Ease Of Use
HDR projects 4 professional is, as the name suggests, HDR software and it's created by FRANZIS who are a software company with a whole portfolio of useful tools that are compatible with both Windows and Mac machines, plus there are Adobe Lightroom, Elements and Photoshop plug-ins available. The HDR software is available in 3 versions: HDR projects 4 elements, HDR projects 4 and HDR projects 4 professional all of which have different price points and offer different features (a detailed list of the differences can be found on the FRANZIS website). On test, is the Pro version which has every tool and option FRANZIS think you need to create super realistic, HDR images.
HDR projects 4 professional Features
- New plug-in for Lightroom (all versions of LR 3 to LR CC)
- ultraHDR - new HDR-technology for the merger of the exposure range images
- Selective character tool for seven effects with intelligent automatic edge detection.
- Algorithms Browser for an interactive graphical selection of HDR-algorithms, optimisation variants and layer blend modes
- Browser history for all processed exposure items and projects Point of Interest: The selected effects will only be available for a specifically definable area - the expected effects are in full resolution for this Image pane.
- Time saving during the processing of very large high resolution photos.
- Completely newly developed tone mapping category "color fidelity" for a very natural color reproduction in the tonal compression.
- New Preset categories for color fidelity and lights
- 45 different layer blend modes for each post-processing-effect.
- Nine new effects and high-end tools for new creative possibilities of "white noise" via "mirroring" to "Aura".
- 134 new and optimised presets with gallery function
- RAW-module: enlargement to white & black correction, additional high-quality extraction methods and new camera RAW-models
- Cut picture with 71 format templates and new auxiliary tools such as the golden spiral, the golden section and the rule of thirds using auxiliary lines.
- Optimization of the HDR-engine and post-processing engine
HDR projects 4 professional Ease Of Use
When you first open up HDR projects 4 professional you're welcomed by a blank user interface that has icons and a menu bar to the top of it. If you've not used previous versions of the software, you may be unsure where to go / what to do first but don't worry; there are video tutorials available on the FRANZIS website that talk through various aspects of the photo editing software. You can also place your mouse cursor above the icons so a text bubble pops up explaining what they are.
Initially, you have 2 options: Open a single image to apply an HDR effect to or open several images captured at different exposures for the software to merge into one image. The latter is the most common method for creating HDR imagery so you'll probably be going down this road, although we will also discuss the single image option further on in the review.
Importing images couldn't be simpler and it is, actually, a rather speedy process. You're also given the option to adjust white balance temperatures, noise amount, alignment and ghosting corrections before the merge process begins. Although, these are selected / filled in automatically for you and you don't even have to preview this window if you don't want to. For the purpose of the review, we just left the options as the software presented them and clicked the 'next' arrow. Although, we do have to mention the automatic ghosting correction tool as it's very good at its job.
Your blended image is opened up in an interface that is well designed and easy to navigate. To the left, you'll find a whopping 82 versions of your blended image which all differ in some way and to the right, are various tools and algorithms for further adjusting the photo. There are auto options to select from which make changes to your image with the simple click of a button or if you do want to manually tweak an option, you can.
Even though these added options are great to have, due to the amount of versions / presets the software presents, we generally found we didn't really need to use these too much. This makes the software great for those new to HDR but likewise, someone who regularly dabbles in HDR photography will still find the software useful with its excellent auto features and extra tools on offer they can use to make smaller adjustments that really make their images 'pop'. There are also some really nice monochrome options available along with some cool 'retro' filters and other artistic choices that won't be everyone's cup of tea but it's still good to have so much choice available. You can also blend presets together by simply clicking the 'combine default presets' button.
If you want to edit / add effects to only a specific area of your image you can use the 'Point of Interest' option that makes any changes made only visible in the specific spot selected.
As well as the presets, there are algorithms built in that give more / less weight to individual exposures you've uploaded which further expands the effects you can create and apply to your image. As does the options to adjust your image to reflect a specific time of day via the Tone Mapping Light effect slider. For even more control, you can edit individual brackets with the HDR painter option so light levels can be adjusted in one particular area on one particular bracket, for example.
Tools are very responsive and accurate and you don't have to wait too long for each effect / adjustment to be applied. Although, processing times can be longer when you are working with the image at its true size so it's actually quicker to work in the Preview Mode. To see changes you've made to preset settings applied immediately, ensure 'Real Time Processing' is selected. You can also ensure you don't burn out any highlights, resulting in a loss of detail, by using the handy border pixel display which shows light pixels as orange and dark pixels as blue.
