Macphun Photography Articles

How to Pump Life Into Your Landscape Photo in Under 15 Minutes

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I learned how to post-process my landscape photos from Serge Ramelli. It goes without saying that this guy is a master at his craft.

So, when I came across the video below, it was a topic that I had to share with you.

As I’m sure you’ve encountered before, there are times when the lighting just isn’t working for you or when the photo just doesn’t have the visual pop you want.

Those are bummer moments, for sure.

But there’s a way that you can breathe new life into your photos that’s fast, easy, and beautifully effective.

Thanks to Luminar, you can take your so-so landscapes and turn them into true works of art!

luminar2YouTube Screenshot/Serge Ramelli

Above, you see Serge’s original photo of the Tunnel View at Yosemite National Park. I think you’ll agree that at this stage, it’s not the most impressive and that it lacks a bit of drama that we know the scene is capable of producing.

As Serge points out in his video, there’s a lot you can do in Lightroom to enhance an image like this. 

luminar 3YouTube Screenshot/Serge Ramelli

For example, after some tweaking using only Lightroom, Serge managed to turn his original photo into something far more interesting, as shown above.

Yet, there’s still something missing… 


That’s where Luminar comes in.

Think of Luminar as the extra bells and whistles that you need to really punch up the drama in your photos.

luminar 4YouTube Screenshot/Serge Ramelli

Even better, Luminar is incredibly easy to use, with presets and filters that get you going and tools that allow you to make more precise changes to your photos if need be. 

In the screenshot above, you can see how the Misty Land preset in Luminar adds a ton of drama to the shot.

luminar 5YouTube Screenshot/Serge Ramelli

You can even mix presets and filters to get a custom look for your image.

In the screenshot above, Serge has mixed Misty Land with Mild Image Enhancer, which brings a little more definition to the shot. All that took just a couple of minutes!

In other words, Luminar is extraordinarily powerful so you get incredible results, but it’s streamlined and easy to use. 

That means that even a beginner photographer with very little experience post-processing their images can make something gorgeous.

You can see the difference that just a few enhancements made to Serge’s image below:

luminar 6YouTube Screenshot/Serge Ramelli

This just scratches the surface of what Luminar can do, though.

Be sure to watch Serge’s full video above for a detailed guide to Luminar. You can also learn more by clicking here.

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Luminar 2018 Might Just Be a Lightroom Replacement

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I’ve used Lightroom for a good long while, and I’m happy with the features it offers me to improve the quality of my photos.

But now there’s a new sheriff in town that is sure to give the Develop Module a run for its money – Luminar.

In the video above, post-processing master Serge Ramelli offers his thoughts on the Lightroom vs. Luminar question.

ramelli1YouTube Screenshot/Serge Ramelli

In the screenshot above, you can see Serge’s original image from the Imperial Dunes in California.

In Lightroom, Serge’s usual workflow would include bringing down the highlights, opening up the shadows, working on the blacks and whites in the image, adjusting the white balance and tint, and so forth.

Each of these adjustments is made in Lightroom using a different slider or tool in the toolbar, so it’s not a terribly complicated process.

ramelli2YouTube Screenshot/Serge Ramelli

As you can see in the screenshot above, Serge was able to make pretty drastic changes to the original shot by using multiple tools in Lightroom.

The final product is an image that I would certainly describe as being beautiful.

The problem with Lightroom is that it isn’t exactly cheap. That’s particularly true since it shifted to a subscription service a couple of years ago.

But with Luminar, you can do everything you can do in Lightroom – and for less money.

ramelli3YouTube Screenshot/Serge Ramelli

In the screenshot above is the Luminar workspace. You’ll notice right off the bat that it’s a familiar arrangement with similar tools as Lightroom. That makes learning to use Luminar a breeze for Lightroom users.

But Luminar has features that Lightroom doesn’t have, which make it a more effective tool for post-processing. 

ramelli4YouTube Screenshot/Serge Ramelli

Take the Boost Slider as a prime example.

In the image above, you can see the Boost Slider’s artificial intelligence-powered filter at work. It magically takes into account over a dozen different aspects of a photo and makes your photo better.

The colors are bright and vibrant, the foreground has been lightened, and there’s more definition in the sky.

ramelli5YouTube Screenshot/Serge Ramelli

Luminar has a host of other filters as well, including a polarizing filter, a channel mixer, a golden hour effect, and just about anything else you can think of as well. You have dozens of filters from which to choose that makes for fun experimentation with your photos.

Serge also used the Image Radiance Filter and the Fog Filter on the image above, adding more interest and depth to the shot. Not bad, right?

In fact, if you look at this image next to the image from Lightroom, they look really similar.

A lot of photographers use Luminar and Lightroom together when processing their photos. 

But as these images demonstrate, Luminar is a more than capable editor on its own. For more information about Luminar, head over to their website.

