Aurora HDR 2018 Review
(Plus: Aurora vs Photomatix, EasyHDR)
Let us give you our first impression and positive highlights of our Aurora HDR 2018 review:
- Loading images and opening the software is relatively fast (on a MacBook Pro 2017)
- Possibility to merge moving subjects in one sharp subject (ghost reduction), automatically color denoise and lens correct images during import
- Plenty of presets to choose from:
- Easy to transfer your work in other apps (e.g. Lightroom, Luminar, Photoshop, etc.)
- Possibility to add multiple layers for editing
- Plenty of filters (HDR Basics, Color, HDR Structure, HDR Denoise, Image Radiance, Polarizing Filter, HDR Details Boos, Glow, Top & Bottom Tuning, Tone Curve, HSL, Color Toning, Dodge & Burn, Vignetting)
- New image transform (scale, rotate, etc.) tools and lens correction tool
- Easy to share your final work on social media (Facebook, Twitter, SmugMug, 500px) or send by Apple message
- Affordable one time investment of $79 + bonuses (currently $30 off). Get extra $10 off with coupon code “PHOTOWORKOUT”
In-Depth View of Aurora 2018 Features
The concept of HDR photography has been around for years. Even before dedicated software came about. People always used the concept of exposure bracketing and then blended two or more exposures to create one perfectly exposed image with a Higher Dynamic Range. Software made this whole process simpler.
Aurora HDR was lunched back in 2015. At the time it was launched HDR as a concept was beginning to gather interest among amateur photographers and more and more photographers were looking for an easy way to create realistic looking HDR effects. They wanted to escape the rigors of having to do everything from scratch on their favorite editing platform. They wanted something dedicated, something that would allow them to simply make a few clicks and get an image that can wow everybody.
With the advent of dedicated HDR tools like Aurora HDR, HDR photography which had so far been limited within the domain of professional photographers, has now become more easily accessible to amateur photographers. But Aurora is more than just a tool for amateurs. It has powerful features that professionals absolutely dig.
The latest avatar of this software has been developed in close collaboration with Trey Ratcliff (Stuck in Customs) – arguably the world’s most widely known HDR photographer.
This Aurora HDR 2018 Review highlights the newest and the best features of the upgraded application.
An Entirely Fresh Coding
To begin, Aurora HDR 2018 has been almost entirely rewritten. The new application has better tone mapping algorithms which ensure that the new software is capable of producing better and more realistic looking HDR images.
Better Image Processing
One aspect of the process of creating HDR images has always been the unnecessary artefacts that crept into images. Aurora 2018 has better image processing capabilities that ensured that it can handle these demanding requirements and produce cleaner looking images.
Another cool feature of the new Aurora HDR is the HDR Enhancer. HDR Enhancer ensures that the new Aurora HDR is able to handle different scenes and add detail, clarity and enhance colors of these images without the associated artefacts or even introducing halos. Halos and artefacts can ruin the quality of your HDR images and they are one of the prime reasons why some HDR images look overcooked.
Aurora 2018 Before/After Examples
Lens Profile Correction is something that we do all the time, in Lightroom or Photoshop.
Aurora HDR comes with a built-in Lens profile Correction tool that can correct all sort of distortions like pincushion, barrel, vignetting and chromatic aberrations across a wide number of lenses. This eradicates the need to switch to a different image editing application in order to take care of these two primary adjustments that we normally do when editing an image.
The profile basically relieves you from having to switch back and forth between two applications to do a different set of adjustments. Aurora 2018 in many ways have become a full-fledged independent image editing application.
The transform tool is more than just a way to stretch or skew your images. You can now rotate, scale and do all sorts of changes which you need to fit your images as per your vision.
The History Panel is nothing new, at least not with someone who has some experience editing with Lightroom. But it is new in the Aurora HDR 2018. The History panel allows you to jump back in time and revert your active image to a previous state.
The panel is a useful tool in case you don’t like what you see on your screen but don’t want to completely roll back all the changes you did to the beginning of time. You can select a point you want to restart from and all changes you have done after that point will be rolled back.
