science and technology breakthrough. Beyond RGB is directly based on the human vision and was specifically designed to address the needs of high dynamic range imaging. Tone-mappers typically rely on output-based RGB models, which were not specifically intended to work for HDR applications. In addition to the mentioned image quality degradation, such issues as color shift during image editing can be experienced in result.

Human vision color modeling lets you manipulate image information independent from the image output, which becomes a separate stage in the Unified Color HDR workflow. First, you create and process the image using a device-independent (human-vision referred) representation; second, you output the image using available color reproduction device (i.e. a monitor). This approach lets you have the most image information preserved at the first stage, even though some of this information may exceed the capability of your device at the output stage.

Some programs support-limited options for the 32-bit floating point processing. For example in Adobe Photoshop, although the 32-bit/channel mode is supported (starting from version CS2), most editing operations and plug-ins are disabled. This is because the color models that Photoshop offers are not suited very well for HDR (32-bit) application. Thus, in order to do anything useful in Photoshop, you're forced to degrade image quality to a lower bit definition. With Unified Color tools you can keep the image quality at highest level at all times.

From a practical perspective Unified Color software has been praised by the photography community for the crisp, photo-realistic results that it can deliver. Those who wish to push their images into the surrealistic side, have those options as well — the software gives you, as an artist, the adjustments with a much greater range vs what's offered by other products. Many industry experts have noted the advanced capability of Unified Color products to control every visual aspect of the HDR image, with easy-to-use operations in a WYSIWYG workflow.

Dynamic Range Mapping is a more proper term for "tone-mapping" used by other HDR products. The term describes the same technique of mapping one dynamic range (in image) to another dynamic range (output device, such as computer monitor).

The primary difference between Dynamic Range Mapping and Tone Mapping comes from the underlying color model. Traditional HDR imaging applications are typically based on the RGB model, and this is why the tone-mapping technique is referred to as "mapping of tones" — that is the R, G and B tones. But HDR Expose is built on the Beyond RGB™ color model, which separates brightness (luminance) information in image from color (chromaticity) information. Therefore HDR Expose can use mapping in only one brightness channel without affecting color channels.

In HDR Expose and 32 Float, the Dynamic Range Mapping refers to 2 things:
First, it is the name of a one-click operation that maps the dynamic range of your picture into the dynamic range of your monitor automatically once you designate a mid-tone point (typically a subject of greatest importance in your image).
Second, and more generally Dynamic Range Mapping refers to manual adjustments that you can make using Brightness channel operations (Brightness/Contrast and Shadow/Highlight). With manual DRM you have much greater control over the choices that need to be made for your images.

Yes. All our products are implemented natively for the x64 computing architecture. If you're running an x64 capable system with a 64-bit OS, we strongly recommend installing the x64 version of a product.

You can verify what version of product you are running in the About box of the application (on Windows it is available in the "Help" menu; on Mac in the "HDR Expose" application menu). The application will report what computing architecutre it is using — 32-bit or 64-bit in the About box.

Using the 64-bit version will let you have such advantages as the ability to work with much larger megapixel files (upto gigapixel range, depending on your available RAM), as well as the increased performance of operation.

Note that on Mac OS, installation packages contains both 64-bit and 32-bit builds of the application. By default the product works in the 64-bit mode. If desired, although not recommended, you can switch it to 32-bit mode using the standard "Open in 32-bit mode" option in the "Get Info" preference pane.

All Unified Color products are full color managed applications.

For image visualization we use a selected color profile (ICC profile). Click on the small display icon at the lower left corner of the product window to access the color profile menu. By default your primary monitor's ICC profile is selected. When you recalibrate your monitor, use this menu to point to the new color profile. Note that it is not recommended to specify other that your monitor's profile in this menu, as this may lead to inaccurate colors in the image.

For file input we will accept any embedded color profile in any type of supported image format. The image will be read according to its color profile.

