LR/Enfuse Review: Pros, Cons, and Tips for Using the Exposure Fusion Plugin
LR/Enfuse: A Lightroom Plugin for Blending Multiple Exposures
Have you ever wanted to create a natural-looking HDR image without leaving Lightroom? If so, you might want to try LR/Enfuse, a plugin that allows you to blend multiple exposures together directly from within Lightroom by using the open source Enfuse application.
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In this article, we will explain what LR/Enfuse is, how it works, and how to use it in your workflow. We will also compare it with other HDR software and plugins, and give you some tips on how to get the best results with LR/Enfuse.
What is LR/Enfuse and How Does It Work?
LR/Enfuse is a Lightroom plugin that enables you to blend multiple exposures of the same scene into one final image with a greater dynamic range. Dynamic range is the difference between the darkest and brightest areas of an image. Sometimes, a single exposure cannot capture the full range of light and detail in a scene, resulting in overexposed or underexposed areas. By taking several exposures at different settings, you can capture more information in the highlights and shadows, and then merge them together to create a more balanced image.
LR/Enfuse uses a technique called exposure fusion, which is different from the more common tone mapping method used by most HDR software. Exposure fusion does not create a 32-bit HDR file, but instead blends the pixels from the source images based on their exposure values, contrast, saturation, and entropy (a measure of detail). This results in a more natural-looking image that preserves the original colors and tones of the scene.
The Benefits of Using LR/Enfuse for HDR Photography
Some of the benefits of using LR/Enfuse for HDR photography are:
It is easy to use. You just need to select the images that need blending together and choose "Blend exposures using LR/Enfuse..." from the 'Plug-in Extras' menu.
It is fast. It can process large batches of images quickly and efficiently.
It is non-destructive. It does not alter your original images, but creates a new blended image that is automatically imported into Lightroom.
It is flexible. You can adjust the blending options and preferences to suit your needs and preferences.
It is realistic. It creates natural-looking images that avoid the common problems of tone mapping, such as halos, artifacts, noise, and unnatural colors.
The Limitations of Using LR/Enfuse for HDR Photography
Some of the limitations of using LR/Enfuse for HDR photography are:
It does not offer much control over the final result. You cannot adjust the tone curve, contrast, saturation, or other parameters of the blended image in LR/Enfuse. You have to do that in Lightroom or another editing software.
It does not handle ghosting well. Ghosting is when moving objects appear multiple times in a blended image due to their different positions in each exposure. LR/Enfuse does not have a de -ghosting option, so you have to manually align and mask the images before blending them.
It does not support raw files. You have to convert your raw files to TIFF or JPEG before using LR/Enfuse.
How to Install and Use LR/Enfuse in Lightroom
If you want to try LR/Enfuse for yourself, here are the steps to install and use it in Lightroom:
Downloading and Installing the Plugin
To download and install the plugin, follow these steps:
Go to the LR/Enfuse website and click on the "Download" button.
Choose the version that matches your operating system and Lightroom version, and click on the "Download" link.
Extract the ZIP file to a folder of your choice.
Open Lightroom and go to "File > Plug-in Manager...".
Click on the "Add" button and browse to the folder where you extracted the plugin.
Select the "LR_Enfuse.lrplugin" file and click on "Add Plug-in".
Click on "Done" to close the Plug-in Manager.
You have now successfully installed LR/Enfuse in Lightroom. You can access it from the 'Plug-in Extras' menu in the Library or Develop modules.
Selecting and Blending Images with LR/Enfuse
To select and blend images with LR/Enfuse, follow these steps:
Select the images that you want to blend together in Lightroom. You can select up to 16 images at a time.
Go to "File > Plug-in Extras > Blend exposures using LR/Enfuse...".
A dialog box will appear with some blending options and preferences. You can adjust them according to your needs, or leave them at their default values. We will explain what each option does in the next section.
Click on "OK" to start the blending process. A progress bar will show you how long it will take.
When the blending is done, a new image will be created and imported into Lightroom. It will have the same name as the first image in the selection, with "_Enfuse" added at the end. It will also have a stack icon on its thumbnail, indicating that it is part of a group of images that were blended together.
You can now edit the blended image as you would any other image in Lightroom. You can also compare it with the original images by expanding the stack and using the compare or survey views.
Adjusting the Blending Options and Preferences
When you use LR/Enfuse, you can adjust some blending options and preferences to control how the images are merged together. Here is what each option does:
Exposure WeightThis determines how much each image contributes to the final exposure of the blended image. A higher value means that more exposed images will have more influence, while a lower value means that less exposed images will have more influence. The default value is 1.0, which gives equal weight to all images.
Saturation WeightThis determines how much each image contributes to the final saturation of the blended image. A higher value means that more saturated images will have more influence, while a lower value means that less saturated images will have more influence. The default value is 0.2, which gives more weight to less saturated images.
