HDR For You and Me?

All along the untrodden paths of the future, I can see the footprints of an unseen hand.”—Boyle Roche

A few years ago at the last “real” PMA show in Anaheim, me along with a few photo writer friends were approached by a software company who wanted advice about a new product they were thinking of developing. “HDR,” they said. And as soon as these words were uttered everybody hooted and hollered about how they hated the “Elvis on Velvet” painting look so many HDR practitioners love to produce. We killed it dead or did we?

Over time, I’ve played with various HDR software and even took a liking to one particular product that if you poke around this blog you will find reference to but I was unprepared for how much I liked MacPhun’s Aurora HDR Pro ($99.) A less full-featured version is available called Aurora HDR for $39 and you can read about the different versions available on their website. And yes as the company’s name implies, this is a Mac OS only product; sorry Windows users. A list of system requirements is at the bottom of this blog.


I’ve been using Aurora HDR Pro and it has been a revelation as far as software design is concerned. It can be configured as a standalone application as well as a plug-in for Photoshop, Lightroom and even Apple’s defunct Aperture for those holdouts but I find the standalone version to work easiest for me and lets me save it as a PSD file for later tweaking if any in Photoshop. For the example shown here, it is exactly as it come from Aurora HDR Pro.

When importing, Aurora HDR Pro not only lets you compensate for shooting under various conditions, like handheld or shooting into the sun, but also gives you options to overcome these factors and explains them to you. Thank you, MacPhun. Like any good imaging program includes presets—lots of them—conveniently collected into groups with names like landscapes, architecture, realistic, etc. After applying present—or not—you have access to an extensive but not overwhelming number of sliders such as clarity, detail and structure and tools such as custom brushes for selective editing to refine the image. This includes such useful tools such as the ability to use layers with blend modes as well as custom textures.


Much like shooting infrared photographs, one of my favorite pursuits, shooting HDR is a gateway to an unseen world. A world in which high contrast lighting situations makes capturing what you see in your mind’s eye—Minor White’s previsualization—is possible by carefully capturing a few bracketed images and then processing them in software like Aurora HDR Pro. As the man once said, “what’s not to like?” You can download a trial version of Aurora HDR Pro and try it with your own images. But one thing I can promise, if you’re seriously interested in creating HDR images, you will be instantly hooked.

Mac OS requirements:

  • Processor Core 2 Duo from late 2009 or newer
  • Minimum 4 GB RAM
  • OS X 10.9.5 Mavericks or newer
  • 2 GB free space on hard drive
  • Display resolution 1280 x 800 or higher
  • Retina displays supported

Image formats:

  • PNG
  • JPG
  • TFF 8-bit and 16-bit
  • GIF
  • PSD
  • Popular RAW formats .CR2, .NEF, .ORF, .RAF, .ERF, .ARW, .RW2, .PEF and more

Author: Joe Farace

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