The advantage of HDR imagery is that you can create a single, beautifully-exposed image with bracketed exposures.
In the past, though, some HDR programs didn’t create images that were especially natural-looking. Artifacts like ghosting and halos, joined by heavy amounts of noise, were distracting to the eye and diminished the quality of the final HDR shot.
But now there’s a new way to create natural-looking HDR images that have none of these drawbacks.
Start by Using “Looks”
In the video above, Serge Ramelli demonstrates how to create HDR images that have all the advantages of HDR and none of the past detriments.
One of the first things he does is open Aurora HDR 2019 to process his images.
As you see in the video, Serge is able to take three bracketed exposures (one each at -2, 0, and +2 EV) and combine them in Aurora HDR 2019 to create a single well-exposed image, as shown below.
But this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what can be done to develop this image into a breathtaking final result.
As Serge points out, you can apply any number of different Looks to the HDR image to enhance its visual appeal.
Below, you can see how the image from above is changed by applying a single Look, in this case Serge’s own “Start Here” Look.
In addition to evening out the exposure to reveal the details of the landscape, this Look has also brightened the sky, improved contrast, and boosted the vibrancy of the trees in the foreground.
All told, there are over 80 different Looks you can use, from specialized Looks for landscapes or architecture to dramatic and artistic Looks to stylize your photos with the click of a button.
In other words, Serge’s approach is both simple and time-efficient. It took just a couple of moments for him to totally transform the original RAW file into a nice-looking HDR image.
Enhance HDR Photos the Easy Way
In addition to streamlining the process of editing HDR photos by applying Looks, you can also use Aurora HDR 2019 to fine-tune the details of the shot and enhance it to your liking.
For example, in the image above, notice the array of sliders on the right side of the editing window.
As Serge demonstrates in the video, you can easily manipulate these sliders to adjust anything from highlights and shadows to contrast to the color temperature of the image. And that’s just the start.
Aurora HDR 2019 includes a variety of other tools that are both powerful and easy to use.
One such tool is the new LUT Mapping filter which can be used to add beautiful color toning to your photos.
There are 11 LUTs pre-loaded in the software (including Glorious, which Serge used in the screenshot above), and applying one of them is a simple matter of clicking on it. You get a small preview of what each LUT will do, which makes selecting the one you like a much faster process.
You can also import your own LUTs into Aurora HDR 2019 or download LUTs from the Skylum site as well.
Use Layers to Create Non-Destructive Edits
Thus far, we’ve discussed features in Aurora HDR that can make the editing process much more efficient.
But it should also be pointed out that Aurora HDR has a layers function that allows you to stack edits and do so in a non-destructive manner.
As Serge demonstrates, you can add as many layers as you want, each with a very fine adjustment for a particular part of the image.
In the screenshot above, he’s added a single adjustment layer to bring out some of the color in the trees and the mountains.
You can make simple adjustments like enhancing the saturation or color contrast, add an additional Look on a new layer, or do something more complex and create masks to apply the layer’s edits only to specific portions of the image.
In the image above, you can see how a few layers of adjustments have changed the look and feel of Serge’s image from where it began.
In comparing it even to the image just above it, you can see how the additional layers have improved the color of the trees in the foreground, warmed up the tones on the mountains, and added a pink hue to the clouds as well.
How to Create Natural-Looking HDR Images
As I mentioned in the introduction, HDR got a bad wrap a few years ago as being something that created artificial-looking images that were heavily edited.
But as you can see in the image above, Aurora HDR 2019 resolves that issue thanks to easy-to-use, intuitive, and powerful tools.
Not only does the program’s Quantum HDR EngineTM use AI to analyze the source images and merge them perfectly together, but it also makes previously laborious tasks (i.e., tone-mapping) a process that takes just seconds.
Likewise, the Quantum HDR EngineTM prevents the loss of contrast, manages noise, and eliminates halos, chromatic aberration, and artifacts. You can see in the screenshot above that even when zoomed in, there is no haloing and no noise evident in Serge’s photo.
There are other highly useful tools in Aurora HDR 2019, which I discuss in this in-depth review.
I encourage you to check out the entirety of Serge’s video to see this software at work and consult the complete review linked above to learn more about Aurora HDR 2019.