Aurora HDR 2017 vs Photomatix Pro 5 … Which one is Better?

Comparing the Best HDR Software

Aurora HDR vs Photomatix Pro, Which One is Better?

Both HDR (High Dynamic Range) Software are great! But which one is better? Let us do a test run and compare Aurora with Photomatix.

Aurora HDR 2017 and the Photomatix Pro 5 both come with a Lightroom Plugins. Having a Lightroom Plugin makes it easy to quickly jump from your photo library in Adobe Lightroom to the HDR editor to:

  • merge and align your pictures
  • and re-import the finished image back into Lightroom.
Photomatix Pro 6
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Photomatix Pro 6
  • Merge of bracketed exposures to HDR, tone mapping and exposure fusion
  • Automatic Alignment of Hand-Held Photos
  • Advanced Tools for Ghost Removal
  • Batch Mode
  • Plugin for Adobe Light room

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Test of Both Software Applications with Images

We have two images of Paris (taken from the Eiffel Tower). One is shot at ISO 640 (the bright one) and one at ISO 100 (the darker one).

We now want to combine those to images the get more range (keep the bright view of the buildings of Paris but also get the details of the sun and the clouds in the sky).

Related Post: On1 Photo Raw Review

Image Before HDR Edit
Overexposed Image (@ ISO 100)
Overexposed Image
Underexposed Image (@ ISO 600)

Please note: The images were taken with an EOS 600D/T3i Rebel DSLR camera without a tripod.Hence, the HDR software needs to do some minor alignment of the pictures before merging them.

Related Post: Best HDR Software Compared (Top 3 Picks)

Photomatix Pro 5.1.3

Let us start with the Photomatix Pro.

After selecting the two images in lightroom, we click FILE > EXPORT WITH PRESETS > PHOTOMATIX PRO.

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The alignment and merger process is quite fast. It took around 20 seconds on an iMac (3.5 GHz Intel Core i5, 8GB RAM). With 16GB RAM things would probably work faster.

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Photomatix Loup

To see more details of the newly created HDR image, we click the “Loupe” sign, which lets us see the way image details get enhanced inside the selected area.

In the upper left corner, there are two process options: Tone Mapping and Exposure Fusion.

Tone Mapping gives as a better result (Exposure Fusion makes our test image look too grainy).



Photomatix Application on a Mac.
Photomatix Pro 5 Software Application Interface on a Mac.

Below the Process Options we have four METHOD Options:

Details Enhancer
Strength, Colour Saturation, Tone Compression, Detail Contrast, Lighting Adjustments (with a Lighting Effects Mode), Smooth Highlights, White Point, Black Point, Gamma, Temperature, Micro-smoothing, saturation shadows, shadows smoothness, shadows clipping and a 360˚ image option for 360˚ panorama images;
Smooth Highlights
White Point, Black Point, Gamma, Temperature, Micro-smoothing, saturation shadows, shadows smoothness, shadows clipping and a 360˚ image option for 360˚ panorama images;
Contrast Optimizer
Strength, Tone Compression, Lighting Effect, White Clip, Black Clip, Midtone, Color Saturation, Color Temperature;
Tone Compressor
Brightness, Tonal Range Compression, Contrast Adaption, White Clip, Black Clip, Color Saturation and Color Temperature;
  • With Photomatix, it is easy to go back to the default mode or undo previous adjustments.
  • All the adjustments can be saved as a preset for later re-use.
  • On the right side, you will find very nice built-in preset styles (36 in total).

Since we want to do a quick test edit for this blog post, we pick a Tone Compressor Preset (Deep) save and reimport the finished HDR image into Lightroom.

Related Post: Photomatix Pro 6 Review (Detailed Analysis) – Get 15% Off

Here Is The Photomatix Pro 5 Result:

The HDR image of the skyline of Paris created with Photomatix Pro 5

Aurora HDR 2017

Let us test Aurora HDR 2017 to see how it compares to Photomatix Pro.

Again, we select the same two images with different exposure in Lightroom, right click EXPORT > AURORA HDR > ORIGINAL IMAGES (You can also select the images with Lightroom adjustments if you have already done edits in Lightroom).

