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I am looking for software that can align photos which are slightly misaligned and then blend them together to produce a HDR photograph.

I often find that I am faced with a shot that my camera cannot reproduce because the dynamic range of the scene is too high. I get either too much bloom or pitch black shadows. I would like to be able to take a couple of photos at different exposure compensation levels, and then align them and blend for HDR. The thing is I mostly shoot handheld, so getting photos that I can easily match up with one another is very difficult.

I usually use Lightroom for processing, and I don't know that it has this feature. So, I am wondering if there is any software that can take two or more photos and automatically align them before either automatically merging the HDR, or producing output photos that I can easily merge myself.

  • Lightroom does do HDR. I have done it myself. Simply select the photos to be merged, right click and there is an option to do hdr. Actually there's two, one is internal (using lightroom) and one external (i.e. Photoshop). – Aiko Wolf Mar 18 '16 at 17:42
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    @AikoWolf, HDR capability depends on which version of Lr, it was introduced in the latest version (6). – inkista Mar 18 '16 at 17:52
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    I did not know that. I only subscribed to CC since version 6. If it's a CC (creative cloud) subscription, you should be able to upgrade to latest version as part of your CC membership. If you have CS (creative suite), then the Adobe photography plan is AUD$9.99 per month and you get photoshop and lightroom plus a few extra features. Might be worth considering – Aiko Wolf Mar 18 '16 at 17:56
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    Possible duplicate of What tools do you recommend for creating HDR images? – scottbb Mar 18 '16 at 18:18
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There are tons of software that do exactly that. A number also bypass the HDR image by producing an image using Exposure Fusion so that you do not have to do tone-mapping. You lose flexibility but it can produce good results faster.

Lightroom and Photoshop have an HDR feature built-in and they have an option to Align images or not. For a list of Exposure Fusion software, see this answer.

  • I didn't know Lightroom and Photoshop had the alignment capability. Thanks! – Luke Mar 18 '16 at 19:10
  • Exposure Fusion is just one form of HDR. You don't have to create a 32-bit floating point file to do HDR, that's just one way among many of doing it. – Michael C Mar 18 '16 at 22:42
  • HDR is an acronym for High Dynamic Range. Defining HDR Imaging as only the technique that uses 32-bit floating point files that must be tonemapped is a very narrow definition of HDR Imaging. Exposure Fusion is just as much an HDR Imaging technique as tone-mapping a 32-bit floating point file is. So is the dodging and burning Ansel Adams and others did in the early/mid 20th century. So is combining parts of two differently exposed images of seascapes that Gustave LeGray did in the 1850s. – Michael C Mar 18 '16 at 22:47
  • No, it does not have to be floating point but any HDR image exceeds the range which can be stored in a normal (LDR) image file which is why it must be tone-mapped. Exposure-Fusion does not produce an HDR but an LDR image. – Itai Mar 19 '16 at 0:26
  • All HDR methods produce an image that is LDR compared to the scene being imaged. That's the whole point of High Dynamic Range Imaging which has been around since at least 1850: to render a scene with wider dynamic range than the conventional LDR methods available at the time can display. – Michael C Apr 28 at 3:25
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The open source package, Hugin, can both align images (its primary purpose is to do panorama stitching), and combine stacked images to HDR. It uses the command line utility: align_image_stack (see also: What open source software for auto-alignment of photographs?). So, there are also a number of GUI front ends that can call align_image_stack to align your images for you.

There is also the donationware Lightroom plugin for enfuse, LrEnfuse, which uses align_image_stack to align images, and enfuse to exposure fuse them. This is another technique to cover a high-dynamic-range scene. But it doesn't remap all the values from the member images into a single large value range in a special HDR file format, and then tone maps out into a displayable file format, as most HDR software does. Instead, enfuse looks at individual pixel values of the member files, and then interpolates a final value for that same pixel in the output image from those values, weighting the results by the contrast, exposure, and saturation of the member values. No tonemapping. No HDR file formats.

  • HDR is an acronym for High Dynamic Range. Defining HDR Imaging as only the technique that uses 32-bit floating point files that must be tonemapped is a very narrow definition of HDR Imaging. Exposure Fusion is just as much an HDR Imaging technique as tone-mapping a 32-bit floating point file is. So is the dodging and burning Ansel Adams and others did in the early/mid 20th century. So is combining parts of two differently exposed images of seascapes that Gustave LeGray did in the 1850s. – Michael C Mar 18 '16 at 22:47

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