LR/Enfuse for Interiors

_mg_9224blendedYou may have seen the me mention this photo in a previous post. The shot is taken using ambient light only, and yet everything is well exposed from the forground table right through to the back of the room. Normally we would expect most of the room to fall into shadow due to the high constrast difference between the window-lit table and the shaded corridor; so how was this avoided?

Well, it was easy actually.  I took several shots at different exposures and then blended them together directly from within Lightroom using my LR/Enfuse plugin.

Isn’t that the same as HDR?

Exposure blending essentially involves examing a group of photos with varying exposures and creating a final photo, pixel by pixel, by choosing the best exposed pixel from all of the photos.

Note that this is not the same as creating an HDR (high dynamic range) image. To create an HDR image several exposures are also used, but the similarity stops there. An HDR image uses 32 bits per pixel, and these bits are used to store a floating-point value.  We don’t wish to delve into the technicalities, but the result is that an HDR image allows for each pixel to contain practically any exposure value, so if the difference between the the darkest and lightest parts of an image is 20 stops, this will be faithfully preserved in the HDR’s file format.

The difficulty comes when we need to display an HDR image on media that can’t display this high dynamic range, such as a screen or a sheet of paper. The dynamic range of the image needs to be compressed to fit within the dynamic range of the chosen media. Typically this is done by controlling a tone mapping curve that dictates how and where the dynamic range is compressed.

Are the end results of the two approaches the same? Well, sometimes they can be, but mostly they’re not. Here are the main differences:

  • Blending software is very easy to use but it can only produce natural looking images.
  • HDR software is more complex to use, but it’s possible to create all manor of ‘unnatural’ but often very interesting styles by playing with the tone curve.
  • Most people find it very difficult to create natural looking images using HDR.  We know we do.

So, for interior shots like the one above, where a natural looking image is paramount, blending is definitely the way to go. It’s quick and easy. However, to create the “HDR look” blending isn’t going to help.

Enfuse

Enfuse is an open source command line application that’s part of the Hugin project.

Enfuse produces fantastic results, but the command line interface made it quite painful to use. It would certainly be a barrier to most photographers. I therefore decided to write LR/Enfuse, a plugin that would allow photographers to use Enfuse directly from within Lightroom. It’s now easy to blend images by simply selecting them and then choosing the LR/Enfuse option from the menu.

LR/Enfuse has seen several major improvements over its lifetime, including the ability to automatically align images that show a slight shift, the ability to preserve the image metadata (normally lost when using Enfuse) and, after great demand, the ability to batch process an entire shoot by grouping all the photos that will form a single image into single stack, then selecting all the stacks and calling LR/Enfuse.

A real life example

So, let’s get back to the above photo to see a real life example. Here is the sequence of images that I took.

_mg_9226_mg_9225_mg_9227_mg_9228_mg_9229_mg_9230

I selected them in Lightroom and then launched LR/Enfuse with the default settings, which created a new blended photo:

_mg_9224blended1

The blended image is often just a touch underexposed. This is no problem, we can now bring it back into Lightroom and develop it as normal. The final image shown at the top of this page is corrected for exposure and the white balance has been warmed to taste.

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19 Responses to LR/Enfuse for Interiors

  1. Shad says:

    This is great. I also found it frustrating to get natural results from HDR conversions. I don’t want my photos to look like cartoons and I have come to despise HDR images. Thank you for taking the time to develop this plugin- donation and download coming soon!!!

  2. I love LR/enfuse (and all your other plugins for that matter) and I use it all the time. I didn’t realize that enfuse was part of the Hugin project. Have you given any consideration to creating a panormaic plugin for Lightroom as well? That would be so incredibly useful!!

    I have recently noticed a very interesting phenomenon with LR/enfuse that I’d love to hear your comment on. I’ve recently had need to compare images enfused with and without the Auto Align feature turned on. I noticed that the images created while using Auto Align end up with a significantly different exposure than those created without it. They are very flat and almost desaturated. Blue skies in particular come out almost grey. Is this an issue with enfuse or is it something that LR/enfuse is doing differently??

    Thanks again for all your great work!

  3. Gilles says:

    Yes, Tim, this is my favourite plugin. It does a wonderful job and produce natural results without a fuss.

  4. Thanks for posting this. This is EXACTLY the type of thing I was looking for. A simple and elegant solution to a common problem. I can’t wait to try it out.

    cheers
    -david

  5. Serena says:

    Love the advice. Thank you.

  6. Shawn says:

    This is an extremely useful plug-in and fills a big gap that Adobe did not address. Thankfully, you stepped up and delivered LR/Enfuse so I don’t have to do all this in ACR + Photoshop. Thank you.

  7. Sue says:

    What is the difference between LR/Enfuse and Helicon focus?