When saving image files (in JPEG or TIFF formats) you can embed any color profile with the image data. It is recommended to use a color profile for any non-HDR format (e.g. JPEG or 8/16-bit TIFF), to achieve best color matching in your workflow. Color data in BEF format does not require a color profile, since BEF always represents visual data in full, unclipped color gamut.

BEF plug-in enables support for BEF file format (which is HDR Expose native file format). By default HDR Expose will install BEF plug-in for Adobe Photoshop, so that you can open and save BEF files in Photoshop.

BEF is a Unified Color HDR file format, similar to such formats as Radiance HDR or OpenEXR. It is however much more capable format, allowing you to store HDR images with high precision and high compression ratio. It achieves an impressive 2x-3x lead in compression efficiency over Radiance or OpenEXR, while preserving image data with full dynamic range, full color range and high visual precision.

Our True Color technology powers both HDR Express 2 and HDR Expose 2. The interfaces of the two products are designed for different photographer’s needs. HDR Express 2 is designed for the photographer who wants to get into HDR photographer quickly and easily. It provides presets that eliminate the guesswork in creating the look you are trying to achieve. And, when you use a preset you can still make additional edits using its simplified toolset.

Choose HDR Express 2 if you want to get going with HDR photography quickly. Choose HDR Expose 2 if you are looking for a full 32-bit color application that gives you maximum control over the tone mapping and editing process.

If you purchased HDR Express bundled with the Roxio Creator 2012 PRO suite, and are not able to activate it with the serial key provided, this web page will allow you to exchange your original serial key for a new valid key.

A free update to HDR Express 1.2 is now available for Roxio Creator customers running HDR Express 1.1 click here for download instructions.

Unified Color offers free 30-day trial versions of all our software which can be downloaded from our website. However, if you have purchased the software and are dissatisfied for any reason, you may receive a full refund within 30-days of the purchase date, credited back to the same credit card used for the original transaction. Simply contact our Customer Support department at support@unifiedcolor.com or call (855) 63-COLOR (855-632-6567) during business hours (9am - 5pm, Pacific Time). Feel free to leave a message if you called after hours. We will get back to you on the same or following business day.

HDR Expose:
You can do an automated check for updates in HDR Expose "Help" menu — choose "Check for updates..." If there is an updated version available for download, HDR Expose will prompt you and direct you to a web page where you can download the updated version.
If you own HDR PhotoStudio license, you are eligible to upgrade to HDR Expose for free. Just download HDR Expose from the download page, install it and use your existing license code to activate the software.

Purchase of other products for existing customers:
If you bought one of our products before, you're eligible to receive other products at significant discounts. In order to check your eligibility, navigate to the Upgrade Options page and follow the instructions.

Note for holders of HDR PhotoStudio license:
You can login to the website using your email address registered with the purchase of HDR PhotoStudio. If you forgot your password, use the password retrieval form. If don't have an account, just simply create one, but make sure to use the same old email address used with the purchase of HDR PhotoStudio. Note, that old HDR PhotoStudio order information will not be available since it was handled by a different system. However, the customer database will still recognize you as an existing user and the site interface will present you with all options available to our customers. If you have any questions or difficulty, let us know via support section.

Yes — you can install and activate each product on a second system (e.g. a laptop). The standard personal license comes with 2 activations. You can also move a license between machines if needed.
To move your license, just deactivate it first on the existing installation (this will free up the activation slot). You can deactivate either from the Help menu (for HDR Expose), or from the About box (for 32 Float). Then, just install the product on another machine and follow normal activation steps once prompted. You can move each of your licensed seats any number of times as needed. If you need more than 2 seats, you will need to purchase additional licenses.
Multiple seat licenses can be purchased at discount, contact us for details.

Follow the original installation procedure. If you lost your serial key you can retrieve your information from this page.

If you require support, just send an email to support@unifiedcolor.com. Make sure you include your name and email address that was used when you purchased the product.

Normally our order processing system sends out the license information in just a few minutes after the completion of a purchase transaction. At that moment the license information is forwarded to the email you entered in the transaction details. Sometimes this email message can be falsely detected as spam, so check your spam folder to see if this is why you didn't receive the message with licensing details. Another common reason for the information not reaching you is that the email bounces from the address you provided. Make sure you use a valid and working email address.