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The Best Apps for Photographers


Man, is it fun to be a photographer right now.

I don't mean to say that photography wasn't fun before, but if you ask me, we're in a golden age of photography in which we have better cameras, better lenses, and better apps to improve our photos than ever before.

It's really amazing to think that not all that long ago, the only way to process a photo was in a darkroom. And not long after that, the only option we really had for post-processing was the likes of Photoshop on a desktop computer.

My, how things have changed...

With 2018 knocking on the door, I thought it would be a great time to review some of the best apps for photographers that you need to try in the coming year.

Luminar 2018

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One of my complaints about some photography apps and programs is that they can be slow and imprecise.

Not so with Luminar.

Not only is Luminar one of the easiest to use photography applications, but it also has all the tools you could possibly need to elevate the quality of your photos.

And since Luminar was developed to be fast and efficient, you can make changes to your photos in mere seconds.

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For my money, an even better feature than its speed is the fact that Luminar is intuitive and adapts to the way you work.

That's because the application comes loaded with preset workspaces for landscape photography, portraiture, black and white photography, and more.

Within each workspace are recommended tools that help you maximize the time you spend in post-processing to complete your creative vision quickly.

But don't think that because it's easy to use that this is some stripped-down photo editor, because it's definitely not...

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Luminar comes with more than 40 real-time, non-destructive photo filters that were developed by professional photographers.

You also have the benefit of using layers with blending modes, masking tools, and unlimited undos.

A favorite feature will surely be Luminar's presets and LUTs that offer one-click options for simulating color grades and film stocks.


You can even create and save your own custom presets and share them with other photographers.

In other words, if you're after an application that's lightning-fast, packed with useful tools, and offers you an intuitive photo editing experience, there's simply nothing better than Luminar 2018.

Learn more about Luminar 2018 for Mac and Windows.

Aurora HDR 2018

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One thing I love is when application developers actually listen to photographers to create something that's ultra-useful.

The folks at Macphun, who are responsible for the amazing Aurora HDR 2018, did just that, and developed a tool that offers unparalleled power in creating gorgeous HDR photos.

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It's so good, in fact, that Apple named it the best app of 2017. That's not a bad endorsement!

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In the past, creating an HDR image required three or more RAW files.

That's no longer the case...

Aurora HDR 2018 needs just one RAW file to help you create a final image that knocks your socks off.

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That's good news for you in the field, because it's not always possible to get multiple images that are exactly the same, especially if there's movement in the shot.

Now you can rely on just a single RAW file, put Aurora HDR 2018's incredible tone-mapping algorithm to work, and make an awesome photo.

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Aurora HDR 2018 is incredibly easy to use, as well.

The workspace is intuitive with a well-organized layout that makes sense of the huge array of tools you have at your disposal.

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There's even quick presets that you can use to make easy changes to your photos, all with just one click. It doesn't get much easier than that!

I've never been big into HDR, mostly because I didn't like the results I was getting.

But trust me when I say that HDR will be on my to-do list next year, because with Aurora HDR 2018, even I can make an HDR image that looks great!

Learn more about Aurora HDR 2018 for Mac and Windows.



The native camera app on iPhones is still a little lackluster, so having a dedicated camera app is certainly something worth a try in the new year.

ProCamera is one of the best such apps, featuring tons of sophisticated features that give you control over everything from exposure settings to white balance to a setting that allows you to calibrate the camera to a gray card.

There's more than 80 custom photo filters, too, so you can apply some quick edits to your photos after you take them.

The anti-shake feature and low-light modes are handy as well, helping you get sharper photos and better-exposed images, even in low light.

Learn more about Procamera for iOS devices.


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Not all apps are user-friendly for newbie photographers, but Halide sure is.

This app allows you to start with fully automatic controls, and then as you acquire skills and know-how, you can slowly begin to take over more and more manual controls in the app.

That makes Halide an excellent learning tool, in addition to being a really good camera app with lots of great features.

Perhaps the best feature is focus peaking, which assists you in determining what areas of the photo are in sharp focus. You can also capture RAW images, add portrait effects, and view a histogram to perfect the exposure.

Learn more about Halide for iOS devices.


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A highly popular app for iOS and Android devices, VSCO gives you tons of flexibility for editing your photos on-the-go.

That includes tons of preset filters that you can easily apply to your photos and adjust to get the desired effect.

You can make specific adjustments to brightness and contrast, sharpness and clarity, saturation, and many others.

VSCO also has a camera app that allows you to take photos in RAW. You get manual exposure controls and separate focus and metering controls, too.

And once you're done taking and editing your photos, you can share them right from the app to Facebook, Instagram, and other sites, including VSCO's own creative community.

Learn more about VSCO.


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Enlight is only available on iOS devices, but it's so powerful and user-friendly that it's definitely worth a look if you have an iPhone.

