Top 5 ways to easily enhance your HDR photos in Aurora HDR 2018


We don’t all have hours to spend painstakingly editing and adjusting our HDR photos, so why not let Aurora HDR 2018 help you create amazing HDR results in just a fraction of the time?

In this article, I’m going to show you how to take a merged HDR image and enhance it quickly and easily. To follow these tips, you can download a free trial of Aurora HDR 2018 here…

First, upload your HDR image, or merge your bracketed exposures together in Aurora HDR to create a final, unedited HDR image. You can also use a single image and it will tone-map and upload it.

This is the unedited image I’ll be working on today. I added an adjustment layer to work on:

1. Filters

Using the Filters menu on the right-hand side of the interface means you can adjust the exposure, color, contrast and style of your HDR image. Each filter is designed to solve photo-specific problems or enhance an image in a particular way.

Each of the adjustment tools is contained within its own group, which is a header with the name of the tool, along with a set of sliders or other controls.

Let’s look at a quick and handy way to enhance your image using the HDR Enhance slider in the HDR Basic filter panel. I also used the Smart Tone, Color Contrast, Vibrance and Saturation sliders, and dropped the highlights slider a bit to improve the snow. Below is the before/after split of the image – before is on the left, and the adjusted image is on the right:

The colors, contrast and highlights of the image have all been adjusted to look better in just a few mouse clicks.

2. Changing Layer Blending Modes

A quick way of changing the look of your image is to use the Adjustment Layer Blending Modes. There are 14 different blending modes, and each will give a distinctive look to your image. You can adjust the strength of each blend mode, or create multiple layers with different ones for a truly unique look.

The image below shows the Overlay and Soft Light blend modes selected on two different Adjustment Layers:

You can make further adjustments by reducing the opacity of the layer to lessen the strength of the effect, and you can use any of the filters or presets in conjunctions with the blend modes

Why not experiment with using the filters, blend modes and layers to get creative with your image?

3. Polarizing Filter

This filter mimics the action of a polarizing filter put over a camera lens. It will add contrast and darken your skies from washed out to a lovely, deep blue:

4. Presets

There’s an extensive range of built-in presets in Aurora HDR 2018, with something to suit all tastes and styles of photography. The presets include natural, landscape, dramatic, indoors, architecture, and three signature collections made for Aurora HDR 2018 by famous HDR photographers such as Trey Ratcliff, Serge Ramelli, and Captain Kimo.

The presets are a super-fast way to get a complete HDR look with one click of the mouse, and of course they are fully adjustable too.

Here’s a before and after shot of the Basic ‘Realistic Vivid’ preset:

This is Dramatic preset ‘Ethereal’ in a before/after split:

5. Combining Two or More Presets Using Layers

For an even more individual, creative look, you can combine two or more of the presets by using an adjustment layer for each one.

The image below has two presets applied. One is the Dramatic preset ‘Ethereal’ on Layer 1, and one on Layer 2, which is Realistic preset ‘Vivid’.

The ‘Vivid’ preset has brightened the colors of ‘Ethereal’ and given a warmer look. What would it look like if I added another preset and changed the blend mode of Layer 2 to Soft Light? Let’s find out:

I added the Captain Kimo preset ‘Color Structure’, and reduced the layer opacity.

As you can see, the result is quite extreme and OTT, but you can do it in a much subtler way if you wish. It’s all about experimenting, having fun, and seeing which tools are right for you.

Final Thoughts

Aurora HDR 2018 has all the tools and features you’ll ever need to produce great-looking HDR images, and if you’re pushed for time, these 5 ways to enhance your images are a fantastic way to get good results, fast.

Author: Dawn Gilfillan