Aurora HDR 2019 Software – Part 1

HDR (High Dynamic Range) processing was all the rage some time ago. Impossibly lit and detailed photos with overly-saturated colors were showing up everywhere . . . for a while. Some people hated them, some loved them.

For me, it’s just another tool I’d like to master. Not to create over-the-top images — although sometimes that can be fun — but as another weapon in my arsenal of photo-processing tools.

Briefly for them who want to know something but not much; if you know it, skip it:
while your eyes have a wide dynamic range as far as resolving details, cameras (film or digital) are limited in what they can resolve. By resolve I mean distinguish details and structures. Too dark a scene, and everything blends into a shadowy blob. Too light a scene, and you get a bright blob. We compensate — by we, I mean photographers — deal with extremes by adjusting the ISO (the response of the film or sensor), shutter speed (controls how much light is allowed to hit the film or sensor), and aperture (controlling how much light the lens lets in by controlling the size of the opening). Some or all of those tools used in conjunction with each other will let us take a photo of a very dark scene or a very bright scene and still get something that shows details and structure and texture. All well and good if it’s either or. A problem arises when a scene contains very dark areas and very bright areas. You can either compensate for one or the other or accept limitations in what you can show . . . OR . . . you can snap multiple photos — some showing what’s in the shadows and some showing what’s brightly lit — and blend them. 

Hmm . . . lots of words. Let me show you.

That’s a photo I took on our 2012 Alaska Cruise and processed for the blog.

It looks nice and all, but here’s another version . . .

This last photo is a combination of three photos with different exposures merged using Aurora HDR 2019. Here are the three photos:

Alaska Cruise 2012
Alaska Cruise 2012
Alaska Cruise 2012

The previously published photo is the processed version of the middle of the above photos. But, I’m limited to what I can do with just one photo. I can do a lot, mind you, but “darkening” the highlights and “brightening” the shadows generates issues that need to be addressed and the processing time can be significant.

In contrast, bring the three photos into Aurora HDR 2019 and you get a nicely balanced photo in just a few clicks. I can still edit it and do more with it, but I’m now starting from a better place.

Side Note: 5DaysDeal is on its last day of a bundle which includes Aurora HDR 2019. For the same price as the software, you also get a huge amount of extra stuff (instructions videos, books, lessons, advice on starting and running a photography business, etc). That deal is HERE. Yes, I bought the bundle but my primary interest was the Windows version of Aurora HDR 2019 (Mac version is also available).

Let me show you another photo from my 2012 Alaska Cruise:

Now, let me show you these three photos . . .

Alaska Cruise 2012
Alaska Cruise 2012
Alaska Cruise 2012

The first photo is the one I edited to get the photo I posted. Here it is again along with the output from Aurora HDR 2019.

My processing of the first of the three photos.
Output from Aurora combining the three photos.

HDR is a matter of taste. You can easily go overboard but the Aurora output I’ve shown are — to my tired eyes — a better starting point for my editing than any of the three individual photos.

I’m stopping here because I have stuff to do, but in Part 2 I’ll revisit some of my previous attempts at HDR processing.

It’s worth knowing that to take full advantage of the software one would have to know how to take bracketed exposure shots . . . but it’s not necessary. This next photo from Mount St. Helen is a favorite of mine but one that was incorrectly exposed and not bracketed:

As shot with my Nikon D100.

Before I show you what Aurora did with that photo, let me give you a few of my previous attempts at processing it:

To me it almost looked as if the tree was trying, after it had fallen, to drag itself away from the inferno . This is my favorite picture from the park.
To me it almost looked as if the tree was trying, after it had fallen, to drag itself away from the inferno .
This is my favorite picture from the park.

The writing is narrative from the post about Mount St. Helen. This next photo is from when I tried out Adjust AI . . .

Adjust AI — my edits (20 seconds or so)

And finally, one click in Aurora HDR 2019 . . .

Which one do you like the best?

I mean, I would tweak the last one a bit more, but as a starting point, it’s what I wish my original had looked like.

Note that Aurora comes with a lot of presets and access to lots of user-generated presets. But, it also had a lot of adjustments. A lot. As in, many. Many, many options for giving your photo whatever look you want. My next post will continue my exploration of the software.

That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.


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