The Jersey Shore has a bad rap. It’s not all about foul mouths, spray tans, and whatever a Shnookie is. It’s actually pretty. And, as the word “shore” implies, it’s also on the water, which makes me very happy. I had occasion to visit the J.S. (I don’t think anyone calls it that) recently, so I brought the camera and fired off a few bracketed frames to merge in Photomatix.
When I got home, I imported the images in to Lightroom. The memory card had a mix of single and bracketed images, so I applied my “standard” preset that, in addition to some camera-specific adjustments and personal preferences, also adds a vignette. After I ran the bracketed images through Photomatix, the resulting composite had a heavy vignette that didn’t come from Photomatix. After a bit of poking around, I figured out that the vignette came from the adjustments that were made back in Lightroom.
Normally, I don’t apply any presets to the images that I want to tone map, so I hadn’t thought about what Lightroom actually sends to Photomatix. For all I knew, it was sending a TIFF version of the raw, unprocessed image. But, in fact, it’s rendering a TIFF that includes the Lightroom adjustments and sending those over instead.
To illustrate an extreme case, I took the three images in my set and I added a heavy vignette to the first one, overexposed the second image, and severely underexposed the third image.
I sent the images in to Photomatix, and this was the result.
Not pretty, and not Photomatix’s fault. It can only work with what I give it. Fortunately, unlike a bad spray tan, Lightroom makes it easy to clean up adjustments with the Reset button. I went in and reset the same three images and sent them to Photomatix. The result was a much pleasant image.
There may be situations where you want to make adjustments in Lightroom before you send your images to Photomatix or any other third-party tool, but I feel like those cases are rare and that the better result will come from processing in the external tool and then doing your finishing touches back in Lightroom. So if you’re seeing unexpected results with third-party tools, try doing a reset on your images first. Reset it and fuggedaboutit!