A colourful way of seeing the world
I’ve always liked HDR photos because of the heightened and out of this world style of the colours and ultra-real view it gives me. It reminds me of when I was younger and I got my first pair of Polaroid sunglasses. When I put the glasses on, all the colours seem to be stronger and brighter. The blue of the sky was better than I saw it with my eyes naturally. I’ve always had this artistic nature and a desire to change the representation of what I see to something better. When I created my watercolour paintings I painted trees using blue and red because brown just wasn’t interesting enough. So this is why I love the images I get from HDR photos. I want to be able to see what would be otherwise hidden in the shadows. I need to have the full experience of what’s possible in the highlight areas. With a normal photo and the range of colour available you have to go with what’s in the middle. Or you choose within a range so you see what’s in the light areas and you miss what’s in the shadows. Then again you can choose to see what’s in the shadow areas and the light areas will be lacking due to being blown out. With HDR photos it’s generally better if you take a set of three photos which are bracketed. Bracketing means that one photo will be with two stops of extra light, another with a standard setting and one more with two stops less light. This will give you a wider range of light available for your final image if you can merge them together. This is what we have HDR applications for. HDR stands for High Dynamic Range and it can be done within camera or it can be done with software outside of the camera. For years I’ve used an application called Photomatix Pro and it is an excellent application if you know what you’re doing with it. One of the things I would have against it, would be that it sometimes goes overboard in what it offers you for your HDR photos. The other thing I’d have against it, would be that it’s interface is highly technical. For these two reasons I’m delighted to have found the application Aurora HDR 2017.
Getting Started with Aurora HDR 2017
Last week I happened to see a bundle of Mac applications available for €10. Included within this set of applications was Aurora. I had briefly tried out the trial version of this HDR software and I’d been impressed with it, but I thought it was a little bit expensive for me. This was partly based upon the fact I already had other HDR software which did the job for me. For this price of €10 it was a no-brainer and I jumped in with both feet to get this bundle of Mac apps. Little did I know that there’s a new version due to come out a couple of days after I’d done this. I could have easily just stayed with the version I’d bought. It worked well with JPEG images. Aurora was giving me excellent results for creating HDR photos from my Mac photos library. I particularly like the way that with Photos App I can go to extensions from the edits menu and jump into third-party applications. I can get into applications such as Affinity Photo (specific parts of the app), Snapheal, Intensify Pro, Tonality and some others. I like being able to have my images all in one place within the Apple Photos application. It means I can organise everything with titles, keywords and descriptions which helps me to find photos later when I need them. I still have a load of photos all key worded from the application I was using previously – Aperture.
So over a period of a couple of days I created a few HDR photos sand was delighted with the way Aurora worked. It has a well thought out interface and plenty of tools to be creative with. There are a number of presets available, going from the realistic end of the scale to the downright ridiculous HDR style that some people either love or hate. I was loving the application right from the off and I spent a little bit of time watching a couple of how-to videos. There’s a lot of power within the tools and it helps to get up and running by spending some time learning quickly from a tutorial.
My reason to upgrade to Aurora HDR 2017
It wasn’t long before I tried to create a HDR photo using raw files. Raw files are the images as they come out of your camera with the most information possible. None of the information has been compressed as it is with JPEG images. This means you can use editing software to bring out more of what the camera sensor was able to detect. You can even grab a raw photo, singular and put into HDR software and get a great looking photo without needing to do the bracketing. The version of Aurora I had didn’t allow me to use raw photos. There are other advantages on having the pro version of the application and there was an offer to preorder Aurora HDR 2017 for a reasonable price. I still needed some time to think about it and the couple of days I was waiting to decide, Aurora HDR 2017 was released. In the end I decided, what the hell and I went for the upgrade. I watched more videos created by Trey Ratcliffe, the king of HDR photos. Trey was a consultant with Macphun in the making of Aurora and it was his influence that gave us an easy-to-use photographers interface for the application. I’ve been using the application now for three or four days and I’m still delighted with my purchase. No buyers remorse as I feel I’ve got good value for my money in being able to create fantastic HDR images.
Some of the things I love about Aurora HDR 2017
- An extension which works from photos app.
- Working with layers with my photos.
- The ease of painting on a mask.
- Graduating masking across a photo.
- Easy-to-use sliders for settings.
- Useful before and after view so I can see how I much changed the photo.
- Possibility to choose which original image to compare with.
- Luminosity masks.
- Availability of blend modes for the layers
- It’s great you can do the basic photo adjustment such as tone and colour within the application.
- Fantastic built-in presets, availability of extra presets and an option to create your own.
- Excellent compatibility with other applications from the same software maker – Macphun
- Ease of sharing to social networks and photography sites such as Facebook and SmugMug
Creating a HDR image with Aurora HDR 2017
Most the time I will be starting from the Photos application. How I get started with Aurora will depend upon the format of the photo I want to work with. If I have three bracketed RAW or JPEG photos I select them and use the Export command from the file menu. I find is a good idea to have a folder dedicated specifically to holding these bracketed photos ready for the making of HDR images. For one thing it makes them easier to find when you’re loading photos into the Aurora HDR 2017 application. Secondly when you have finished editing that image you can easily cleanup by deleting those exported originals. You’ll still have the original working files available in the Photos application. You will go to Aurora and load up those three photos. When you load them up you can choose to align photos and there are other options such as de-fringing. Sometimes you can get a colour edge when you have a light source behind your subject. I usually find that this is a blue or purple fringe and it’s good to get rid of that if you can. The other option is to remove ghosting. This might happen when you’re taking a set of three photos and you have objects within, that have moved between one photo and another. Aurora can take care of this. When you’ve made all your decisions about how you’re bringing the photos in you click on the button – Create HDR.
The other way to work with an image from Photos is to go into the editing mode. Click on the extensions option at the bottom of the list. If you have enabled it already via the system preferences Aurora will be available for you to use on your photo. When you do it this way you find that the Aurora application opens within Photos. You get all of the functionality from the Aurora application and when you click on save changes you’ll go back to the editing mode of Photos. Click on Done and you’re back into the view where you started in Photos. Obviously, with this you can only work on one photo at a time. When you have more than one photo selected you can’t get into editing mode.
- Best option – Select three bracketed RAW photos, export them out and then work with them directly in Aurora.
- Good option – from within the Photos app choose a raw photo, go to the edit menu and then into Aurora via extensions.
- Good option – You have three bracketed JPEG photos and you drag them and drop them into a folder. Edit directly in the Aurora application.
I suppose it is possible to work with a single JPEG image if that’s all you have. The results you get from that will depend upon how much the image has been compressed within that format. I like working with the single RAW image because that keeps it all within the Photos application. Whenever you’re working directly in Aurora you’ll want to export out of the application and put the results back into Photos application. Keep everything organised, neat and tidy.
The Spondicious verdict on Aurora HDR 2017
As you can tell by the enthusiasm contained within this review of Aurora HDR 2017 I am impressed by the app. I love creating HDR photos and sometimes it makes me happy when I’ve gone over the top. Even those HDR photos that some people hate are a delight to my eyes. You don’t have to go crazy, there are plenty of options available within the presets. You don’t have to work with the presets either. You can dive into the settings in the right-hand panel and fiddle about with the sliders to your hearts content. You get just what you want from a HDR photo even if it’s something that’s highly realistic. The other possibility would be to choose one of the presets that is closest to what you’re looking for and then start working with the adjustment sliders. This application is top notch quality as you will find with the other applications from Macphun.