Hydra Pro 3 HDR image editor (review)

Creaceed’s Hydra Pro 3 is an image editor specifically targeting High Dynamic Range (HDR) images. You import a bunch of images in Hydra Pro 3 out of which the program will make one HDR image with your edits applied. Hydra Pro 3 proved to be simple to operate and offers ample control of the creative process.

Having all the detailed information from a scene, from the darkest shadow to the brightest spot available to you without clipping or any other type of distortion, opens up creative possibilities impossible with one-shot images.

Screenshot of manual alignment

NOTE: HDR images cannot be created with one image, simply because of the law of physics. The large bunch of tricks to get so-called HDR from one RAW shot, have been “discovered” by people who have not the slightest understanding of camera sensors vs. the physics of light.

Creaceed Hydra Pro 3 supports no less than seven (7) images to be processed into one HDR image. This is enough for most common scenes, such as a brightly lit room with an even more brightly lit window. In some circumstances, e.g. a dark room with a brightly lit window, you’ll need more images than the seven supported by Hydra Pro 3 — if you want the HDRi to show everything the human eye can see (16 to 24 f-stops), that is.

I tested Hydra Pro 3 with different scenes, including two with a dynamic range that surpassed seven bracketed shots at 2EV apart. With those, I needed 12 and 16 exposures, respectively. For most scenes, Hydra Pro 3 will have all you need and that’s good news as it is a great program in more than one respect. For example, the automatic alignment and ghost removal are nothing short of excellent.

screenshot of ghost removal

Better yet: you can manually adjust these with intuitive tools, such as the “X-Ray” feature to align images. With Hydra Pro 3 it’s very easy to create a perfectly aligned HDR image that contains no stray lines. You’d better use a tripod, though, as even when using one, images tend to very slightly shift from one shot to another. It’s hardly visible, but it results in soft lines and transitions — that Hydra’s manual adjustment helps you prevent.

In the creativity department, Hydra Pro 3 comes with global and local adjustments. The local ones are grouped together under a drop-down menu and at first sight look overly simple (Details, Saturation, Hue, and Brightness).

Screenshot of HDR development features

Until you drop open the menu. Then you’ll see you can adjust only highlights, or only dark areas, or the red, green or blue channel. And with a plus icon on the right of the menu, you can add up to three probes. These are adjustments localised using a rather accurate mask area. In-between your edits, you can also save snapshots to compare (switch between) variants of the same image.

Hydra Pro 3 exports to HDR image formats such as 32-bit OpenEXR and Radiance. It also supports batch processing, so if you have a folder full with images shot under the same circumstances, you can process them all at once. Finally, Hydra Pro 3 allows you to export only the aligned images to TIFFs for further processing in Photoshop, for example.

Creaceed delivers plug-ins for Hydra Pro 3 for free for Apple Aperture and Adobe Lightroom. It costs approx. 80.00 Euros.