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Photomatix vs Enfuse: Two Ways To Do HDR

Published: 25/03/2008

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I did a shoot this weekend of a new listing I have and decided to use both my usual lighting technique (primarily on camera flash) and Enfuse and use what ever worked the best. It turned out not to be much contest; I like the Enfuse results best. Here are a sequence of photos that I used Enfuse to get. For all these shots I shot 7 shots (+3EV,+2EV, +1EV, 0EV, -1EV, -2EV, -3EV). I then Enfused them from Lightroom with LR/Enfuse.

The light outside on Sunday was pretty bright (for Issaquah and the home was high up on a hill in a new development with no trees so all the windows were brighter than usual for this time of the year.

I've used Photomatix application on many of these and I find that I can get to pretty close to the same place with Photomatrix but I have to spend more time getting the tone mapping to look good. The thing I like about Enfuse is you can get to almost the same place faster.

Photomatix Pro 6
  • Photomatix can serve as a standalone application or plugin
  • This photo editing software uses batch processing mode to blend exposures and change colors for pictures and videos selectively
  • The interface of Photomatix Pro isn't as intuitive as other real estate photo editors and tends to lag when not updated
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Here is why Enfuse is faster: Doing HDR with Photomatix is a two step process:

  1. You use a series of LDR (Low Dynamic Range) images to create a HDR (High Dynamic Range) image. You can accurately view or print the HDR image because monitors and printers cannot display the dynamic range in a HDR image.
  2. Then you map the tones in the HDR image back into a printable/viewable LDR image.

Whereas Enfuse is a one step process that uses a technique called Exposure Fusion (here is their paper on Exposure Fusion) invented by Tom Mertens, Jan Kautz and Frank Van Reeth that fuses a bracked exposure sequence into a high quality image, without converting to HDR first. Skipping the physically-based HDR assembly step simplifies the process, is computationally efficient and allows for the inclusion of flash images in the sequence. Their paper gives all the gory details and many great examples of how Exposure Fusion works and gives some examples.

Enfuse is open source software implemented by Andrew Mihal (developer of Enblend, software well known to 360 panographers). But Enfuse is command line software that needs a GUI. Some GUI's are Lightroom ( see LR/Enfuse ) and Bracketeer for PC, Enfuse Gui for PC and xFuse for Mac. I like LR/Enfuse because it fits into a Lightroom workflow nicely.

David Palermo reports that Enfuse will be included in the version 3 of Photomatix that is now in beta.

Larry Lohrman

31 comments on “Photomatix vs Enfuse: Two Ways To Do HDR”

  1. The new beta of PTGui Pro has a fusion option with a highlight slider that really recovers alot of the blown-out highlights outside.

  2. ACDsee Pro 2 has a "Light EQ" panel inside the Raw Processor that takes off the highest highs and lowest lows quite well.

  3. I am using Photomatix some, and like it, though it takes some time to remove some of the soft look and make it look more real. I will prob only use this for rooms with bright views out the windows, and perhaps some exteriors. Most other interior rooms can be photographed without it. However, I can see HDR, espcially "realistic looking HDR" as being very appealing to those RE photographers who predominantly shoot with ambient light only. would like to mix in an exposure that is flashed in addition to the ambient-only highlight and lowlight exposures.

  4. Enfuse unfortunately have not full haloless features in comparison
    with Photomatix latest Pro 3 Beta 15 version. It is a fact.

  5. Although I have yet to try Enfuse, I have been using the Beta release of PhotoMatix Pro for the past week or so and NEUH is pretty close - the exposure blending algorithm is vastly improved. I am very much liking what I am seeing so far.

    Which leads me to wonder why Enfuse wouldn't provide the same results. Aren't they based on the same algorithm?

  6. David: I doubt they are the same exact algorithm. The base algorithm is the same probably but I am sure they are each modifying things too.

    I have been using both Enfuse as well as Phhotomatix beta and like them both so far.


  7. David P, as you have experience with both programs would you mind telling me which one you prefer so far?

    In your opinion would there be any real advantage in my incorporating them both into my workflow or do you feel they both pretty much accomplish (ultimately) the same thing?

    Thank you in advance,


  8. @David T,
    I'm interested to hear what David P would say as well...

    My answer (since I've also used Photomatix 3 beta and Enfuse) is that it depends if you use Lightroom. I managed to get to pretty much the same place with both programs.. however, I use Lightroom and find Enfuse much faster because it's built into lightroom where as Photomatix is completely outside lightroom. IF you don't use lightroom Photomatix is probably the best route.

  9. I am work last days with Enfuse+GUI( Ingebar Bergmark programmer), TuFusion GUI(entropy as nik-name)+ Tufuse (Max Lyons programmer ) and Photomatix Pro 3Beta 15.
    The comparison as haloless would be the next:
    PMatix on first place and Tufuse,Enfuse on second only.
    The work speed Tufuse,Enfuse as rocket of course.
    But what do you want ? Speed or quality?

