HDR Generation: Raw or JPG?

I mentioned in my previous article that I produce my HDR images in Photomatix Pro by merging and tone mapping high-quality JPGs which I have produced by first converting my raw images in Adobe Camera Raw.

In a discussion I had elsewhere, someone told me he only produces his HDR images from raw files, and another participant was curious as to whether doing so was a bad idea.

I decided to perform an experiment to compare the JPG method I endorse against the raw method.

Using Photomatix Pro, I produced two HDR images.

Five images (shot a stop apart, with identical framing, aperture and ISO) were merged with Photomatix Pro, and tone mapped using the ‘Fusion – Default’ preset.  Other than resizing and saving in JPG format, I have performed no post-processing to the images Photomatix produced.

On the first run, I used high-quality JPGs, which I had produced from raw images.  I applied the following settings in Adobe Camera Raw:

  • Camera Profile: Camera Standard
  • Sharpening Amount: 50
  • White Balance: Auto
  • Temperature: 5250
  • Clarity: +30

Here is the result:

Photomatix HDR from JPG

Photomatix HDR from JPG

On the second run, I used unprocessed Canon raw files.  In Photomatix Pro, I used the following raw conversion settings (there are no other options for raw conversion):

  • White Balance: Auto
  • Color primaries HDR based on: sRGB

Here is the result:

Photomatix HDR from CR2

Photomatix HDR from CR2

And finally, here is my final image, the HDR image of which was produced using high-quality JPGs, and to which I applied my own post-processing in Photoshop.

White Bay Wheels and Pipes

White Bay Wheels and Pipes

Based on the results above, my advice is to perform raw conversion first and work from JPGs rather than feeding raw images straight into Photomatix Pro.  In my experience, Adobe Camera Raw does a much better job, and Photomatix Pro produces a clearly superior result when it is fed high-quality JPG images.


One thought on “HDR Generation: Raw or JPG?

  1. Pingback: HDR Processing: A New and Effective Technique | Xenedis Phoblography

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