I thought I was over HDR.
I used to use it quite a bit around 5 years ago when it was all the fad. Like many photographers, I went through the overblown HDR look and slowly made my way to more realistic HDR photos.
But then camera sensors improved to the point where they could handle most of the high dynamic range situations I encountered. Even if I took bracketed shots, I would usually end up using the middle bracket and processing it in a regular fashion using highlights and shadows sliders to bring out the details I wanted. In extreme situations, I would make the HDR image, and then manually blend one of the original images back in for a more natural look.
But now all that has changed!
I’ve finally tried out Aurora HDR (now available for Windows and Mac) and I’m excited to find a new way to handle high dynamic range with much better results.
In the video below, I give a demonstration that will show you why I’m excited about HDR again.
If the video is too small, click here to view it large on YouTube.
Here is why I think this software is so special:
HDR specific sliders that give great results
HDR Enhance: allows you to specify the amount of HDR-ness if you know what I mean. In other programs I have found that I can barely touch this slider before things get out of hand. Aurora HDR gives you quite a bit of range while keeping the image realistic. Or, you can take it to the extreme if you want.
HDR Details: Allows you to increase or decrease the amount of detail for both large and small details separately. I really like the ability to leave large details alone while increasing the smaller details. For example, I can keep the mountain looking completely natural while increasing the detail in the house at the bottom of the mountain.
Image Radiance: I love this panel! It gives the whole image a sort of glow without making it too soft.
But here’s the really big thing:
LAYERS! And layer MASKS!
Woo hoo!! With the power of layers and layer masks, you can simply choose a preset and apply it only to the parts of the image where you want it. Then you can pick a different preset and apply it to another part of the image, such as the sky for example. Or you can make a new layer and use some of the sliders like the HDR enhance I mentioned above.
I have discovered that using this method allows me to achieve the look I want in much less time than it took me to do it manually by blending exposures in Photoshop, or making an HDR image and then taking it into Photoshop to blend it back with one of the originals. I also found the results much more natural looking than using Photomatix (sorry Photomatix).
In a matter of minutes I took this photo:
And made it into this:
You also have the option of not blending exposures at all, but just opening a single exposure in Aurora HDR and using all the powerful features it gives you.
In a nutshell, Aurora HDR is fast, intuitive, comes with beautiful presets, gives you all the power of layers and layer masks, and allows you to make HDR images that are much more natural looking then any of the other software options available today.
Oh, and one more thing, there is a new version coming out in a few days and it will work for both Windows and Mac. Up until now, it has been a Mac only product.
It works as a standalone product, or as a plugin with Photoshop or Lightroom.
I’m excited about HDR again!
If you want to try Aurora HDR, you can get $10 off by entering the code MCKINNELL
Here are some more examples of photos I processed with Aurora HDR 2018.