    That is, what does LR/Enfuse do that Helicon Focus does not do. Again what does Helicon Focus do that LR/Enfuse does not do?

    thank you

    Sue

    • Hi,

      Enfuse blends multiple exposures of the same view with different exposure values to produce a single image that’s well exposed throughout. Helicon focus blends multiple exposures where the focus point changes in each one to produce an image with more depth of field than can be achieved with one photo.

      Tim

  8. Sue says:

    Thank you Tim

    I am wishing to get Enfuse – Which version to get for Mac Version 10.6.1
    ( Snow Leopard)?

    How to I install Enfuse into Lightroom 2

    Another question. I once downloaded Enfuse Droplet some time ago – Not sure why at the time.

    Can this droplet be incorporated with the process of using Enfuse?

    Sorry that it seems a stupid question, but I am not very techno savi and many things I do I spend some time working on by trial and error.

    thank you

    Sue

  9. kai says:

    Hi Tim,

    i´ve got your LR/Enfuse Plugin (with registration :-) ) and so happy with it. Most of all the batch function is such a great time-saver. Thank you so much for this!

    But there is one little thing, that i can´t understand:

    In comparison to EnfuseGui, there are no sliders for wMu and wSigma in LR/Enfuse. But i know, there is the option to edit parameters in the command line part of the LR/Enfuse mask/screen. So i tried to edit these parameters (without quotes of course)… but without any success :-(

    I tried the following strings:
    • “enfuse –wSigma=0.25 ” or “enfuse –wSigma=0.9 ”
    (generates Preview, but no differenz in the result)
    • “enfuse –wMu=0.9″ or “enfuse –wMu=0.1″
    (generates Preview, but no differenz in the result)
    • “–wSigma=0.25 ” (error message)
    • “–wSigma=0.25 –wMu=0.6″ (error message)
    • “–wMu=0.6″ (error message)

    Tim, i need your advise: What string i have to enter to manipulate those Parameters (with effect)?

    Thank you for any help (and please excuse my poor english)

    Regards
    -kai

    • Marschant says:

      I’m quite interested to know if these commands can be used with the commandline field you’ve provided in the plugin. Purchased it last night and really looking forward to using it.

  10. Paul says:

    I have just started using it and am very happy with the results. I used to do it all manually in photoshop but this is SO much easier. My only problem is chromatic aberrations (purple fringing etc) say around a window frame where there’s contrasting exposures. I wonder if I need to bracket more? (only used 3 different exposures in a pretty high contrast scene. I used to fix the fringing in bridge/photoshop. Can you enlighten me? Thanks

  11. Pingback: Natural Light vs. Flash | Timothy Armes' Blog

  12. Hi, I love Enfuse for its convenience (able to batch lots of groupings in LR) and the close to “true to life” results. I’ve used Photomatix a lot but find it more time consuming. My problem is knowing how to best ensure the results I want. I shoot property and most often want to capture all the contrast inside and outside at the same time. I’ve experimented with 3, 5 , 7, even 9 bracket exposures. I’ve also tied picking one image exposed correctly inside and one exposed correctly outside (this works remarkably well). I find if I used too over exposed an image it produces a milky hazy look. If I don’t use sufficient exposure then the result is dark. I have difficulty getting the outside exposure just the way I want it. Its usually over exposed sometimes to the point of defeating the objective of Enfusing. Do you have guidelines as to how far to bracket in over exposure and under exposure please?

  13. Sandra says:

    I must admit, this is the fastest, simplest way for me to do real estate HDR images yet. (I’ve used PSCS5 Merge and I’ve used Photomatix.) I even created a LR3 User Preset for finishing the images off. VERY good plug-in – thanks so much. I’ll be using this one a lot as it really streamlines my work-flow and speeds it up immensely.

    • Eric says:

      Sandra,
      I shoot real estate photography in FL, using multiple lighting more often. but many times I need to shoot in very high contrast areas where the interiors are dark, and the windows facing the beach are burned out.

      I purchased Photomatix pro, but find it a pain in the neck and can’t get great natural looking images. have you found that shooting LR/Enfused easy and produce very naturaL looking images ?

      please give me som examples and feed back on shooting this way.

      thanks,

      Eric

      • @ Eric,

        I find that in situations like that I need to expose for the entire range then create layers with masks in PS and paint in the areas require detail. It’s painstaking, but it works well. However I doubt cheap realtors will be willing to invest in your time doing so.

        Best,
        John

  14. This one plugin has enabled me to make tens of thousands of dollars extra this last year. My workflow has halved!. I shoot a ton of Real Estate and used to use DXo and Photomatix then LR and PS with Vivenza to finish… What a pain to get anything decent. Now… well its just Stack and process then tweak in LR with the odd occasion to go into PS and the results are simply spectacular. everything I want from shooting bracketed images (I shoot 7 from -3 to +3 with a Canon 6D and 16-35mm) Literally it has given me the ability to get an extra shoot in each day with the time saved from processing so I am so very thankful for all the authors work to date.

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