Hydra Pro Updated for Mac HDR Photo Creation

High dynamic range images continue to grow in popularity with imaging professionals, since they store pixel values that span the entire tonal range of real-world scenes. But easy-to-use, inexpensive approaches to creating HDR images are also beginning to appear, with Hydra one of the better-known exponents of this trend.

The principle is simple enough. Since one photograph can't capture the full range of available light, by taking multiple shots and combining them an image can be generated that better represents the actual scene. Hydra approaches this with a welcome simplicity, first by removing the usual necessity for such shots to be created with a tripod. The user can combine two to seven hand-held shots, with Hydra using a morphing algorithm to blend them together. Just drag and drop the shots and watch the magic take place, with blending happening in the GPU to make subsequent parameter adjustments occur in real time.

Twelve tone mapping presets are provided, including Tinted Sky, Reds Only, Sepia Tones, Retro and Cyanotype. Adjustment controls allow users to control such image aspects as the overall exposure, hue, saturation, brightness and contrast, or enhance shadows, highlights or details.

Version 4 adds quite a bit of new functionality, with support for macOS graphics API Metal driving a rewritten computation and display architecture, featuring a high-precision 128-bit per pixel internal format and fast 60 FPS previewing at full resolution. Users should thus be able to change tone mapper settings in real time and at full size, with no delay. Alignment is often required if images are shot without a tripod, so say hello to a new alignment tool that can be used for automatic or manual image alignment, providing high-precision live positioning and fine tuning.

Moving objects can create ghosting artifacts, so users can now employ manual removal of such artifacts using a region delineation tool and then define which photos contribute to the merged image. A revamped tone mapper, shown at right, is said to be faster, more accurate and provide more control for fine tuning details. Other improvements include an advanced comparison tool of the result against original pictures; single or multiple input photos of various formats (JPEG, RAW, HDR, EXR); accurate color processing, including support for deep and wide color displays; and integration with Apple Photos.

Hydra, which requires a Metal-based Mac for Metal rendering, can be purchased for a limited time on the Mac App Store for $44.99 (regular $59.99). More information is available on the Creaceed site, as well as a trial version.