Photo Manipulation

Layered HDR Tone Mapping

Analyzing the Results

How does this process compare with HDRSoft Photomatix tone mapping? In this section, we’ll analyze the results from Photoshop CS3 and Photomatix and compare the differences.

First, we’ll begin with this tone mapped cityscape of Vancouver, BC that was toned mapped using both Photomatix and Photoshop CS3.

At a glance, they both look very similar. Photomatrix seems to produce slightly more saturated colors.



The image produced with Photomatrix is slightly softer than the original image.


The results from this tutorial produces sharp results. However, there are noticeable outlines around bright edges.

Color & Noise


Color results from Photomatrix are excellent. The colors are natural and smooth. Noise is slightly visible and hot pixel are visible.


Photoshop produces less saturated color and color detail is lacking. There is visibally less noise and no hot pixel compared to results from Photomatrix.

Artifacts – Changing Color

The sails in the images below are lit by a color chaging light that fades from one color to another.


Photomatrix had troubles dealing with the changing color.


Photoshop was able to handle the effect and produced smooth results.

Artifacts – Flares


Photomatrix produced artifacts around some flares.


Photoshop produced slightly less artifacts than Photomatrix.

Pros and Cons

The two methods of tone mapping are similar, but they share their own pros and cons. Photomatix does a better job for most of the time. We recommend using Photomatix tone mapping first. If it doesn’t produce good results, use try using this Photoshop tutorial instead. While the image generated by Photomatix has more noise and isn’t as sharp, these can be fixed in Photoshop aftewards.

Photomatix Tone Mapping

Photoshop CS3 (This tutorial)


  • Simple process and easy adjustments
  • Excellent color results
  • Smooth tones
  • Exposures in their own seperate and editable layer
  • Good sharpness
  • Lower level of noise compared to original
  • Most hot pixels are removed
  • Less artifacts


  • Slightly more noise than original
  • Visible hot pixels
  • More artifacts
  • More steps required
  • Tweaking the results require advance Photoshop knowledge
  • Abnormal outlines around bright edges
  • Less saturated colors

Update: Fixed the “Photomatix” spelling mistake. Thanks for the notice in the comments. :)

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