Sunset is a time that it can be difficult to capture a decent (and appropriate) dynamic range (tonal levels) of light. Bracketed exposures are a great way to ensure you get a decent exposure and taking this into traditional HDR merging and tone mapping will usually guarantee a decent picture. Finally how does this compare with my new software toy application PhotoLemur (aka AI enhancer). Is the extra effort worthwhile?
This first row are the original photos (The EV=0 image as a jpeg)
This second line are the results from processing three bracketed photo through my current favoured HDR application Aurora HDR, using just the default tone mapping and Realistic Balance preset as a start, then small tonal and colour tweaks.
This third line was prepared with On1 Photo RAW’s new HDR merge which is pretty fast and the default tone mapping is realistic.
This Fourth line is using the AfterShot pro 3 to merge and tome map, keeping the changes to minimal tone stretching and slight lift in vibrancies. This was once my preferred application and approach for HDR (as it was my only application to allow merging of RAW files) but I seldom use it now. It was a more involved process with reasonable amount of adjustment (“slider strain”) required if I don’t use their presets (which all have that “over baked” contrasty saturated look).
Finally I ran the middle exposure (0 EV) RAW photo through PhotoLemur, and accepted the full enhancement.
Once again the results differ but not dramatically and it is really a question of your personal preferences.
By the way, I actually would not consider PhotoLemur a “toy” application, because unlike a lot of other one click filters (or presets) it makes good adjustments decisions based on the photo being processed. All within a few seconds. Its a toy because I like to play with it, it still amazes me.
Will I just use Photo Lemur instead of doing a traditional HDR? No! (not yet)