Unified Color Technologies, which specializes in high dynamic range imaging (HDR), has released HDR Express, a tool specifically designed to meet the requirements of professional photographers and photo enthusiasts who are new to HDR software. On the Mac platform, it’s compatible with Mac OS X 10.5.8 and higher.

With HDR Express, Unified Color has automated some of the most complex aspects of HDR photography and replaced the traditional HDR workflow with an alternative for creating the most realistic HDR renderings possible making this once-complicated process accessible to even the most novice user, according to Unified Color Technologies CEO Alfred Zee. The software automates key aspects of the HDR production process, such as tone mapping and halo elimination.

After merging the multiple exposures required for the HDR process into a 32-bit image, the user interface presents an animated exposure range preview of the HDR image along with five tone mapping preset options. For the fastest results, users can then choose from a series of color and style presets or create their own presets using the program’s adjustment sliders, which manipulate brightness, highlight and shadow recovery, black point, contrast, saturation and white balance. In addition to workflow enhancements, the newly developed processing algorithms in HDR Express enable users to view edits in real-time, according to Zee.

HDR Express accepts JPEG and TIFF files, as well as many of the major manufacturers’ RAW formats. The included plug-ins for Adobe Photoshop Lightroom and Apple’s ApertureT also allow users to “round trip” images from their libraries. Once the work has been finalized, users can save the results as a JPEG, 8-bit or 16-bit TIFF, or preserve the full dynamic range of the HDR image by exporting in Unified Color’s native 32-bit BEF file.
HDR Express is normally available for US$99 at http://www.unifiedcolor.com/hdr-express as an electronic download. Throughout December, Unified Color is also offering a special holiday promotion, during which the software is available for $85. Current Unified Color customers looking to take advantage of HDR Express’ streamlined workflow can purchase the software for $50. A free, fully functional 30-day trial version is also available for download.