Some of you may have noticed that I’ve recently been posting a lot of HDR photographs here and on my G+ page lately. Part of the reason is because I enjoy being creative, and HDR is one of my creative outlets. The other reason is that I’ve had the opportunity to test the latest version of Nik Software’s HDR tone-mapping software, HDR Efex Pro 2.0, which was formally announced today and is available now.
At first glance, version 2.0 might seem like a minor revision, with subtle improvements to the interface and control sliders. However, I can honestly say that after testing HDR Efex Pro 2.0 for the last few months, I will not be going back to version 1. My HDR images are consistently better across the board with version 2.0; they have better color, better sharpness, and superior tone-mapping effects.
The Nikon D800 has a 36x24mm (FX format) sensor with 36-megapixel resolution. How do you get the best quality from this amazing sensor? By using good technique and properly sharpening your images, of course. If you shoot JPEG with the D800/e, you’re doing yourself a disservice if you want to make large prints (or crop). In my initial testing, I’m seeing that the sharpening halos produced by the in-camera sharpening algorithms (Nikon Picture Controls) are a little too large to bring out the finest details. So, how should you attack your D800 images? I’ve taken a look at sharpening routines in three different programs: ACR 7.1/ Lightroom 4, Capture NX2, and Aperture. When you sharpen properly, you’ll be amazed at what pops out of the RAW files from the D800!
Before you begin, do keep in mind that no amount of sharpening is going to produce great results unless you’ve got a properly focused image and a well-supported camera. If you had camera shake or subject motion from a slow shutter speed, there isn’t much you can do.