I wrote this for a previous HDR Projects 4 Giveaway and then edited it for a following one, so I'll just copy it here with a few updates in case it is of use to anyone. Note this is the Pro version and they gave the standard one away before. Comparison:
I really like the Franzis Projects tools and some are quite excellent (their B+W converter is the best I know and Sharpen Projects is again excellent once you get away from its default attempt), so I always try to see if I can help people get over the initial learning curve. (Registering if you haven't done it for a Franzis tool before is also an adventure, but the tools are good IMHO.) I like their HDR tool (which you can easily use by taking three bracketed exposures, the correct one and typically ones at plus and minus two stops, allowing you to overcome the limited range of brightnesses cameras support in a single image) and think it is well worth installing. Another free option used to be HDR Efex 2 which is part of the Nik Tools which were Google and are now DXO, and were available as a free download when they were Google, so might still be around. Note the Nik tool is a Plugins but you can just (on Windows) drag a link to the HDR Efex 2 .exe to the desktop and go from there (although IIRC it just saves the result in a 'standard' location rather than offering a choice). If you have Lightroom that also has built-in HDR support.
Note that HDR Projects 4 Pro has a lot of options and you may need to play around a bit to get a natural looking HDR, unless you fancy doing something with a more unnatural look (although some people are not fans of highly processed HDRs others like the effect).
Oh and while I am doing a bit of a quick start guide don't forget to check out the manual, especially the stuff on Ghosting removal starting on page 64: https://transfer.franzis.de/support/70513-HDRprojects4professional_manual.pdf .
Oh and it's a bit of a pain to register (unless you've done one of their tools before) but persevere and you'll get there.
Plus if anyone reading this doesn't know what HDR is, it stands for 'High Dynamic Range' and is usually used to combine differently exposed photographs of a scene to end up with an image capturing a greater range of brightness than the camera can. The classic example is being in a dark room looking out on a brightly lit scene. The camera can show the detail in the room, with the Window solid white, or the detail outside the window but everything in the room is black. But taking a set of (typically three) exposure-bracketed (standard, brighter, darker) images of the scene you can then combine them in some HDR software and have room and outside both visible in the picture.
You can either combine multiple images into an HDR or just select a Raw file (if you have one) and work from that (it won't be as good, but a fair bit better than the JPEG).
IIRC Projects 4 Pro has a couple of advantages from 3, namely you get a Photoshop plugin as a Filter, not an Export Filter and you get support for high-resolution displays (4k. etc). For advantages over the non-Pro version see the comparison at the top of this post.
With the HDR software in today's give-away you have an additional step beyond just opening a photograph, you have to select the images to combine and choose some options. I was very pleased to see it has support for Raw file import, although as an older version I don't know how it will do with the very latest cameras (but see at the bottom for a partial solution to this).
Once you’ve imported the images it works in basically the same way as the other Franzis Projects software.
The thing to get your brain around with the Projects software is they are a huge pile of image processing tools, which are gathered together into presets in the left pane. All those options do is select a bunch of processing tools and choose options for them, so they are infinitely tweakable. HDR Projects adds a multiple image merging option on top.
After you've loaded the image(s) you want to work with you can then play with the canned effects on the left side, play with assorted things on the right side panel (which should start on the “Finalise” tab). I'd go with the defaults in the 'HDR Preparation' dialogue initially. Note the 'do it' option in the bottom right.
Once you are happy with that changing to 'Expert' in the right panel (entirely optional and can be ignored) means you can add filters from the list at the top, select them in the middle of the panel and tweak their effects at the bottom (may need scrolling down). (The options on the left are just choosing and configuring a bunch of these options for you.)
The boxes at the top of the left panel filter the effects that are listed in the panel, so ignore them initially. On a faster computer you can use the Eye icon on the toolbar to disable the preview mode and show the final image in the main window, which IMHO is worth trying.
When saving the final image note that the first dialog, where it asks for the title, is going to write that over the image, it isn't the file name. The main disadvantage is the lack of Undo operations, although you can save Restore points.
I literally spent 90 seconds working on an image and was really quite pleased with the result. If you don't mind the learning curve and fancy playing with HDR I'd recommend it.
Oh, and to add raw support for more recent (although not very recent) cameras download this (if you're running 64-bit Windows):
and replace C:Program FilesFranzisHDR projects 4 professionalFreeImage.dll (note I guessed the path as I have v5) with the dll file it contains.
If you're not running the 64-bit version of Windows, i.e. your computer doesn't have a directory 'C:Program Files (x86)' then the file you want for upgraded raw support in 32-bit Windows is: http://transfer.franzis.de/projects/RawImageDll_projects_Win32.zip
If you have a Mac you'll need to get the OSX version of FreeImage from SourceForge and replace the existing one, wherever it might be.
Good luck and enjoy!
P.S. if you want to compare their different versions look here:
(Click on items to select then 'Show results'.)
P.P.S. one other thing, sometimes they screw up and send English users an e-mail in German rather than English, just be laid back about it... it's part of their charm (err...)
P.P.P.S. I should also say never pay full price for their software but if you want something subscribe to their newsletter and wait for the (usually) inevitable deal.
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