Ever since I read about manipulating images to display them as HDR images, I have been playing around with various tools available for the Linux and Windows platforms. It was quite difficult to find a free tool for Windows for this purpose and I finally used a trial version of Photomatix (a very well known HDR creation and tone mapping application), which leaves a watermark on all the images that you create. For Linux, I found qtpfsgui.
Photmatix was easy to use. Requiring little or no experimentation to be carried out and gave good results. The software was powerful and easy to use. The resultant HDR image by default looked good and you could tweak it to your satisfaction. The downside is that Photomatix pro, which is the only version thats any good is not free. Photomatix basic is just not as much fun. 100 dollars is just too much for an amateur like me.
Qtpfsgui is the Linux alternative to the above. Its free and its powerful, however getting the hang of the different algorithms present in the package is a whole lot of trial and error. The resultant image is just as good as the ones created by Photomatix. Provided that you were able to get the right values for all the different settings that you have to work really hard to understand. But once you have that setting, you are good to go and changing those settings can give you interesting results. The experimentation is also good as you get quite different results when you use the different algorithms. At the end of the day, I had to use qtpfsgui as my primary OS is linux and I dont boot into Windows often. I would miss the tone mapping flexibility offered by Photomatix when I would be working in Linux.
Tone mapping is what makes a HDR image show up with astonishing results on your computer screen. Since this was what was the main process that I wanted to carry out comfortable inLinux, I started looking for only tone mapping tools for the Linux platform. That’s when my search led me to the Advanced Tone Mapping Plugin for The GIMP. This works out very well for me as I use The GIMP extensively for all my post processing needs.
The Advanced Tone Mapping (ATM) plugin is very east to use, with just a few settings and very little experimentation involved. This nifty little plugin attempts to duplicate the workings of the LightZone (not Adobe Lightroom) tone mapper. It is a script developed by the author to automate the steps provided by gimpaddict in his tutorial where he has given step by step instructions on getting LightZone Tone Mapper type result from The GIMP. By the way, LightZone’s Tone Mapper is considered by many to be superior to the tone mapping capabilities of even Adobe Lightroom.
The ATM plugin is ridiculously easy to use. You don’t even have to start with differently exposed images to create an HRD image in the first palce. You can just start with any old image and get working on it right away. The results are surprisingly effective. I will you to decide the best of the lot from 3 examples below created with ATM, Photomatix and qtpfsgui. In my opinion, they are all equally good.