Contrast WeightThis determines how much each image contributes to the final contrast of the blended image. A higher value means that more contrasty images will have more influence, while a lower value means that less contrasty images will have more influence. The default value is 0.0, which gives equal weight to all images.
Entropy WeightThis determines how much each image contributes to the final detail of the blended image. A higher value means that more detailed images will have more influence, while a lower value means that less detailed images will have more influence. The default value is 0.0, which gives equal weight to all images.
Crop To Active ImagesThis determines whether the blended image will be cropped to fit only the active pixels of the source images, or whether it will include all pixels of all source images. The default value is checked, which means that only active pixels will be included in the blended image.
Hard MaskThis determines whether the blended image will use a hard or soft mask to combine the pixels from the source images. A hard mask means that each pixel will come from only one source image, while a soft mask means that each pixel will be a weighted average of multiple source images. The default value is unchecked, which means that a soft mask will be used.
Auto Align ImagesThis determines whether the source images will be automatically aligned before blending them. This is useful if the images were taken handheld or with a slight camera movement. The default value is checked, which means that the images will be aligned.
Use GPUThis determines whether the plugin will use the graphics processing unit (GPU) of your computer to speed up the blending process. This requires that you have a compatible GPU and driver installed on your system. The default value is checked, which means that the GPU will be used if available.
Output FormatThis determines the file format of the blended image. You can choose between TIFF and JPEG, and adjust the quality and compression settings accordingly. The default value is TIFF, which offers higher quality and larger file size.
Output Color SpaceThis determines the color space of the blended image. You can choose between sRGB, Adobe RGB, and ProPhoto RGB, depending on your intended use and output device. The default value is sRGB, which is suitable for most web and screen applications.
Output Bit DepthThis determines the bit depth of the blended image. You can choose between 8-bit and 16-bit, depending on your desired quality and file size. The default value is 16-bit, which offers more colors and dynamic range.
Output ResolutionThis determines the resolution of the blended image. You can choose between using the resolution of the first image in the selection, or specifying a custom resolution in pixels per inch (ppi). The default value is to use the resolution of the first image.
Output SharpeningThis determines whether the blended image will be sharpened after blending. You can choose between none, low, standard, and high sharpening settings, depending on your preference and output device. The default value is none, which means that no sharpening will be applied.
You can also save your blending options and preferences as presets, so that you can reuse them for future blends. To do this, click on the "Save" button at the bottom of the dialog box, and give your preset a name. To load a preset, click on the "Load" button and choose your preset from the list.
How to Get the Best Results with LR/Enfuse
To get the best results with LR/Enfuse, here are some tips to follow:
Choosing the Right Images for Blending
The quality of your blended image depends largely on the quality of your source images. Here are some guidelines to choose the right images for blending:
Use a tripod. This will ensure that your images are aligned and sharp, and reduce the need for auto alignment and cropping.
Use manual mode. This will allow you to control the exposure settings and avoid changes in aperture, focus, or white balance.
Use exposure bracketing. This will help you capture a range of exposures that cover the dynamic range of the scene. You can use your camera's built-in bracketing feature, or manually change the shutter speed or ISO between shots.
Use raw format. This will give you more flexibility and quality in editing your images before blending them.
Avoid moving objects. This will prevent ghosting and artifacts in your blended image. If you have to deal with moving objects, try to use a fast shutter speed or mask them out before blending.
Aligning and Cropping the Images
If you did not use a tripod or if there was some camera movement between shots, you might need to align and crop your images before blending them. Here are some steps to do this:
Select your images in Lightroom and go to "Photo > Edit In > Open as Layers in Photoshop". This will open your images as layers in Photoshop.
Select all layers and go to "Edit > Auto-Align Layers". Choose "Auto" as the projection method and click on "OK". This will align your layers based on their content.
If there are any gaps or transparent areas around the edges of the image, you can crop them out by using the Crop tool or the Rectangular Marquee tool and going to "Image > Crop".
Save your image as a TIFF or JPEG file and close Photoshop. The image will be automatically added to Lightroom.
You can now use this image as one of your source images for blending with LR/Enfuse.
Fine-Tuning the Exposure and Contrast
Before blending your images with LR/Enfuse, you might want to fine-tune the exposure and contrast of each image to ensure a smooth and consistent blend. Here are some steps to do this:
Select your images in Lightroom and go to the Develop module.
Use the Basic panel to adjust the exposure, contrast, highlights, shadows, whites, and blacks of each image. Try to balance the tonal range of each image and avoid clipping the highlights or shadows.
Use the Tone Curve panel to adjust the contrast curve of each image. Try to match the curves of each image as closely as possible.
Use the HSL/Color panel to adjust the saturation and luminance of each color channel of each image. Try to match the colors of each image as closely as possible.
Use the Detail panel to sharpen and reduce noise in each image. Try to apply similar settings to each image.
You can now blend your images with LR/Enfuse and get a more natural and seamless result.