Dodge and Burn Tool
The new Dodge and Burn tool allows you to selectively darken or lighten specific areas of an image. This is a powerful feature that ensures that you have more control over what you want to highlight as your point of interest in an image, lightening or darkening depending on what you need to enhance and highlight or subdue and even obscuring details that you don’t want to be featured.
Another important tool that has been upgraded is the HDR Structure tool. This tool controls how intensive the HDR look will be. That means you can drag the HDR Structure and the HDR Microstructure sliders and that way control how intensive the HDR look and feel is going to be.
Presets – One-Click Wonders
It would be a crime not to mention the wonderful presets available in the Aurora HDR 2018. Trey Ratcliff refers to them as ‘One-click Wonders’ and they are exactly that, and more. Presets on the Aurora allow you to skim through a bunch of adjustments and get the look you want with just a single click. These are perfect for someone who isn’t too technically bent or don’t want to spend hours in front of his / her computer adjusting his / her images. Presets can be a real time saver.
You get all sorts of presets with Aurora HDR 2018. There are the Basic Presets, ones for Architecture, Indoor and so on. Then there are Presets that have been developed in collaboration with expert HDR photographers.
Compatible on Windows
Aurora HDR 2018 marks the first foray of the company into the Windows platform. This should be music to the ears of all those Windows users out there who have never had the chance of using this incredibly powerful HDR tool. Moreover you can use the same product key across multiple devices and multiple platforms (Windows and Mac).
In addition to working as a standalone product for image editing, along with the ability to share images on social media, Aurora 2018 also works as a plugin for both Photoshop and Lightroom. The Windows version of the Aurora will however, not work with Photoshop Elements. At the time of writing this review, Macphun Software has stated that in the upcoming updates this will be addressed.
Aurora 2018 vs Photomatix Pro
Now for some comparison between Aurora 2018 and a few of its competitors.
Photomatix Pro is an old software (in HDR terms). One of the pioneer applications in HDR image processing. Photomatix Pro latest version is the version 6. The latest version has added a bunch of new features and updated a whole bunch of others.
- 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
It has the new HDR rendering tool known as the Tone Balancer. This allows you to achieve a much smoother and realistic HDR effect than otherwise possible. However, it lacks the ability to vary the opacity of the HDR effect. Photomatix Pro has a newly developed interactive brush tool among other features. However, it lacks the cool user interface that Aurora HDR 2018 comes with.
One of the major disadvantages of switching to Aurora HDR was that it was not compatible with Windows. Something that Photomatix Pro had all through. It was compatible with both Windows and Mac. This is something that has been addressed in Aurora 2018.
Aurora HDR 2018 vs EasyHDR
EasyHDR is yet another interesting tool for HDR tone mapping. This one also has a powerful processing algorithm. The software supports most proprietary RAW formats supporting RAW images from most cameras.
The application supports Retina (High DPI) display and the ability to work correctly on both Mac and Windows systems with equal ease. EasyHDR comes with an effective noise reduction tool that works with most images to reduce noise and produce cleaner images. Noise reduction can be affected at the start of the tone mapping process or at the end. It also has a very effective white balance adjustment tool built-in.
Additionally, there is a dual manual and auto ghost removal feature that ensures that any moving objects like people, car and animals wouldn’t necessary create an aberration in the final image.
EasyHDR also has a clean interface similar to Aurora. Some of the features that are similar to Aurora include the History navigation panel which allows you to go back in time and revert back to an earlier stage in a flash. However, EasyHDR lacks the intuitiveness and the ease of use of the Aurora HDR 2018.
Aurora HDR Pricing Advantages
This Aurora Review 2018 would be incomplete without a reference to its pricing model.
While a majority of the popular image editing applications including Adobe’s creative suite for photographers going the subjection based model, it is refreshing to see such a powerful application made available for a one-time fee only.
Aurora HDR 2018 currently retails at $99. (You can get $10 off with coupon code “PHOTOWORKOUT”)
Not only that you also get to use the same product key on up to 5 difference computers across Windows and Mac platforms.