When I am editing both for fun and professionally, there are a few editing programs I use on my computer. I go through a little bit of a workflow. I start by taking my photos from my camera and importing them into Adobe Lightroom. This is where I organize all my content and do simple adjustments. From there, I will take my photos and import them into a program that I’ve been using for years. It's called Aurora HDR.
Now there are some strong opinions in the photography industry about the use of HDR. HDR stands for High Dynamic Range and can give you a lot of flexibility when editing photographs. Depending on the use of HDR techniques, some might be blown away by the level of detail while some may say it makes a photo look really fake. Below are some examples of an original, unedited photo along with a highly detailed HDR version of it.
Now, not every photo needs to look like this. In fact, most of my photos don’t even approach this level of highly detailed editing. I like to use a subtle approach to my editing. I want the viewer to see one of my photos and get lost in the message I’m trying to convey. I usually feel like I’ve succeeded when I can show off a picture without the viewer immediately claiming the picture was “photoshopped”.
Especially with travel photography, I find plenty of moments where a scene looks beautiful in real life, only to discover that my camera can’t quite match that same level of clarity and balance with lighting. Have you ever been somewhere that looked stunning and you took a photo, but then realized the picture doesn’t match what you saw with your eyes?
HDR photography gives your photos a chance to match that same level of detail with your own eyes. Camera optics work differently than the human eye. The human eye can distinguish details in shadows and overly bright areas much better than a camera. HDR exists to give photographers a new level of detail in editing. Most editing programs can balance out lighting, but I haven’t found one that can do it quite like Aurora HDR.
Here is a peek at the interface.
You get many of the same editing tools you would see in other editing programs. You’ll see settings to change exposure, highlights, shadows, contrast, and color temperature. But past that, things start to get more interesting. You’ll see options to change the HDR structure along with another setting called “Image Radiance”.
HDR Structure is how you can manipulate the image to make it pop. Below is an example of an original photo and then the same photo with some of the HDR structure pushed up.
As you can see, the level of details have gone up. This is usually where HDR editing tools get a little divisive. Some like this style, while others think it looks unnatural. I always find myself in the middle of the boat with this setting. My decision on how to use this setting usually depends on what I’m trying to achieve in my photos. For example, I might be more willing to go a little extra on a personal travel photo than I would on a photo for a client’s wedding. Scenery and object shots tend to do better with this technique while photos of people aren’t quite as flattering. HDR detailing tends to pronounce wrinkles and imperfections. If that’s a look you’re going for in a portrait to convey age, then crank that slider up!
Image Radiance is a setting I play with quite frequently. This setting, more or less, adds a soft glow to a photo. Let’s say we took that same HDR photo of the hands and added a little bit of image radiance.
Adding the image radiance puts a soft glow over the photo. This could give photos a more dreamy look. Prime examples could be for weddings to help set a mood, or maybe taking a fun travel location and making it look a little more mystical. You can also change the color temperature of the glow to emulate a warm sunset or a cool, soft haze over stars.
There are also a crazy amount of presets you can choose from if sliders aren’t really your thing. Sometimes I like to use them as a base for my photos and then readjust the parts that I want to change.
Aurora HDR is packed full of so much unique content. It has definitely helped me increase my skills and gives me plenty of options to tweak a photo to my liking. If you like what I’ve mentioned and want to check it out for yourself, I have included a link below.
What is your favorite editing program?