LR/Enfuse vs Other HDR Software and Plugins
LR/Enfuse is not the only option for creating HDR images from multiple exposures. There are many other software and plugins that offer different features and results. Here are some of them:
Enblend/Enfuse: The Open Source Application Behind LR/Enfuse
Enblend/Enfuse is the open source command-line application that LR/Enfuse uses to blend images. It is actually a combination of two applications: Enblend, which blends images with different viewpoints or focus, and Enfuse, which blends images with different exposures or white balance. You can use Enblend/Enfuse directly from your terminal or command prompt, or through a graphical user interface such as Hugin or PTGui. Enblend/Enfuse offers more options and parameters than LR/Enfuse, but it is also more complex and less user-friendly. You can download Enblend/Enfuse from its website.
Luminar Neo: A Powerful and Easy-to-Use Alternative to LR/Enfuse
Luminar Neo is a photo editing software that offers a powerful and easy-to-use HDR module. It allows you to create stunning HDR images from multiple exposures with just one click, or fine-tune them with advanced controls. It also offers AI-powered tools that can automatically enhance your images, remove noise, fix distortion, and more. Luminar Neo works as a standalone application or as a plugin for Lightroom, Photoshop, and other software. You can download Luminar Neo from its website.
Other Lightroom Plugins for HDR Photography
If you want to create HDR images from within Lightroom, there are other plugins that you can use besides LR/Enfuse. Some of them are:
HDR Efex Pro: A plugin from Nik Collection that offers a range of presets and controls for creating realistic or artistic HDR images.
Aurora HDR: A plugin from Skylum that offers a comprehensive set of tools and filters for creating professional HDR images.
Photomatix Pro: A plugin from HDRsoft that offers a variety of methods and styles for creating HDR images.
EasyHDR: A plugin from BRTKSOFT that offers a simple and fast way to create HDR images.
In this article, we have explained what LR/Enfuse is, how it works, and how to use it in your workflow. We have also compared it with other HDR software and plugins, and given you some tips on how to get the best results with LR/Enfuse.
LR/Enfuse is a great option for creating natural-looking HDR images without leaving Lightroom. It is easy to use, fast, non-destructive, flexible, and realistic. However, it also has some limitations, such as lack of control over the final result, poor handling of ghosting, and no support for raw files.
If you want to try LR/Enfuse for yourself, you can download it from its website. You will need to make a donation of any amount to get the serial number and unlock the plugin. The donation will support the development and maintenance of the plugin.
We hope you have found this article helpful and informative. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below. Happy blending!
Here are some frequently asked questions about LR/Enfuse:
What is the difference between exposure fusion and tone mapping?
Exposure fusion and tone mapping are two different techniques for creating HDR images from multiple exposures. Exposure fusion blends the pixels from the source images based on their exposure values, contrast, saturation, and entropy, resulting in a more natural-looking image that preserves the original colors and tones of the scene. Tone mapping creates a 32-bit HDR file from the source images, and then applies a tone curve to compress the dynamic range of the image into a displayable range, resulting in a more dramatic and artistic image that can have enhanced colors and contrast.
Can I use LR/Enfuse for focus stacking or panorama stitching?
Yes, you can use LR/Enfuse for focus stacking or panorama stitching, as long as you have aligned and cropped your images before blending them. Focus stacking is when you blend multiple images with different focus points to create an image with a greater depth of field. Panorama stitching is when you blend multiple images with different viewpoints to create an image with a wider field of view. LR/Enfuse can handle both scenarios by using Enblend, which is another application that is included in the plugin. Enblend blends images with different viewpoints or focus by using a seam optimization algorithm that minimizes the visual impact of the seams.
How can I get rid of ghosting in my blended image?
Ghosting is when moving objects appear multiple times in a blended image due to their different positions in each exposure. LR/Enfuse does not have a de-ghosting option, so you have to manually align and mask the images before blending them. To do this, you can use Photoshop or another editing software that allows you to create layer masks. You can also try to avoid ghosting by using a fast shutter speed or minimizing the movement in the scene.
How can I use raw files with LR/Enfuse?
LR/Enfuse does not support raw files, so you have to convert your raw files to TIFF or JPEG before using LR/Enfuse. To do this, you can use Lightroom or another software that can process raw files. You can also try to preserve as much quality and information as possible by using 16-bit TIFF files and a large color space.
How can I update LR/Enfuse to the latest version?
To update LR/Enfuse to the latest version, you can follow these steps:
Go to the LR/Enfuse website and download the latest version of the plugin.
Extract the ZIP file to a folder of your choice.
Open Lightroom and go to "File > Plug-in Manager...".
Select "LR_Enfuse" from the list of plugins and click on "Show in Finder" or "Show in Explorer".
Delete or rename the existing "LR_Enfuse.lrplugin" file.
Copy or move the new "LR_Enfuse.lrplugin" file from the folder where you extracted it to the folder where you deleted or renamed the old one.
Restart Lightroom and check that the plugin is updated.