Skylum has been making software for Mac computers for years but now they're really stepping up their game both with Luminar and their latest update, Aurora HDR 2019.
There are a few HDR software options available, including Lightroom and Photoshop. So you really just need to find the one that works for you and suits your style of imagery and editing.
In this overview, I'll give you a quick comparison between Aurora HDR 2019 and Lightroom.
Aurora HDR 2019 First Look
In the video below, I will show you examples of four different scenes shot as bracketed sets and merged to HDR using both Lightroom and Aurora HDR 2019. As well, I will do a single image HDR in both programs for comparison to see how they perform.
My notes on Aurora HDR 2019
As I mentioned in the video, I think the new Aurora HDR software does a really nice job.
There's a bunch of new stuff, but it's mostly how it works under the hood. If you're highly technical those improvements include:
- New Quantum HDR Engine
- LUTs support with 11 New Integrated LUTs
- Photoshop plugins support
- New HDR Smart Structure filter for realistic and artifact-free structure (can be found in the new HDR Enhance filter)
- Presets are now called ‘Aurora HDR Looks’
- Improved Adjustable Gradient filter with new sliders for Shadows and Highlights added
- Improved HDR Details Boost Effect ( the photo is shown in high-resolution while fine-tuning the filter)
Told you it was all geeky technical stuff!
My thoughts are more real-world application stuff, such as:
- Aurora does a nice job on Chromatic Aberration, noise reduction, and lens distortion control but I wish it had a targeted tool for doing the CA removal and/or defringing.
- It does a nice job of keeping things realistic looking with some of the “natural” and “realistic” presets or looks.
- You can use layers and masking to apply one filter only to a certain area of your image.
- On some images, Aurora did a better job at ghost removal than LR did.
- Aurora does a nicer job of increasing detail in the image and making an HDR “look” without going over the top.
- The Color Contrast is a nice feature that adds punch.
- It has many of the same filters as Luminar: Image Radiance, Glow, Color Contrast, Dodge & Burn, etc. so if you are already familiar with Luminar you'll feel at home with Aurora HDR 2019.
HDR Software Comparison
Here are some example images including one original RAW file, one processed using Lightroom and one done with Aurora HDR 2019 for an HDR software comparison.
A Blue Hour Image
Aurora did a good job on a tricky subject.
It tried to straighten the lines and perspective of the building and kept nice detail in the bright areas and dark shadows.
High Contrast Scene
I chose this 5-image bracketed set of a high contrast sunset scene to test next.
I was really impressed with how Aurora HDR 2019 handled it right out of the gate with no filters. After a few tweaks, it was even better.
I wanted to see how both Lightroom and Aurora handled moving subjects and ghost removal.
In this next set of images, the tree was blowing. They both did a good job but a really close inspection has me giving Aurora the slight edge.
Now just to address the issue before you say anything. Yes, I probably could have gotten a similar or identical result from Lightroom.
BUT let me stress here that I did almost nothing except merged them in Aurora and applied the Natural preset and a bottom gradient to darken the water and that was it!
So Aurora HDR 2019 was much faster, and with fewer steps.
This final bracket set of images were shot without a tripod.
When doing HDR photography, it's always ideal if you can use a tripod but it's not always possible. So I wanted to see how well these programs did at aligning the images before doing the HDR merge.
Both performed admirably!
Single Image HDR
Recently I've found that if the scene I'm photographing isn't super high-contrast that I can pull good detail and color out of it from a single image in Lightroom. So in this final comparison, Aurora and LR go head-to-head one more time.
Who is Aurora HDR 2019 for?
In my opinion, if you already have Lightroom and are happy with the HDR images you're making with it, great. But if you want to do a little more and have more options – you may want to try Aurora HDR 2019.
If you haven't got Lightroom or any other HDR software, then for sure I'd say give it a go!
Luminar integrates with it nicely as a plugin as well, so if you are already using that program that's a nice benefit for you. They also use a lot of the same filters and terms so it will feel like home in Aurora.
If you have any other plugins like Topaz, then you'll be happy to know Aurora works with them too.
Give it a go, share your HDR images in the comment below, and let me know how you like it.