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LR/Enfuse and Photomatix Fusion Speed Comparison

Published: 17/11/2017

Eric in Florida says:

I am starting to use LR/Enfuse more often. I normally use Photomatix, because it processes much faster than LR/Enfuse. I am using LR/Enfuse at the default settings. I was wondering if there are any other settings you might recommend that make LR/Enfuse process faster.

Since Simon Maxwell is the expert on LR/Enfuse, I passed Eric's question on to Simon. Here is his answer:

I ran a comparison speed test of a five bracket sequence via LR/Enfuse and Photomatix both via their respective Lightroom plugins. Enfuse took just over one minute and Photomatix was about ten seconds faster! With Photomatix, you have to monitor the process as a secondary menu control panel appears once the bracketed images have been exported to Photomatix. You can choose the type of fusion effect you want ( I choose Exposure/ Fusion under "Process" and  Fusion/ Interior under "Method") and apply and preview manual fine adjustments pre-blend if you wish to apply them. Even if you set Photomatix to run with default settings, you still have to follow the fusion process's secondary menu. With LR/Enfuse, you can simply choose not to see a preview and just set the process to run while you do other things. I set Lightroom to play a sound on re-importing the images which alerts me to locate the Enfuse file. I feel I get more time available overall for processing a shoot by using LR/Enfuse. Of course, if you are batch processing from within Lightroom, then Enfuse performs very well.

For those that find LR/Enfuse noticeably slower than Photomatix when run on the same machine and within Lightroom, the only option I can think of to improve speed is to make sure "Automatically align images before blending them" is unchecked. Selecting this option will really slow down the process and if the photographer has shot with a tripod, the alignment process will not be necessary. This align feature is designed for bracketed sequences which have been shot handheld. Photomatix should also not be set to "Align Images" in the pre-processing options.

I also ran Lightroom's own merge to HDR feature on the same five raw file brackets and the processing time was 20 seconds! I think Enfuse produces better results with more tonal range captured, but the Lightroom merge to HDR isn't a bad solution if you want to do that for some images in a shoot.

Which approach do you use?

Larry Lohrman

6 comments on “LR/Enfuse and Photomatix Fusion Speed Comparison”

  1. Using Photomatix in Batch mode eliminates some of the issues mentioned above.
    Photomatix can automatically process a folder of images which contains (for example) some bracket sets of 5 images, some bracket sets of 3 images, some individual images, all of these in any random order.
    Photomatix Batch mode requires no interaction after the original batch parameters are chosen (and most of them are "sticky" so you don't have to worry about reentering them for each batch).
    Photomatix Batch mode allows you to process each bracketed set with as many presets as you want. Example - I process each of my brackets with Fusion Natural & Interior 2.
    I always have Photomatix "align" images, even if the image was shot on a tripod.
    As for speed, immediately after the Batch mode has processed the first bracketed set, it is available for further editing, and subsequent batch output will come out faster than you can edit.
    I understand that users of Enfuse and Photomatix use the various image controls to determine image appearance. I find that by having Batch mode process each bracketed set two ways that I always have an image that is easy to fine tune in ACR.
    Another Photomatix advantage is that you can shoot handheld brackets (as I do for some exteriors) and the program has no problem aligning the images perfectly (no matter how shaky your hands are).
    For those of you who have my video series, there are three videos that comprise Chapter 32 that go into all of this in great detail.

  2. I’ve watched Simon’s videos and I can’t really see a benefit to using HDR software for interiors over a hand-blended workflow. I can’t detect any time or efforts savings, or any real quality benefit. I could see it if there was...

    In reality, if you’re looking to go that route and you’re looking for time savings, it’s far more effective to have Tuan Nguyen or Huy Nguyan over in Vietnam do it for you.

  3. Thanks Simon, I removed the auto align choice and LR is much faster than before. But I didn't know I could batch process in LR/ Enfuse.

    John, I have not tried the Photomatix batch mode, but will give it a try as it is taking me too long in post to process my shoots.
    I find, even with using multiple lighting as I do most of the time, with two and three off camera flash units, I still have to bracket my exposures for my window pull.

    Also, after reading one photographers use of a soft box, I am now starting to use a medium size softbox, with my Quantum Q-flash, which gives me a nice window light effect. But the downside to this lighting, is setting up more lighting and moving round faster.

  4. Eric: that's great... I am very glad to hear that that small adjustment to your Enfuse settings has produced big results! I think you will find the batch processing function of Enfuse a real time saver if you are regularly using this method. We cover it in the course and it is well integrated into Lightroom. Photomatix of course generates very good results but, to date, you can only use it on an image by image basis from within Lightroom (hence my side by side comparison as applied to a single bracketed sequence) : batch processing is applied to a folder of images outside of Lightroom (nothing to prevent you then importing the results and adjusting with Lightroom controls). But if you have a mainly Lightroom-orientated workflow, Enfuse makes very good sense as you can import your shoot images once and then work within the same space from there. Please feel free to contact me via my website if you'd like any further pointers re: implementing this processing workflow. That is interesting what you say re: needing to bracket shots in order to capture a wide tonal range even when working with flash. I do find that running some sort of fusion software on a series of ambient light brackets and then hand blending with a flashed frame gives you the best of both worlds, and allows for a natural look to high contrast scenes, especially those requiring window pulls, rather than trying to pump really large amounts of flash into the scene in order to bring the shadow values up to a readable level. There's no doubt a softbox provides a nice source of illumination when space allows; alternatively, a shoot through/ translucent umbrella, while a touch more direct than a large-ish softbox, can offer a more readily transportable solution.

  5. I have been using Photomatix since version 5.03 - that's when I was able to make it work for me. Before then the processing just wasn't viable with the results I received, so I used L/R Enfuse. Enfuse works fine, the batch processing is great, but it ties up Lightroom (well, before CC Classic - I had a lot of slowness issues with LR) and slows down my workflow. I just batch a folder of interiors in Photomatix 6 and then process my exteriors from the day in Lightroom with the help of Photoshop and/or Nik HDR Efx II. By the time I am done with the exteriors, the interior brackets are ready for import from Photomatix. I find they are more ready at this point than when I used Enfuse. I apply a preset that gets them real close upon import and then I just have to check them for white balance, lens corrections and compositional errors (crop). I find the speed of Photomatix comparable to LR/Enfuse, with the added benefit of not tying up the processor which Lightroom with Enfuse tends to do.

  6. I have been using Photomatix for many years and it's been brilliant for all of my needs. Recently, I have revisited Simon's Enfuse course, which is remarkable. However, I find that for my particular workflow, Photomatix is much more efficient at handling multiple batch processes simultaneously. I also like the many features that Photomatix provides. As far as visual differences between processed photos, it is very subtle. I find that Enfused images are a bit softer and some of the hues within the red spectrum are a bit punchy for my taste, IMHO. Also, I haven't had one crash within Photomatix. The same cannot be said for Enfuse for Lightroom. Both will definitely get the job done adequately. Though, Photomatix suits my needs best.

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