The magnifying glass shows a close-up of one area of the image, which is expected, however the nice touch with this tool is that it also shows what this area looked like before / after an effect was applied. There's also a comparison view that shows you the before/after results.
Ultra HDR is a new button you won't have found in previous versions of this software and it's a well-worth edition to the latest version. Basically, it helps you produce better HDR images that have more detail and the changes can be applied to specific scenarios such as twilight, daylight and interior shots. If you take a look at the sky in the two shots below, the Ultra HDR image (top) has more punch and some branches are more defined.
As well as JPEGS, RAW files can be edited and there are also post-production editing options available, plus dust spots and other unwanted elements can be removed via the Corrections tab. By marking defects in your image, the program will automatically substitute these areas with other appropriate parts of the photo which means you don't have to do this manually, speeding the process up as a result. You could even use it as a type of clone stamp tool if you have rubbish or other distracting items that need removing to improve the overall composition of your shot.
The software also has a tool that allows you to selectively edit areas without the need for masks to be applied manually, plus you don't have to be very precise with your selections either as the software has a newly developed intelligent border recognition algorithm that independently identifies borders, lines and light differences which is a neat feature.
As for creating the HDR look on a single image, this is also easy and quick to achieve.
There's no 'undo' button as such which regular users of editing software will find a bit weird but you simply add a different preset by clicking on it which in turn removes the previous effect and when changes are made to sliders, the software remembers where the slider was previously sat at and shows this with a changed in the colour of the slider so you can easily move it back to its previous point. There's also a timeline you can add restore points to so you can access previous edits but you need to add these manually by clicking the 'save a restore point' button.
When saving, you can add caption or crop the image should you wish and as well as been able to save the image as various image file options, you can also open the final image in an external program such as Lightroom or Photoshop.
Overall, we have to applaud the software for its overall performance and how easy it is to learn how to use. There are plenty of options to explore and it's well worth spending a bit of time getting to really know how it works so you can use it to its full potential. Plus, the automated results are, for the most part, really great and thanks to the number of preset options that are presented, it's easy to find a 'look' that fits your tastes. Yes, there are some presets that are slightly over the top but you can adjust the various sliders available to tone down the effect or just simply pick a different preset as after all, there are over 80 to pick from.
Single Image Before & After:
Before & After Bracketed:
1/400 sec | f/8.0 | 12.0 mm | ISO 200
FRANZIS HDR projects 4 Sample Photos
Value For Money
HDR projects 4 professional is available for 198 USD which is around £137 but for your money, you really do get a lot of bang for your buck. HDR projects 4 professional is packed with features and plenty of presets, all of which are adjustable. Other standalone HDR products available include packages from Photomatix and Macphun while Adobe and Corel offer built-in HDR features in their other, general photo editing software. Photomatix Pro 5 and Aurora HDR are available for around £70 while PaintShop Pro X8 Ultimate from Corel is available for £69.99, although this isn't a standalone HDR product. Adobe CC memberships start at £17.15 per month but again, Adobe doesn't have a product that just focuses on HDR.
HDR projects 4 professional Verdict
HDR projects 4 professional offers a lot of features and tools for a great price. It's bursting with presets and once you begin to explore the software, you really do realise it has a lot to offer.
The presets make it easy for an HDR novice to use while the extra tools on offer will be used by those who have more experience in the area of HDR photography.
At around £137, it is more expensive than other HDR software on the market but it is compatible with both Windows and Mac which is a plus and as we've already said, you really do get loads of features, adjustments and other tools that make the asking price a rather reasonable sum. Plus, there's a more basic version available for $99 USD (around £70) that you may find actually offers everything you need. There's also a free trial available should you wish to 'try before you buy' and after playing around with the software, we can definitely say it's well-worth a look.
HDR projects 4 professional is bursting with features and helps the user create HDR images that aren't overcooked in a quick and easy way and as a result, we are happy to 'Highly Recommend' the software.
HDR projects 4 professional gives the HDR fan a lot of bang for your buck, plus it's easy to use and produces great results.
HDR projects 4 professional System Requirements
Windows: 10/8/7, 64 Bit, Prozessor Intel I5, 4 GB HDD, 2 GB HDD,1.280 x 1024 Pixels Screen Resolution, Graphic Card: DirectX-8-compatible, 128 MB, 32 bit colour depth.
Mac: OS X ab 10.7, 64 Bit, Prozessor Intel/G5, 4 GB HDD, 2 GB HDD, 1.280 x 1024 Pixels Screen Resolution.