After you have the program, open Photomatix, click the Generate HDR button, and then select your photos.
You’ll then see a dialog box with some options like “Align source images”, “Reduce noise”, etc.
I would recommend ticking all of them on and then click OK. Photomatix will combine the images together and then show you a preview of an unprocessed HDR photograph.
This preview will look ugly because it has not been tone-mapped yet.
In order to tone-map the photo, click Process > Tone Mapping.
This is where the magic happens.
You’ll see adjustment settings to the left, and a preview of your image to the right. Each image is different and requires different settings. Just adjust each slider until you get something you like.
There are no rules when it comes to HDR; you can adjust your image to the extreme or go for a more modest look.
I usually like to bump up the white point a little if there are bright skies present, because otherwise the whites will just come out to be a washed out gray.
Images being adjusted with extreme values have caused probably the most controversial arguments in the photography world.
The images on the left are good examples of this.
Each image probably has the Strength on 100%, The white point and black point set to 100%, the saturation set to 100%, etc.
Some people love this look and some people hate it, saying it isn’t even “real photography”.
You can really tell if an image is an extreme HDR photo when you look at the thumbnail of the image.
Sometimes you can’t even tell what you are looking at because the values are set at such extreme numbers.
One of the values that really over-does it is the Light Smoothing option in Photomatix.
The Light Smoothing option basically determines how ‘spread out’ the tone map is.
If you set the Light Smoothing to Low (with the Strength on 100%), the images will look unnatural; if you set the light smoothing to Very High, it will look natural (like a regular, non-HDR photo) and not much of the HDR effect will as noticeable.
I like to leave it at High or Medium, but the choice is yours.