Last week I was taken to task by a reader because of a statement I made about switching to Photoshop CS3 Extended because of it’s advanced High Dynamic Range capability. Basically the question was, why should I spend another US $300 to get CS3 Extended?
Photoshop CS3 does have 32-bit High Dynamic Range capabilities, you can take a series of bracketed photos and by applying Merge to HDR, you can broaden the tonal range beyond what is possible from a single exposure. Photoshop CS3 Extended also provides the basic 32-bit High Dynamic Range Merge to HDR function, and in addition it allows you to apply Brushes, Text, Levels, Hue, Saturation, etc. to the 32-bit HDR image and more than likely a wider range of Photoshop CS3 image enhancement tools will be added in the future.
The 32-bit HDR color picker
In essence Photoshop CS3 users who are working with High Dynamic Range images, now have another choice beside using the Photomatix Tone Mapping plug-ins to enhance the High Dynamic Range capabilities of Photoshop CS2 & CS3. As anyone who has experimented with High Dynamic Range images knows, just merging the images is not enough, there is quite a bit of massaging to be done to get the effect you see in the better quality High Dynamic Range images.
I have not had time to experiment with all the new CS3 Extended version tools yet but I imagine that the Smart Stacks tools are also going to become very handy in the process of creating better High Dynamic Range images. At the moment the Smart Stacks tools in CS3 Extended are best known for the ability to remove tourists from scenic photographs but this powerful tool will find more uses as time goes by and as I mentioned before will more than likely become very useful in the process of creating High Dynamic Range images.
More than likely serious High Dynamic Range photographers are not really going to worry about which is the best tool to use at this point, but instead are going to buy every new tool made available to them, so that they can make use of it when it is necessary. The additional cost of CS3 Extended may be a bitter pill to swallow for some, but it is the (Photoshop) area where more than likely, the most development will be seen in the next couple of years.
How does Photoshop Lightroom fit into this scenario? Well basically it is used to organize and enhance the bracketed images before they are processed in Photoshop CS3 Extended and then the end results are once again cataloged and processed in Lightroom, for presentation and delivery using Lightroom.
With Photoshop CS3 and CS3 Extended becoming more compatible with Lightroom than previous versions of Photoshop CS, I believe that it is even more than before, now very valid to maintain a constant two way stream between Photoshop CS and Photoshop Lightroom.