How To Get Started With Aurora HDR Pro

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How To Get Started With Aurora HDR Pro

The Aurora HDR Pro Interace is shown with a side-by-side view of the before and after images.
Aurora HDR pro is powerful HDR creation application that will appeal to everyone from the casual user to the "Control Freak" pro.

Back in May I showed you how you could create an HDR image using Adobe Lightroom CC.  The result was pretty interesting but required a lot of tweaking of the various image settings to get an HDR look and feel. Though a lot of the hard work is actually done capturing the images used for HDR, turning the resulting composite into a high contrast, high detail image usually requires one to have an intimate knowledge of the various tools in Lightroom or Photoshop to create just the right look for the final image. In fact, one of the more common responses to HDR images is, “How did they do that?” When the question is answered, the most common response is: “I thought it wasn’t that complicated.”

I am pleased to report “things just got uncomplicated.”

Aurora HDR Pro from Macphun Software is one of those pieces of software designed to do one thing spectacularly well and meets that goal. Whether you are new to HDR and are looking for a way of creating HDR images or you are a control-freak managing every pixel to create your HDR image, Aurora may just be your tool of choice.

For the novice, Aurora presents you with a rather extensive collection of Presets which allow you to create “Pro Grade” results with a single click. These presets include a dazzling series from one of the HDR Gods: Trey Ratcliff. For the Control Freak, there are a huge number of tools, controls and features that actually do allow you to control the process right down to what seems to be  the pixel level. Not only that, Aurora HDR Pro includes plugins for Photoshop, Lightroom and Apple’s Aperture (If you still have a copy kicking around.)

How does it work? Let’s find out!

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How To Add Images To Aurora HDR Pro

Three Camera rar image are shown and an arrow points to the Load dialog box. The third image shows the result of the compositing of the three images.
The process starts with a simple drag and drop that will transform three exposures or just one image into a HDR image.

The first step in the HDR creation process is to drag and drop the images to be used into the first screen that opens when you launch the application. In this case I have three bracketed Camera Raw images – Underexposed, Correctly Exposed, Over Exposed- that will be used. The neat thing about Aurora is you can use a single jpg instead.

Once the images are loaded a separate window opens showing you the images to be used and asking you how the images will be treated. The explanation for each option is provided at the bottom of the window. Having made your selection, click the Create HDR button and the application goes to work. When finished, the image opens in the Aurora HDR interface.

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How To Use The Aurora HDR Pro Interface

The interface and the controls are shown. The image used is the back of the author's house.
There is a high degree of control available yet the presets make HDR accessible to the casual user of thos new to HDR processing.

When the interface opens, you are presented with an astounding array of tools, settings and controls. Along the top are a series of controls that allow you to Zoom the image, compare the Before and After image (The Eyeball allows this and the one beside it allows you to have a Before and After split view) Over on the top right are controls for Cropping, Panning, Brushing, Adding Layers and using the Histogram.The properties panel to the right of the image is a Control Freak’s dream with a series of sliders that allow you control a vast array of imaging properties.

At the bottom is the Green Presets button which opens a collection of preset HDR effects that are applied with a simple mouse click.

If you are new to the HDR process, my advice to you is to apply a preset and then use the Properties panel to further tweak the image.

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How To Apply An Aurora HDR Pro Preset To An Image

The Architecture presets are shown.
There are over 60 presets that do very specific things idepending upon the nature of the image.

Applying a preset HDR effect is really quite simple. The application is installed with about 60 preset effects that are aimed at specific situations. To apply one, you click the presets button and open the effect group. Once you find an effect that looks acceptable to your needs, click it and the preset is applied. The categories are:

  • Basic: This collection is more of a starter set than anything else.
  • Realistic HDR. It is common to see HDR effects that are so over the top they look contrived. This group is a good place to start if all you want it to preserve the natural look and feel of the original while brining up a serious amount of detail.
  • Architecture: These are especially useful for cityscapes and buildings.
  • Landscape: You might want to consider these if you are shooting an outdoor landscape.
  • Dramatic: This grouping falls into the realm of creative.
  • Indoor: This is a fairly obvious collection.
  • Trey Ratcliff Presents: This collection of presets gives you the ability to see how a real Pro approaches HDR.

In the case of the the above image, it was rather dark. Thus I selected the Architecture presets, for obvious reasons, and chose the Architecture Bright preset. You can see the change if you click the Split View view button in the Control panel at the top.

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How To Save An Aurora HDR Pro Image

The image formats in the Export dialog box are shown.
There is a bit orem to to saving an Aurora HDR Pro image that just saving the image.

Normally, when I write one of these “How To’s” I usually tell to save the image and quit. It is a bit different with Aurora HD. You have two main save options.

The first, File> Save or File> Save As saves the file to a proprietary  Aurora HDR format. To save the image for further use in another application you chose File >Export To Image.

When the Export dialog box appears you need to make a couple of important decisions.  The first choice is the Color space. The first two sRGB and Adobe RGB have very subtle differences in how color is rendered. The third choice –  ProPhoto RGB– is a format developed by Kodak and is aimed squarely at photographers.

The next decision is format. This pop down offers the usual choices. One that may be unfamiliar to you is OpenEXR. This is a format developed by Industrial Light and Magic which is designed to solely work with HDR imaging.