Aurora HDR 2019 – new features that I am really liking

In Post-processing by Rick McEvoy5 Comments

I have been a Lightroom user since forever. When I say forever I mean that quite literally, from Lightroom 1.0 released in 2007. I have been thinking about different software, and have considered trying Aurora HDR. I bought Aurora HDR 2018 a few months ago, but never got round to trying it.

I wrote about this in a previous article on Improve Photography, and Skylum got in touch with me – more on that later, but it was time to find out a bit more about Aurora. In this article I am going to write about the new features in Aurora HDR 2019 that I am really liking.

These include

  • One click editing for great images – seriously
  • The increased dynamic range Aurora HDR 2019 can extract from a single image
  • The realism of the images produced
  • The different looks that can be instantly added to an image
  • The slidey preview thing which I just love
  • The ease and quickness of use

These are the things that initially grabbed me.

This is not a product review – this is me as a photographer writing about the things that I like having played with some of my images in Aurora HDR 2019.

Bur before I go on – disclosure

I bought my copy of Aurora HDR 2018. Unfortunately I never got round to trying the software properly, and as I said I mentioned this in a previous article on Improve Photography. Skylum made contact with me and offered me some training on Aurora HDR. One and a half hours later thanks to Abba I know a lot more about both Aurora HDR 2019 and Luminar.

This article is based on my initial experiences processing images which I will get on to very soon.

You can buy Aurora HDR here – this is my affiliate link so I do get a commission but you save £10 if you enter IMPROVE as a coupon code which is nice!

Why am I looking for alternative software?

As I said before, I have been using Lightroom since the very beginning, version 1.0, released in 2007. I have to say that I have absolutely nothing against Lightroom – all my photos are in a Lightroom Catalogue, and I import all my new images into Lightroom, process them in Lightroom and export them out of Lightroom. (I only use Photoshop if and when I have to).

I am however looking for new ways of working – that is both image capture and image processing.

I want some choices and to be able to do things differently.

It’s time for a change

I am at the point where I feel that technology has moved on so much that my ways of working need a bit of a refresh.

I am looking for quicker processing to produce a certain distinctive look. And I want to be able to automate as much of this as possible.

Also the work I am doing has changed in the last year, much of my time is now spent producing travel websites, with of course lots of my travel photography images.

This is why I am looking for new ways to capture, process and output images. Processing of images for this purpose does not necessarily have to be the same as the workflow I use to create my commercial photography work.

OK – lets have a look at Aurora HDR 2019, which for me starts with the images – the most important thing.

Getting images into Aurora HDR 2019 from Lightroom

To edit an image in Aurora I have to use the “Open Images” option in Aurora, which opens up Windows Explorer. I then have to find the image in that particular folder.

This is a bit of a backward step for me, and I do not appear to be able to Export images from Lightroom which is how I would like to work.

It might just be that I have to find a better way – I have not had enough time to go through this properly to be honest.

Thankfully not that big an issue as I have my photos organised in a very logical way.

One last thing – these are not perfect images, and I know there are things that need attention in some of them – I just wanted to see what I could get Aurora HDR to do to some of my images all by itself. I have used a selection of typical images that I work with as examples.

You might have gathered from previous posts that I have a lazy streak, and am always looking for quicker ways to do things better!

Image number 1 – sunrise photo taken on the Greek Island of Paxos

This is the RAW file. There is an amount of processing on import which I have left in – after all this would be my normal workflow.

And this is the edit using Aurora HDR.

I basically let Aurora HDR 2019 do its own thing and accepted the first edit on offer. Seriously all I have done is add the image into Aurora, let it process the image and then send it back to Lightroom.

Is this the one click editing I am looking for? I have to say I am loving the result with this image – I would not need to do any more than this considering the intended use.

Off to a good start then.

And this is how to export out of Aurora HDR by the way.

Image number 2 – sunset in Dorset

This is the RAW file.

And this is the Aurora edit.

I did this twice as I did not love the effect of the first go – which is this one below.

First the RAW image of the sunset view looking towards Brownsea Island.

And here is the Aurora edit.

And it was not Auroras fault this image did not look great – it was all down to me an my choice of image!

By the way these are the landscape looks that you can use.

Image number 3 – architectural photography in Dorset

Now this was rather exciting for me! How will Aurora process this image? I know that it has a set of architectural “looks”.

Here is the RAW file. I picked one of the dullest, flattest images I have. This has had all the processing stripped out of it.

And here is the edit! Wow!

This is where I selected the “look”

And I have to say that I absolutely love this result. Sure there could be a bit of further tweaking but Aurora has done an excellent job without any work from me. Which must be a good thing!

Image number 4 – landscape image of the fields of Dorset

Here is the RAW image.

And here is the processed image. I know the sky needs some work – an example of an image that needs a bit more time spending on it but you get the idea.

And this is the look I went with – maybe I could tone it down more. Sorry – nearly forgot – you can adjust the amount of the “look” that you apply with a slider which is very cool.

Image number 5 – Sunrise on the Greek Island of Paxos

This is a typical travel photography shot that I would use on one of my websites and on social media – this is the capital of Paxos, Gaios, with lots of lovely early morning colours.

This is the RAW file.

Oh yes – when I was processing this photo I saw this dialogue box.

Yes, as I said Aurora analyses the image before processing, and this is the proof. As part of analysing the image it detects what type of photo it is, and takes you into that set of “looks”.

Here is the processed image.

Wow – loving it!

Edit done.

And yes this was done by sending the image to Aurora, telling it to process the image, choosing this look.

And that is all I did. Apart from send the image back to Lightroom.

