HDR Express 3 is the newest version of the Unified Color HDR photo merging software. Many of the existing features have been enhanced to work better and faster. If you have never used an HDR program and are afraid that it is too complicated, “it isn’t.” As with all HDR programs you first get a start-up window into which you enter the image files that you want to merge. You can do that either by opening a directory dialogue box with your image folders in and choose from there, or you can do as I do by opening your folder on the screen and just highlighting the files there and grab and drop them onto the HDR window. Each way has their own advantages. The only thing you have to be aware of at this step is that files that you choose have to be of the same file type,” meaning you can’t merger two jpeg files, and a tiff file, and a RAW file. You can choose any of those type files, but all merge images have to be the same type.
Depending on the subject of your bracketed images, you are given two ways to merge them. The main thing that I have found that will determine which way you use is the conditions you are shooting under. If you are inside and using a tripod, then you can use the easy way to set and merge your images by using the “static option” feature to merge the files, but if you are outside where there is wind blowing something in the scene, such as the leaves on a tree, then you will want to use the feature that allows you to pick one of the image files to use as the “base” image and keep the “static option” feature off. If you were to merge all files with no control of the base image you will get blurred areas all over the image just as you would when you use a slow shutter speed on a windy day. The base image option not only gets rid of most, if not all of any blur, but it also gets rid of ghost images that occurs when you shoot multiple exposures hand-held and don’t have a tripod. Even the slightest movement from frame to frame will give you ghost images if you add them all together on top of one another. A great and powerful feature of Express 3 and one that will save many an image.
Once you have your files merged in Express 3 you can fine tune it further by using the slider tools on the right side of the window. These allow you to control eight different things in your image, such as exposure, highlights, shadow, and more. You also get a histogram window in this section that shows you in real-time what your changes do to the color, or gray scale. But this histogram related to an HDR image gives you more power than any histogram you have seen before because this one allows you to use the file data that lies outside of the clipping boundaries. Adjust one or more of the tool sliders and they will pull that clipped data back into the image.
I can't cover each and every feature in this short review, but you get the idea of just how much you will be able to control your HDR merged files to get a super finished image. The illustrations I have included here shows you just how much better the merged image is (ill. #2) over the original single shot (ill. #1) and I haven’t even done any fine tuning on the final merged image.
HDR Express 3 sells for just $79 and can be checked out and purchased at unifiedcolor.com