    The halo is irremovable problem an algorythm of Enfuse-like program. Look in to above to the picture of the room.
    You can see the white areas over white sofa and light area above a brown old-fashioned table(?) on the left of the picture.
    It is a halo.

  10. The thing I run into when using either Enfuse or Photomatix is that I can't get the very bright outside window stuff to tone down very well. It always looks too bright and I do have enough under exposed shots to cover this. sigh...

  11. Same here David. I find this is where the limits of PhotoMatix really start to show. When you absolutely have to have that balanced exterior view you need to push PhotoMatix very hard toward the dark end of the blend - which invariably produces dark window trim elements and an overall underexposed look to the interior altogether. That's why I still usually take the extra step of combining the best HDR blend once again with the best exterior exposure to come up with something that is less technically correct yet more pleasing to my eye. The trouble I am running into now is finding a way to ease the transition (quickly) between the two drastically different scenes. Overexposed trim elements are the lesser of two evils for me but they are still evil!

    I'm still struggling with the technique - trying to find an appropriate balance between efficiency and quality. Something you have obviously mastered already!
    (please disregard the distortion and poor composition in these, they are crops from a 360º VR)

    It's also the reason I was asking your opinion about Enfuse. I was wondering if it handled this kind of DR any better than PhotoMatix.


  12. Larry T, Thank you. I'm just beginning to get back into this after a year and a half absence. I've got some catching up to do. I only recently learned of Lightroom and Enfuse (from this forum) and was wondering if it was worthwhile purchasing the LR and Enfuse modules or just stick with PhotoMatix and PS.

    I think you answered my question!


  13. Bad MLS Photo Friday...

    Tony MeierEastside Realtor Here is this week’s installment featuring the pathetic photographic skills of my colleges here in the Northwest. Where do I start?!? Okay, how about the bad HDR (High Dynamic Range) processing. The light and dark spots all...

  14. Hello all,

    I have been using Enfuse for a few days and getting the hang of it. Really like the results and the LR integration. One question, are you experiencing any super long processing times? Combining 3 images are taking about 5 min to run in Enfuse. Files are from 1DsMkII, and saving as TIFF; running on MBP 2.6 GHz, 4GB RAM, 7200 RPM drive.

    Thanks for any tips or just to let me know this is normal.


  15. @Bill- On the fused images in the above slide show I processed 7 RAW images from my 1Ds (the old kind that is just 11mp) on my Mac Book Pro (2.4 Mz) and they were taking less than a minute. 5 mins seems like a long time but the RAW files from your 1Ds-MKII are bigger I think.

  16. Thanks Larry,
    I have fused 7 from a 1D MkIII and it seemed to take about the same time. It may just be the size of the files on the Ds, they are between 15-17MB per.

  17. Read your article with great interest.
    Trying to get Enfuse to work but can't.
    I've downloaded droplets, Enfusegui, hugin, nothing seems to work.

    I did manage to get a wildly curved HDR panorama out of Hugin but the images were identical except for exposure.

    Can someone direct me on how to get Enfuse to work?

    Thanks, Bob

  18. Can Photomatix do focus blending? How does it compare to Enfuse in that area?

  19. I got this e-mail from the guys over at photomatix:

    Question: are you planning a version of photomatix that works more like the enfuse lightroom interface?

    Answer: Dear Jessica,

    The Enfuse plug-in does not provide a decent preview of the resulting image because the current version of Lightroom does not make it possible to build plug-ins like is possible with Photoshop unfortunately. We believe that offering a good preview of the effect of blending or tone mapping is very important, which is why we use the dialogs of Photomatix Pro.

    The next version of our Lightroom plug-in will make the integration with Lightroom tighter by offering to set the alignment and HDR generation options from Lightroom directly, and also make it possible to automatically reimport the blended or tone mapped image into the Lightroom library. However, we will still continue using Photomatix Pro for the tone mapping and blending dialogs because of the availability of a preview and histogram.


    Geraldine Joffre
    HDR Imaging for Photography

  20. My primary question with HDR is this: In a mixed light situation when you have both tungsten lighting a room and daylight coming in throuh large expanses of windows what do you use for a white balance setting. If you choose tungsten white balance how do you keep the daylight lit areas from going blue. If you choose daylight white balance how do you keep the tungsten lit areas from going yellow/brown?

  21. I found a very comprehensive HDR software called Dynamic Photo HDR at
    I have been experimenting with the trial version for only a few days and have become impressed with its many features as well as the final result.
    In my mind, this is probably the best pkg I have found for uninterrupted workflow. You really never have to exit it from
    raw to finished 16 bit tiff, psd or just regular jpeg for web.
    It has automatic transfer from processed hdr into it's own photo editor. It even searches your hard drive for all compatible adobe plug ins and does an
    automatic install of them into it's own editor. Additionally it is very reasonably priced.

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