Oh no sorry I did a quick crop to get things straight.

But that is all I would do – no more work required!!

Why do I send images back to Lightroom?

Quite simply to keep them in my catalogue with all my other images. I have to select the destination folder, and then the newly edited image pops up right next to the original RAW file, all nicely filed and ready for me to so something with other than let it sit on my hard drive!

Thats all good then

As I said this is not a detailed product review. There are plenty of these done by folks with more knowledge and patience than me – all I am interested in is making great images quickly.

After all, I don’t have a clue how a TV works, but I do know how to change channels.

I am happy knowing what I know, and knowing what I don’t know.

How much does Aurora HDR cost?

$99 dollars for new users, $59 for upgrades from previous versions. Yes I am feeling global today so am using dollars!!

Do I have to pay a subscription?

Nope – buy it and it is yours.

What about updates?

Updates are free for the version that you buy, and you get a discount if you have a version and choose to upgrade.

What platforms can I use Aurora HDR on?

Mac and Windows.

Is there an IOS version?

Nope.

Who are Skylum?

This information is courtesy of Skylum.

“Skylum Software is a Washington-based photo software developer with the mission to make complex photo editing simple and user-friendly. Thanks to its innovative approach and high-end proprietary technologies, Skylum products have won dozens of awards, including Best of the Year awards by Apple for six straight years. Luminar was honored with the Best Imaging Software 2017 award by TIPA and Best Software Plugin in October 2017 by the Lucie Technical Awards. Aurora HDR was selected as the Best Mac App of 2017 by Apple.”

What is Luminar?

Luminar is photo editing software that I am looking forward to trying out.

Luminar is photo editing software designed for photographers of all levels. As with Aurora HDR Luminar combines pro-level tools with ease of use – things that I am looking for.

And it has AI built-in.

And it has an amazing auto-sky enhancer which I can’t wait to try.

Will Aurora HDR replace Lightroom?

Not at the moment, not for me, although there are new features imminent in Luminar I believe. The problem that I and all other Lightroom users have is that all my images are in a single Lightroom catalogue. I will only ever move away from Lightroom if I can transfer my entire Lightroom Catalogue into other software. That is with all the edits, edit data and of course metadata, keywords etc.

And I would also need the tools that I use in Photoshop too – not that I use Photoshop that much, but there are tools in Photoshop that I could not manage without.

So for now Aurora HDR is a plug-in for Lightroom that I am going to enjoy using, but not a replacement for Lightroom.

A word on bracketed images

All the edits above are with single images. You can add bracketed images to Aurora and it will do even more – that is for another time.

And the slidey preview thing – nearly forgot this!

Yes Aurora HDR 2019 has a slidey preview thing – love it!

Summary

I have enjoyed using Aurora HDR 2019, and love the fact that it can extract so much from a single image. I am going to play with it a lot more, and compare the results of single image HDR against bracketed sets creating a single HDR image.

If I can move to taking a single image and processing in Aurora rather than taking bracketed sets whilst getting the same or better results that will be an excellent time saver for me.

And looking at the results above this is a definite possibility.

Of course it helps that my images are very well organised in Lightroom making it relatively easy for me to find images in explorer and save them back to the right place – I will just have to get used to this until I figure out a slicker way of getting images into and out of Aurora HDR 2019.

And once I have got my head properly around this I am going to look into batch production. In talking to Abba I learned that when Aurora batch processes it analyses each image individually (and intelligently) and then applies the chosen look to each and every image, in effect doing two things at once.

If this works like I hope it will this could be a complete game changer for me and some of the work that I do.

I will write a further review in the spring of 2019, which is hurtling rapidly towards us! I will also be having a look at Luminar and will offer you my take on that in the future.

Please ask any questions in the comments box, which I look forward very much to reading.


About the Author

Rick McEvoy

Twitter

I am a photographer based in the lovely county of Dorset in England. This is my Website, and I also have a weekly photography Blog. I specialise in architectural photography – well anything to do with buildings, and extend this to industrial and commercial photography which have similar requirements – stationery subjects, no people, no animals. I also enjoy landscape and travel photography. My dream job is photographing buildings in nice places, which I am working on right now.

Comments

  1. Just a comment about the editing itself. I’m not sure if I’m an outlier, but these pics all look overdone to me. I have pretty much the same reaction to most edits I see online, so perhaps I have a different-from-the-norm sensibility. The final edits look beautiful but unnatural. My brain just goes “oh, another online calendar.” Somehow this kind of beauty just becomes generic. I want my pictures to remind me of my actual experience. Then again, I’m not selling them.

    1. Author

      Hi Isa

      Thank you for your thoughts. You have hit the nail on the head there – am I producing photos for other photographers to critique or for non-photographers to buy?

      The harsh commercial reality is the latter.

      In my experience people prefer bright and bolder colours than us photographers would choose to publish. Having said that some of the images are of course overcooked, but there are a couple that I am completely happy with.

      Thank you again for taking the time to comment.

      With regards from England

      Rick

  2. Images are overcooked to me. I tried Aurora HDR for Windows and was not impressed at all. When I processed my bracketed shots through Aurora, it often resulted in halos. Sorry Rick. I would stick with Lightroom.

    1. Author

      Hi Alfredo

      Thank you for taking the time to comment. I know that some of the images are overcooked, but the one of Gaios and the sunrise shot in Paxos I am happy with. I will be processing my travel images differently from my commercial images of course – the target markets are completely different.

      And there is the option to scale back the effects Aurora adds – I went with the full blown 100% for demonstration purposes.

      Thanks again for your thoughts which I appreciate and totally understand.

      With kind regards from England

      Rick

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