Aurora Hdr Reviews

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At a Glance

  1. Since Aurora HDR doesn't let you stick together photos for panoramas, I still have to use Lightroom to stitch photos together and then I can edit that in Aurora. Aurora also doesn't let you edit out dust spots, so again, I have to bring up Lightrooom. When it comes to landscape photography, I am using Aurora HDR 2019 almost exclusively.
  2. View Aurora HDR. Luminar 2021 vs Aurora HDR 2021 Comparison. This comparison explains why I prefer the latter and the differences between the Luminar and Aurora Bundle. I prefer to use photo editing software that gives me the desired results without having to go through a steep learning curve.
  3. Aurora HDR Review. November 24, 2015 Jon Canfield Software Reviews Latest Reviews Popular Reviews. Canon EOS M50 Mark II Review.

For the purposes of this review, I downloaded the 14-day trial version of Aurora HDR 2018 on a newer Windows laptop and my 2011 iMac. In case you're wondering, Macphun allows the installation of the software on up to 5 devices (both Mac and PC). Review by Erik Vlietinck. The Aurora HDR app from Skylum has quickly gained recognition as one of the most powerful and efficient HDR applications available. Initially, this was due in part to Trey Ratcliff’s active collaboration with development, but two versions later the app’s high standards and ease-of-use have made it the HDR image.

Expert’s Rating


  • Fixes badly shot single images
  • Easy to learn and use
  • Fast performance
  • Flexible operations let you customize all features
  • Works as both a plug-in and standalone app
  • Supports third-party plugins
  • Great for creative and painterly photography

Our Verdict

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HDR is a specialized form of photography designed to expose details in both the highlights and shadows of a scene by merging multiple versions of the same image shot at different exposures. It’s hard to do HDR right without overdoing it, especially if your aim is a photorealistic image. The brain sees what the camera sensor cannot capture, and HDR techniques compensate by creating the image you saw in your mind’s eye.

The 2019 version of Aurora HDR features a new Quantum HDR engine with artificial intelligence-based tone mapping technology. This facilitates more efficient photo merging to produce natural results that don’t look contrived – unless you want them to. A New Smart HDR Structure feature delivers more precise details and realistic sharpness without artifacts, noise, or halos.

The software runs as a standalone app, as a plug-in to Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom, or as an Apple Photos extension. It also supports Photoshop plug-ins like Imagenomic and the Nik Collection.

Traditional HDR photography merges multiple images, but Aurora also lets you transform a single raw image to HDR via its AI-based neural network. It corrects colors, boosts contrast, reduces noise, and prevents unnatural lighting and ghosting. A batch processing feature lets you import multiple folders of images for export as bracketed or single images – accurately identifying which images are bracketed and which stand alone. It works with various photo formats, including raw.

New features

Aurora HDR, like other Skylum apps such as Luminar, is extremely easy to use with a friendly interface that masks nearly all of its technical complexity.

Version 2019 introduces a new Looks feature, previously called presets, with additional aesthetic choices and refined toning. The app’s controls and sliders give you complete visual power over your picture. Aurora comes with eight Looks collections: Essential, Landscape, Architecture, Dramatic and Artistic. HDR photographers Trey Ratcliff (an Aurora co-creator), Serge Ramelli, and Randy Van Duinen contribute their own signature Looks packs reflecting their individual styles.

HdrAurora Hdr Reviews

Applying one-click Looks is just a starting point, as you can build in additional edits with the layer and masking features. Aurora is non destructive, so you can easily undo any adjustment and even revert to the original image and start over again. A new LUT (Lookup Table) mapping feature lets you simply mouse over the 11 built-in LUTs to view dynamic previews of the various color grading styles you can apply to your photos. Additional Looks, LUTs, and Textures are available either for free or for reasonable prices from the Aurora HDR Marketplace.

With the new Adjustable Gradient filter, which sports additional highlight and shadow sliders, you can apply distinct adjustments to the top and bottom of an image or anywhere you apply the gradient.

Bottom line

Aurora HDR 2019 is a specialty app designed for people who seek a way to produce powerful HDR images. It does not disappoint. While Aurora is not designed to be a full featured image editor, it still offers a vast variety of critical photo controls. I found many hard-to-edit images – often landscapes shot in poor lighting conditions – much improved by Aurora’s one-click Looks, without a lot of time-consuming fiddling. The app’s upgraded engine and AI based tools worked well and swiftly without stability issues, even an older MacBook Air.

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Is Aurora Hdr Worth It

Start with a More Natural HDR Image

Review by Erik Vlietinck

The Aurora HDR app from Skylum has quickly gained recognition as one of the most powerful and efficient HDR applications available. Initially, this was due in part to Trey Ratcliff’s active collaboration with development, but two versions later the app’s high standards and ease-of-use have made it the HDR image editor of choice. The 2019 version has just seen some major improvements.

Aurora HDR 2019 has a patent-pending HDR engine, called the Quantum HDR Engine. It’s based on machine learning, with the algorithm automatically analyzing millions of pixels and intelligently building the HDR starting point for you to create your own HDR image. I put Aurora HDR 2018 next to version 2019 and compared the two specifically for this feature, and I found the 2019 version better in the sense that the resulting HDR image is more natural looking. A realistic starting point lets you edit your image with less unwanted artifacts caused by the HDR engine.

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In the same realm, you’ll find that Aurora HDR 2019’s new HDR Smart Structure lets you bring forward a more precise amount of details and structure in an image without creating the artifacts that make most HDR images look too over-the-top. I did find that it pays off to experiment with the Smart Structure slider, as some lower settings may seemingly boost exactly the right details better than with a higher setting.

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Filmmakers know LUTs and now HDR image creators can apply LUTs from within Aurora HDR 2019. As LUTs are sort of black boxes, I think you should use only the ones you create yourself, but you can also download free and paid-for LUTs from the web from within the app. Finally, Aurora HDR 2019 now supports Imagenomic Portraiture, Nik Collection by DxO, and other popular plug-ins for Photoshop, and it has Photolemur 3 plug-in support. ■