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How To Drastically Improve Your HDR Images With Aurora HDR Pro

Take a closer look at how you can improve your HDR images quickly and easily using Aurora HDR Pro software from Macphun.

|  Digital Cameras
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Let Aurora Do Its Magic

Once you have loaded your sets of photos into Aurora HDR – and all common file formats are supported, including RAW – then Aurora HDR Pro sets about mapping the tones in the photos into the single image it displays on the screen. This should take elements from the shadows, mid-tones and highlights to give detail in all those areas. You can then use the presets – see the first article in this series on how to use these – or get your hands dirty and try out all the tools on offer, as we are going to in the below tutorial.


Take A Look At The Histogram

Histogram The first thing to look at is the Histogram from the combined photos. What you want to see is a range of tones from dark to bright. If there is a gap at one end, it means the result is still under or overexposed. You need to use the advanced controls to firstly produce a well-balanced photo, then you can start to look at the features that make HDR a great tool for regular photographers. These include bringing out more detail, especially in clouds, more colour saturation and vibrancy, and then if you want, HDR-specific effects like vignettes and added glow. Usually, increasing colour saturation or detail will also increase the noise, but there’s a tool to try to contain that as well


Stalker original One of the four exposures of this image, somewhere in the middle.


Get Inside Aurora

The image below, opened up in Aurora, is the combination of four photos of Castle Stalker on the Scottish west coast. The result is too dark so it needs brightening without losing the detail in the sky. 


Aurora 2-1


Adjust The Tone Sliders 

To do this, go to the Tone tool and increase the Midtones for the main part of the image and the Shadows for the deep shadows to get some detail there.

This makes it better, but it’s still flat so in the same panel, increase the Whites and watch the Histogram move over to the right, filling the empty tones. Also, increase the Contrast here to make it more punchy. You could reduce the Blacks, but that tends to make the image quite grainy very quickly. The Smart Tone tool here is also something of a blunt instrument, it’s usually better to use individual components.



Image after adjusting Midtones, Shadows, Whites and Contrast

Aurora 2-3



Transform The HDR 'Look' & 'Detail'

In the 'Structure' section go to HDR Look and HDR Detail and try the sliders for Amount on both of them. The HDR Look is most effective on clouds and doesn’t require much increase to really bring them out of the sky. The HDR Detail option is a much harsher effect and makes the image significantly grittier. The Softness setting cuts down on the amount of contrast being used, but you are better simply scaling back the Amounts.

 Aurora 2-3a



Image after adjusting HDR Look and HDR Detail

Aurora 2-4



Add Some Punch To Your Shot 

If the image is lacking punchy detail, this is where you can make an impact without making something obviously HDR. Go to the Details panel and increase the Small slider to increase definition in all the small details. For things like water, you don’t need more detail so if your photo has lots of water in it, you can counteract some of the graininess by reducing the Medium and Large sliders. Either do it globally or make it specific to highlights and shadows.

Aurora 2-4a



Image after adjusting 'Details' sliders 

Aurora 2-5,



Enhance Your Photo With Colour 

There are a number of colour tools that can enhance the photo without making it cartoonish. Start with Color and increase Saturation and Vibrance. The interesting one is Color Contrast that makes colours stand out from each other, especially in the sky. The Color Filter section allows saturation and luminance increase for individual colours so if the other options are creating too much noise, use this. The Color Toning option can also increase a specific tint across either the highlights (usually the sky) or the shadows (usually the ground).

Aurora 2-5a



Image after applying colour filters 

Aurora 2-6,



Final Step: Noise Reduction 

Leave noise reduction to last because most of the other steps increase it. It’s worth clicking on the Plus sign under Layers to add a layer just for this. Then use HDR Denoise with the Amount up until you start losing detail. Then use the Smooth option to clear out any really grainy areas. Don’t worry if it’s too soft because you can now use a brush mask. Click on the Brush icon and click where you want to apply the denoise effect. As soon as you do this, a mask (black in the thumbnail) is applied that blocks all the effect. Use the brush now to remove the mask so that areas you brush have the noise removed. Make any final tweaks when done and export the image.

Aurora 2-6a



Here's The Final Result: 

Stalker final


Try Aurora HDR For Free 

Take a look at the Macphun web store where Aurora HDR is now available. There's also a downloadable free trial so you can try the software out with your own images.

Start A Free Trial Of Aurora HDR

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Hi there,
Thanks for these useful tips! Smile
Feel free to reach us 24/7 via [email protected] and ask your questions!

Always yours,
Alina from Macphun
ottodog 12 United Kingdom
4 Dec 2015 11:15AM
I think this is mac only?
@ottodog Currently yes, however, we're seriously considering the Windows version and it's not a jokeSmile
Stay tuned for updates in 2016!

Alina from Macphun

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