If you still can't locate the license, you can request to resend it at this page.
Just enter your email address and click "Send" to retrieve your serial code.

You can see the licensing information details in the order comments when you login to your account.

You can also conveniently request your license details online on this page. On this page enter the email address used when you purchased the license, and the licensing details (including the serial code) will be sent to this email address.

All licensed users of HDR PhotoStudio are eligible for free upgrade to HDR Expose. In short, your HDR PhotoStudio license has been setup to be recognized by HDR Expose, just enter your existing serial code in the activation process.

Please navigate to the HDR PhotoStudio page for more details.

Most image file formats are supported. This includes RAW files from most cameras (.CR2, .NEF, .DNG, etc), JPEG, TIFF, as well as High Dynamic Range formats such as Radiance HDR, OpenEXR, and TIFF with 32-bit floating point.

You can see a list of supported Camera RAW formats on this page.

Yes. We provide a file format plug-in that makes .BEF format files compatible with Adobe Photoshop, so you can edit and save .BEF files in Photoshop. In this way you continue to benefit from Unified Color's industry-leading compression ratios when you save .BEF files in Photoshop

It really depends on the original scene you're photographing. In most situations 3, bracketed exposures at 2EV step (-2EV, 0EV, +2EV) will provide a good result. However in some cases you may need to take more shots to capture full dynamic range available from the original scene. Also, in some situations you may choose to do 1EV step for best quality. For each scene there's an optimal number of shots (sometimes even just one!) and an optimal EV step.

We recommend 1EV or 2 EV, depending on actual contrast you have in original scene. In most cases shooting at 2EV will do a good job, however there could be cases when 1EV step is the best.

For example if the scene has a little bit higher range than your camera can capture, 3 bracketed exposures at 1EV step may produce a better result than same 3 exposures taken at 2EV step. This is because, if we take the underexposed shot, given the original dynamic range, the -1EV exposure may be able to capture highlights with better noise definition than the -2EV exposure in the same conditions. For the overexposed shot, the +1EV exposure may do a better job than the +2EV for capturing shadows (again, given the original dynamic range) due to a less veil from lens glare that happens on longer exposures.

Yes. HDR Expose includes Adobe Lightroom export plug-in. The option to install it is included by default in the installer. HDR Expose supports both Lightroom 3 and Lightroom 4.

JPEG or TIFF can be used as source images for "Merge to HDR" function.

You can also use HDR Expose to enhance single 8-bit JPEG or 8/16-bit TIFF photographs with great results. Because HDR Expose uses the Beyond RGB™ color model, image editing and enhancement become a quick and powerful process. HDR Expose operations work on any image.

There is no limit on the number of images you can merge, as long as your system resources (e.g. available RAM) allow HDR Expose to merge the selected number of images. Most modern computers will handle large bracketed sequences without any problem.

You can certainly do so, however you must note that this process will not create any new information in the image. You can just load the original RAW file into HDR Expose and process it from there to obtain same level of details in the final image. The image result may be different because conversion to JPEG or TIFF changes the image information (typically RAW converters apply various S-curve corrections), however to note again this manipulation cannot create any new image information (shadow or highlight details) — you need to capture it from the original scene with true camera bracketed shots.

Yes. HDR Expose implements HDR batch merge operation.

If you shoot many bracketed sequences in one day you can conveniently merge them into any HDR format file for later processing. In the "Merge to HDR" dialog (accessible from the File menu), choose the "Batch merge" tab. Then press the "+" button. In this window you have the option to specify the number of bracketed shots in each individual HDR sequence and a folder where the source files for the sequences are located. Note that the batch operation only works on bracketed sequences with the same number of shots within one folder. If you have images with varying number of shots, you have to place them in separate folders in order to perform the HDR batch merge on them.

Color Tuning is designed specifically not to change neutral tones. The closer to white point your source color is, the smaller range circle of target color you'll get. Color Tuning is intended to fine-tune only more or less saturated color tones.

