Aurora HDR 2018 Review

September 13, 2017 | Jon Canfield | Software Reviews | |


It’s a new year, and time for a new version of MacPhun’s popular Aurora HDR software. There are some of the expected, but still welcome changes such as improved performance in RAW image processing as well as the merging process when you first start out, as well as improvements in the masking performance.

Although originally a Mac product, Aurora HDR is also available for Windows 7 and later (be sure to check the system requirements - you’ll need a DirectX 10 or later capable graphics card). The same product key works for both Mac and Windows, so if you’re using a mix of systems, you don’t need to purchase a second license.

There are a few features that Windows users won’t see until an update later in the year - Batch Processing,  Sharing, Luminosity Masking, Feather & Density for layer masks, Lens Correction, Transform, and Image Flip & Rotate.

MacBook Pro users also get TouchBar support.

Along with these changes, there are a number of new and really useful features that make Aurora HDR an even more compelling option for HDR photography. Let’s take a quick look at some of these new features.

The new Tone Mapping algorithm automatically reduces noise and generates a more natural/realistic looking image with the default settings.

Dodge and Burn Filter

Aurora HDR 2018

Aurora HDR 2018Before

Aurora HDR 2018After

For me this is one of the most useful new features. The ability to brush in brightness adjustments to specific areas of the image is very powerful and goes beyond any other HDR tools I’ve used. It’s not unusual to make adjustments to an image for example the details in the sky and have other areas of the image go too dark. With Dodge and Burn you can selectively lighten these areas (or darken as needed) with an adjustable sized brush and adjustable opacity.

HDR Enhance Filter

With this filter, you can adjust clarity, color, details, contrast in a way that doesn’t give you that artificial look (you know who you are halos!). While I don’t mind an over the top HDR shot for some scenes, my general intention is to create a natural looking image that has the benefit of extended dynamic range. HDR Enhance makes this much easier than it previously was.

History Panel

Aurora HDR 2018

You now have a full history of all your adjustments - similar to what you have in Lightroom. By clicking on any step in the history you can go back to that look. It makes experimenting with your adjustments more approachable.