Aurora HDR Review
The presets included give you a great starting point. I find the Realistic option, which happens to be the default, is where I like to start. From there, it's off to the tools. And, there are plenty of tools to choose from in Aurora HDR. I could see this being a one stop application for many people - all of the important tools like tone curves, color adjustments, denoise, sharpening, and more.
As you're working, you can choose to have dual views or split views to see before and after looks. I actually like the split view - I can slide it all the way over if I don't want to see the changes compared to the original, or I can adjust it to just where I want to see.
Anyone that uses Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw will recognize and be comfortable with most of the options in the Tools palettes. For example, Color has the same color adjustment options as other apps. Tone has your highlights, midtones, shadows and other commands. There is a new option here though - Smart Tone. It seems to work similarly to the Exposure slider in Lightroom and ACR. If your overall image is too bright or dark, this is a good place to start for a global adjustment.
Structure is where you'll control how HDR your image looks. While Clarity sounds the same as clarity controls in other apps, it's a stronger adjustment here. The HDR Look and Detail controls will take you from natural to what were you thinking in a hurry, but they're fun to play with. You'll find that boosting the Amounts here will increase noise, hence the Softness sliders to help compensate for this.
Image Radiance imparts a soft glow to your image that can be brought back down with the Smoothness slider. For me, the key control in this panel is the Warmth slider. Combined with the Amount slider, you have great control over the color tone of your image. I was able to add a nice warmth to the image here with a small adjustment to both Warmth and Amount.
Details is like a replacement for the Sharpening settings you're probably used to. What I like here is the ability to make your adjustments to small medium or large detail, and further confine those adjustments to highlights or shadows, or make them globally. Be careful here though, it's easy to go way too strong with these adjustments.
Top and Bottom Lighting is a different name for gradient adjustments like a ND filter. This control works amazingly well in combination with the layers you can add, confining your adjustments to specific areas.
Speaking of Layers, the ability to apply these adjustments to layers adds a tremendous amount of control to the editing process. I find myself using Photoshop much less now, with the majority of my images going from Lightroom to Aurora HDR and back. The masking is well done, and the brush supports pen pressure for use with a graphics tablet.
Depending on whether you've launched as a stand alone app or a plug-in, the export process will have different options. As standalone, there is a share button with the option to export as a file or share with different social media services, or send to an editing application. As a plug-in, choosing Create HDR will save the image and send it back to the host application.