Use White Balance to change gray tones first, then use Color Tuning to fine-tune the other color tones.

The new image browser in HDR Express 2 is designed to eliminate the frustration of finding the photo you want in a group or folder of images on your computer when using the Open Image menu selection. The new Image Browser in provides a visual thumbnail presentation of your images for easy selection.

A merged HDR file typically extends far above and far below your display devices’ ability to display it. Non-adaptive tone mapping is used by most HDR photo applications to the reduce the contrast (difference between brightest and darkest pixels) of the file. This is a non-discriminatory type of tone mapping that gives equal weight to highs, lows and mid-areas when reducing the contrast of the file.

Unified Color’s adaptive tone mapping algorithms inspect the brightness distribution of all the pixels in your image file before it begins the tone mapping process. With the insight of this pixel analysis the adaptive tone mapping algorighm applies the correct amount of contrast reduction to the appropriate areas of the file so that the final image is more natural looking and true to the original scene that was captured.

A “ghost” in a merged HDR image file is an artifact that is the result of a person or object moving in one image of a series of images that were merged to create an HDR file. “De-ghosting” in an HDR application is the process of identifying and removing this “ghost” from the final, merged HDR file.

A: There are several ways to call an Export Plug-in in Lightroom. There are two steps to launching the plug-in: 1) Selecting the file type to send to the plug-in 2) Viewing the selected images in the Plug-in for processing.

If you select the images in Lightroom and choose the "Export" command from the "File" menu or right click to bring up the contextual menu and select "Export" Lightroom uses a shortcut to take you directly to Step 2 using the previous settings you selected in Step 1. However, if you've never used the settings selected in Step 1, Lightroom will convert your raw files to JPEGs and send them to the HDR Expose or HDR Express plug-ins resulting in poor image quality.

The preferred way to call the plug-in is as follows:


1. In the Library module select the images you want to merge.


2) Click on the "Export..." button on the bottom left corner of the screen


3. Select the HDR Expose or HDR Express plug-in from the preset menu on the left. Here you will see the choice to Merge and Edit Original Image(s) which will send the RAW files to the plug-in (assuming your original images are RAW files) or Merge and Edit Image(s) with Lightroom Adjustments which will apply any settings or changes you have made in Lightroom and render TIFF files and send them to the plug-in.

After you have selected one of these options once, you can go back to calling the plug-in by right clicking on the images or choosing the Export command from the File menu and Lightroom will send the images to the HDR Expose/Express plug-in the same way you had previously. If you want to change to RAW or TIFF go back to click on the "Export..." button at the bottom left corner of the Library module as seen above.

If you encounter any memory related problems using the HDR Expose Aperture or Lightroom plug-ins on the Mac, please make sure that Aperture or Lightroom is running in 64-bit mode. 64-bit processing is required in order to take advantage of the physical and virtual memory required for processing large HDR image files.

Please make sure to uncheck the "Open in 32-bit mode" option in the application's "Get Info" window and re-start the application.

64-bit setting

After exchanges with a number of customers that complained of very strange behavior such as "unable to interact with the user interface" and "When I move the mouse over things they light up but I can't click them", it appears that the issue is a bug that occurs with Wacom tablets.

To give a bit of a technical background of the issue, Unified Color products' user interface is designed using a cross platform framework made by Nokia called Qt, which we use because it allows us to make our products cross-platform in unified manner (the same user interface code works on Windows XP/Vista/7 and Mac OS X Leopard/Snow Leopard).

This Wacom incompatibility issue is a problem with Qt and is affecting all Qt-based applications, so unfortunately it is not something that we can fix directly. However it is a bug that Nokia acknowledges and says that it is working on, and many developers(including us) are pushing for them to provide a solution. Due to the nature of this process, we cannot provide an estimated timeline for when the fix should be available in our product, but again we are reaching out to Nokia to get this resolved — it is a high priority issue for us.

