How to do HDR Photography


HDR photography first became widespread among amateur photographers in the early 2000’s – you couldn’t take to the internet without seeing garish, cartoonish and wildly overdone HDR images.

The HDR image editors of that time weren’t very technologically advanced either…

Fortunately, nowadays there are several decent HDR image editors out there, some of which have broken new ground with their technology.

Today, we’re going to look at Skylum Aurora HDR, and do some editing with it. We’ll find out what it’s good at, and perhaps what is not so great about it.

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If you’re ready to dive right in and purchase Aurora, click here then use Aurora coupon code SHOTKIT to save $10.

How to do HDR Photography with Aurora HDR

To start, I’m going to do a traditional three-bracket HDR merge in Aurora HDR using the Quantum HDR Engine.

On the drop-down menu where it says ‘Auto Alignment’, there are some handy tools for helping you to get the best out of your shot while merging, such as Deghosting and Chromatic Aberration fixing.

It didn’t take very long to merge the three RAW files – this is the merged, unedited result:

I find that pretty impressive already for hardly any work on my behalf!

Another mark in Aurora’s favour is the large array of filters and tools you’ll find on the right-hand side:

You can add adjustment layers, change blending modes, change the structure, change the lighting on the top and bottom, and many other things. The layout of these tools is easy to navigate.

Aurora HDR 2019 also has an impressive array of presets, ranging from real-estate, cityscapes, landscapes and some signature collections from the likes of Serge Ramelli and Trey Ratcliff.

Here’s a before and after split-screen image (another handy feature) with the Landscape preset ‘Enhanced’ applied. The before shot is on the left, the after on the right:

I then decided to apply an HDR Look 1 preset to the image instead, choosing this preset from the Essential collection:

I thought it was too strong at 100%, so I dropped it to 75% using the slider on the preset tile. I found it hard to move the slider, as it kept disappearing when I went to click on it, which was a bit frustrating. I persevered and managed to do it in the end.

All in all, Aurora HDR 2019 is impressive so far. How does it fare with a single image instead of merging brackets? Let’s find out!

Aurora HDR worked very quickly on opening and enhancing this image, and here is the result in a before and after split:

For a JPEG image, this isn’t bad at all, especially on the shadow areas of the building and grass. The sky looks a bit dodgy close up, with some artifacting, but really, it’s to be expected if you use JPEG’s for HDR single images instead of RAW or TIFF files.

OK, so let’s add a preset to this one. I chose the Landscape collection’s ‘Bright Landscape’, which is a brilliant cinematic colour combo.

Here’s the result:

Final Thoughts

I find Aurora HDR 2019 to be a speedy and impressive HDR image editor. It has everything you need to create great HDR images, whether you’re a complete beginner or a seasoned pro.

The little niggle I had with it was when the slider kept disappearing, although that didn’t happen on the second image. As mentioned, the sky on the JPEG single image is very unnatural-looking, but on the merged RAW files it’s great.

Why not give it a try if you’re looking for a great value HDR image editor? Click here and use promo code SHOTKIT to save $10.


Disclaimer: All recommendations are impartial and based on user experience, with no bias to the products or the brand. The products in this post may contain affiliate links.