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How To Make Your Architecture Shots Come Alive With HDR

The inside of buildings may make interesting photographic subjects but the differences in light levels aren't always the photographer's friend. However, with the help of Aurora HDR you can combine the extreme light differences often found indoors to really make your shots come alive.

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Try The Tutorial & Put Aurora HDR To The Test 

Follow along with this tutorial, download the free Aurora HDR trial, then get the set of images here: 


HDR & Architecture 

If there was one place where HDR imaging made an immediate, and some might say controversial, impact, it was in the field of architecture photography. Specifically, shots of urban decay that were made to come alive with shattered masonry and the lurid colour of graffiti. In fact, it was the colours that set photographers against each other. To some, they told a dramatic story of neglect to others they were outlandish, even cartoon-like. Fortunately, with something like AuroraHDR you can have all the impact and strong colours of those ground-breaking images, but reign in the colour palette so the photo doesn’t like someone has drawn on it with a crayon.

At this time of year, architecture and HDR are ideally suited. If it’s sunny, it will be low in the sky and you can get tremendous colours and contrast early in the morning or late in the afternoon. If there is cloud cover, it’s damp and miserable but HDR can transform those images and turn the flat cloud cover into an approaching thunderstorm. Of course, if it’s actually a thunderstorm then the alternative is to look inside interesting buildings and use the HDR software to combine the extreme variation in lighting from windows to dark corners, and make them come alive.

The Shire



Adding Impact To Interiors 

For this image, we’ll be using Trey Ratcliffe’s photographs from inside a marvellous piece of architecture that he labelled, The Shire, for obvious reasons. This has the problem that the inside is much darker than the outside, so the windows on any normal exposure would white out.

Combine the three images here though and select the Architecture Preset and then Strong HDR Look. This is the kind of over the top result you want to avoid so click on Architecture Balanced Look.


Aurora HDR


Add Detail To Stonework 

Create a new layer by clicking on the Plus sign and call it Stonework. Then go to the Structure palette and increase Clarity by +15, HDR Look by +20 and HDR Detail by +50. This will brighten and add detail to the stonework and the walls and table in the background.


Aurora HDR


Aurora HDR



'Paint' On The Fireplace 

Select the Brush tool and click on the stonework fireplace. This will instantly add a layer mask and block all the effects off. Use the brush to put the detail just created back into the fireplace and the inside walls of the house. Avoid the table, chair and light on the floor. Then create a new layer called Highlights.


Aurora HDR


Aurora HDR


Add Some Glare & Glow 

For the highlights, we want to keep detail but add some glare and glow to give it ambience. So, go to Tone and reduce the Highlights by 70%. Then scroll down to Image Radiance and increase Amount to +40. As the light coming in will tend to be registered as blue, increase the Warmth to +50. Now head for Glow and increase to +50 to make it shine a little.


Aurora HDR


Aurora HDR



You Need The Brush Tool Again 

Select the Brush tool again and now simply brush on the window, around the table where the highlights are, on the light on the wall and around the fire. By default, the Brush is set to 50% Opacity but you might want to lower this for brushing around the table area. Once done, add a final layer called Cat and Colour.


Aurora HDR


Aurora HDR


Adjust The Cat & Chair 

Lastly, make a new layer called Cat. Under Tone increase Smart Tone to +33 to brighten the chair and cat up. Under Structure, add +30 Clarity, +30 HDR Look Amount. +50 HDR Detail Amount. Then, under Details, add +11 to Small to bring out all the details. Now, click on the Brush icon and start painting on the chair. As soon as you do, a layer mask is applied, which stops the effect happening on the rest of the image. Use this paint on the effects to the cat and chair. Then simply export the final image as a JPEG or TIFF.


Aurora HDR


Aurora HDR  Aurora HDR



Final Image Created In Aurora HDR 

The Shire


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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