To be a bit more specific about the bug, we have found that the issue only affects Windows users of Wacom tablets when it is in "Mouse" mode, which is sometimes called "Relative" mode. A temporary workaround is to switch your pen into "Pen" mode(sometimes called "Absolute" mode), in which we observed proper behavior, or use a standard USB mouse.

We apologize for the delay with this issue and appreciate your patience.

If you have an ATI graphics adapter, and you're running Windows, OpenCL may not be turned on by default. The reason is because ATI Catalyst video driver doesn't support OpenCL (unlike NVIDIA's graphics driver). In order to enable OpenCL on ATI cards, users must install ATI Stream SDK from the following page:
http://developer.amd.com/gpu/atistreamsdk/

The HDR Expose installer detects whether Lightroom is at the default location in order to determine whether or not the HDR Expose plug-in can be installed. If you have Lightroom moved to a non-default location, the installer won't be able to install HDR Expose plug-in. The workaround in this situation would be either to move Lightroom into the default location for the time of the installation or to manually install the Lightroom plug-in.

Here are the instructions to manually install the plug-in:

  1. Mount the HDR Expose installer and open it up
  2. Right click on the HDR Expose package and select "show package contents"
  3. Navigate to the "Contents" folder and then to "Resources"
  4. Drag the files HDRExpose.lrplugin and HDRExposeLRPlugin to your desktop
  5. Open up the terminal (command+space bar, type terminal, press enter)
  6. Copy and paste the following statement into the terminal:
    chmod -R 777 ~/Desktop/HDRExposeLRPlugin.app && chmod -R 777 ~/Desktop/HDRExpose.lrplugin && mv ~/Desktop/HDRExpose.lrplugin ~/Library/Application\ Support/Adobe/Lightroom/Modules/ && mv ~/Desktop/HDRExposeLRPlugin.app/ /Library/Application\ Support/Unified\ Color/
  7. Press Enter if the above command didn't run automatically
  8. Restart Lightroom, right click the image, you should see "Merge and Edit in HDR Expose..." under the "Export" menu item

Users that encountered this issue have reported that installing the latest updates for Windows 7 and restarting their machine has resolved this problem.

Our True Color technology powers both HDR Express 2 and HDR Expose 2. The interfaces of the two products are designed for different photographer’s needs. HDR Express 2 is designed for the photographer who wants to get into HDR photographer quickly and easily. It provides presets that eliminate the guesswork in creating the look you are trying to achieve. And, when you use a preset you can still make additional edits using its simplified toolset.

Choose HDR Express 2 if you want to get going with HDR photography quickly. Choose HDR Expose 2 if you are looking for a full 32-bit color application that gives you maximum control over the tone mapping and editing process.

The new image browser in HDR Express 2 is designed to eliminate the frustration of finding the photo you want in a group or folder of images on your computer when using the Open Image menu selection. The new Image Browser in provides a visual thumbnail presentation of your images for easy selection.

HDR photography requires merging multiple bracketed exposures of the same image. HDR Express 2 automatically groups multiple bracketed exposures in its Open dialog box for easy selection, opening and merging. The group brackets are based on time interval between frames. If ordering is incorrect you can adjust the timeline using the Auto-Stack images slider.

A merged HDR file typically extends far above and far below your display devices’ ability to display it. Non-adaptive tone mapping is used by most HDR photo applications to the reduce the contrast (difference between brightest and darkest pixels) of the file. This is a non-discriminatory type of tone mapping that gives equal weight to highs, lows and mid-areas when reducing the contrast of the file.

Unified Color’s adaptive tone mapping algorithms inspect the brightness distribution of all the pixels in your image file before it begins the tone mapping process. With the insight of this pixel analysis the adaptive tone mapping algorighm applies the correct amount of contrast reduction to the appropriate areas of the file so that the final image is more natural looking and true to the original scene that was captured.

A “ghost” in a merged HDR image file is an artifact that is the result of a person or object moving in one image of a series of images that were merged to create an HDR file. “De-ghosting” in an HDR application is the process of identifying and removing this “ghost” from the final, merged HDR file.

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