Related and New Post: Aurora HDR 2018 Review

Or alternative, even faster option: Select the images in Lightroom & DROP them in the AURORA 2017 App ICON on your Mac (AURORA needs to be open).

The process is very fast and smooth. Before merging the images, Aurora asks you these options:

HDR Image merge options at import
Selection Options: Alignment, Ghosts Reduction, Chromatic Aberration Reduction;

Aurora HDR has a very intuitive and easy to use application interface.

HDR Aurora 2017 Preset Categories

On the bottom, you can find all the presets categorized by type of photography (over 70 pre-installed presets):

  1. Basic
  2. Landscape
  3. Indoor
  4. Architecture

Special Effect Preset Packs

  1. Dramatic
  2. Realistic HDR
  3. Trey Ratcliff Presets
  4. Captain Kimo
  5. Serge Ramelli

On the right, you will find plenty of tools available to do adjustments to your HDR photo.

Aurora HDR 2017
Aurora HDR 2017 has A LOT of functions. You can spend some time exploring all of the tools. Dragging the adjustment bar to the far left/right will help you to understand what effect each tool can have on your image.

Here is an overview of the tools you will have at your disposal (click on them to see the full list):

HDR Tone Mapping
  • HDR Look
  • Exposure
  • Contrast
  • Smart Tone
  • Highlights
  • Shadows
  • Whites
  • Blacks
  • Color Temperature
    • Temperature
    • Tint
  • Color
    • Saturation
    • Vibrance
    • Color Contrast
  • Clarity
  • HDR Structure
    • Amount
    • Softness
    • Boost
  • HDR Detail
    • Amount
    • Softness
  • HDR Denoise
    • Amount
    • Smooth
    • Super Smooth
    • Opacity
  • Image Radiance
    • Amount
    • Smoothness
    • Brightness
    • Smart Colorize
    • Warmth
  • Polarizing Filter
  • Details (Global | Highlights | Shadows)
    • Small
    • Medium
    • Large
    • Masking
  • Glow
    • Amount
    • Smoothness
    • Brightness
    • Warmth
  • Top & Bottom Adjustment (Top | Bottom)
    • Exposure
    • Contrast
    • Vibrance
    • Warmth
  • Tone Curve (RGB | Red | Green | Blue)
  • HSL (Hue | Saturation | Luminance)
    • Red
    • Yellow
    • Green
    • Cyan
    • Blue
    • Violet
  • Color Toning (Highlights | Shadows)
    • Tint
    • Saturation
  • Vignette
    • Amount
    • Size
    • Roundness
    • Feather
    • Inner Light
  • Layer
    • Opacity
    • Blend
    • Source
    • Texture Map

See some of the new tools in action in this Macphun Aurora HDR 2017 video here:

For our test run, we chose the preset “ARCHITECTURE” > “STRONG HDR LOOK.”

Here is the AURORA HDR 2017 Result:

Aurora HDR 2017 Test Run
Aurora HDR 2017 Test Run (Preset: Architecture > Strong HDR Look)

Then we made some more adjustments and played around with some of the tools, and this photo is the result:

Aurora HDR 2017
Additional Adjustments can easily be applied! The Skyline of Paris edited with Aurora HDR 2017

Aurora HDR 2017 gets one’s creative juice flowing!

You don’t need to be a pro photographer. Anybody (total beginner to pro photographer) can use this software with ease and create amazingly looking pictures.

Our test images above may not be the best work done out there, but they are hundred times better compared to our original image!  See how the original image compares to the Aurora HDR 2017 image:

Original Image

Edited Image


  • Photomatix is the go to software if you are a Windows user and if you don’t need too many presets, don’t want to be too creative or just need HDR for real estate photography (Photomatix has a special and lower priced version for real estate photos, see here).
  • If you are a MAC user and love being artistic, want a great choice of (pre-installed) presets and editing functions, then AURORA HDR 2017 is for you (update: see our Aurora 2018 review) and we highly recommend you give it a (free) try!

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  1. Just to be sure what I have read: I am a Windows user and could not use the Aurora product. I do have Photomatix but seeing the difference – well I was interested in this new product.


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