The app offers you precise controls over details like tone and color, and gives you built-in masking capabilities with every tool. That makes for seamless blending of effects for a top-notch look.

You can create your own presets and save them for later as well, which is handy for developing your personal creative style and applying it to all your images.

There's exposure correction tools, tons of filters and presets, and a beautiful, easy-to-use interface as well, which makes Enlight one of the most powerful editing apps for iPhone.

Learn more about Enlight for iOS devices.



Another favorite app for iOS and Android devices is Google's snapseed.

Like VSCO, Snapseed has a wide variety of editing tools that help you create more eye-catching photos. That includes tons of filters and effects to customize your images.

But with the power of Google behind it, Snapseed has a few tricks up its sleeve that make it an even more powerful editing tool for your smartphone.

It has a face enhance feature that improves the focus of a person's eyes. It'll also smooth out their skin.

The face pose feature uses a three-dimensional model to correct the pose of a portrait. It sounds like something out of the future, doesn't it?

And that's just the tip of the iceberg...

There's few phone apps as powerful for editing photos as Snapseed. If you want to see your images in a new light, give this app a try in 2018.

Learn more about Snapseed for iOS and Android devices.

Magic Hour

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As we all know, Golden Hour offers us the best natural lighting of the day. The problem is knowing exactly when Golden Hour starts and how long it will last.

In the new year, you don't need to wonder any longer because Magic Hour will do all the heavy lifting for you.

Available for iOS devices, this app not only tells you when Golden Hour starts and ends at your precise location, but it will also give you a quick weather summary, the sunrise and sunset times, and information about the moon's activity as well.

Learn more about Magic Hour for iOS devices.

Dark Skies

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If night photography is your thing, then the Dark Skies app is definitely something you want to add to your toolkit.

Dark Skies uses information from your camera and the focal length of the lens you're using to determine the precise exposure settings you need to get the best photos.

That's because the app uses the 600 Rule to help you dial in the settings you need to avoid star trails to get crisp, pinpoint stars in your photos of the night sky.

Think about it - the less time you have to worry about messing around with the camera settings, the more time your shutter will be open, and the more photos you can capture!

Learn more about Dark Skies for iOS or Android devices.

Hyperfocal DOF

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Landscape photography is my passion. Math is not.

So when I came across the Hyperfocal DOF app, I heard the angels sing.

Now I don't have to worry myself with struggling with the equations needed to determine hyperfocal distance. Instead, I just use this app.

All you have to do is select your camera from the list in the app, enter the aperture you're using and the focal length, and the app will figure out the closest distance at which you can focus while keeping everything else nice and sharp.

Get Hyperfocal DOF for your iOS device.

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The Power of a Single RAW Image

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Typically, HDR requires three or more RAW files to create the final HDR image.

However, Macphun’s Aurora HDR 2018 is so powerful that it only needs a single RAW file to create epic results.

In the video above, photographer Trey Ratcliff offers an in-depth tutorial on Aurora HDR, which I’ll just tell you right now is a mind-blowing piece of software.

In fact, if you’re a Mac user, Apple named it their “Mac App of the Year” for 2017, which should just add to your motivation to try it out. 

trey1YouTube Screenshot/Trey Ratcliff

To begin with, there’s a huge advantage of only needing a single RAW file to create your image. You can’t control things that move, people walking into the shot, and so forth, so sometimes all you have is a single photo with which to work. 

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Aurora HDR 2018 and their amazing tone-mapping algorithm makes it possible to use that single photo to make an awesome image. 

Take the image above as a prime example. In its original form, there’s just not a ton of drama in the shot. But with Aurora HDR, the image takes on a whole new life:

trey2YouTube Screenshot/Trey Ratcliff

So from just a single RAW file, Trey was able to turn his image into something with greater depth, improved color, and much more emotion with Aurora HDR.

trey3YouTube Screenshot/Trey Ratcliff

In another of Trey’s original images, you can see a beautifully framed subject with all the makings of a jaw-dropping shot.

It needs some help, and with Aurora HDR, that’s simple to do.

trey4YouTube Screenshot/Trey Ratcliff

When you open the program, you see a workspace with a layout that is logically organized and feels familiar.

There’s an abundance of tools at your disposal for creating your final image, including easy-to-use presets for making one-click changes to the shot. 

trey5YouTube Screenshot/Trey Ratcliff

In this example, Trey used a landscape preset to give his shot more depth and vibrance.

There’s so much more to Aurora HDR, too...

You can make lens corrections, adjust saturation, exposure, contrast, and of course, use HDR advance tools as well.

You can get a complete walkthrough of Aurora HDR 2018 in Trey’s video. It’s certainly worth a watch! 

Be sure to visit the Aurora HDR 2018 website for more details and to order your copy.

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