How Aurora HDR Pro got me interested in textures

Adding textures in Aurora HDR Pro

If you read this post, you will know that I am now using Aurora HDR Pro to process a lot of photos - and not just my HDRs.  I'm processing a TON of single exposures in Aurora and find it's not only fun but very capable.  It's given me a new creative outlet and I'm really enjoying it.  

If you want to see me give a quick tour of Aurora HDR Pro, you can find that video here (And yes, I'm now adding videos to YouTube - you can find my channel here).

So today, I am back with another video and something that is pretty new to me: adding textures to photos.  Aurora HDR Pro allows you to very easily create a new layer and add a texture, so I thought I would test it out and see how I like it.

It turns out that I like it quite a lot!

You see, I've never been a texture guy so to speak.  While I can appreciate them and find them usually pleasing to the eye, I never had an interest in adding them to my photos.  But now that I have been experimenting with them in Aurora HDR Pro, I have a new appreciation for how it can impact a photo in a very positive way.  Not to mention, you can add drama to an otherwise dull photo, or just completely change the look of something.  You could also convert a "throwaway" shot into something that's worth keeping.  The possibilities are endless, really.

While you can watch the video to get all the insight I have to offer (and it's just below), I have a couple of extra shots that I adjusted and will share here on the blog.  And just to be clear, all of these photos are single exposures, not HDRs.  Have a look and let me know your thoughts!

Photo #1 - Sunrise in Abiquiu, New Mexico

This is the photo that I used in the video.  It was a stunning sunrise with some great color and in my opinion, just a beautiful landscape.  I took the photo into Aurora HDR Pro and gave it a little more punch, bringing up the colors a bit primarily (and shifting them too), which was easily done with the Color Toning panel on the side menu in Aurora.  Here's what I would consider a final product, as I find this image very pleasing to my eye. 

However, I also wanted to experiment with a texture, so that was the next step.  As you can see in the video, it was very easy to add a new layer, choose the texture, and then test out the different overlays to see what worked best for this image.  I was going for an "Old West" look, so my texture was a crumply piece of paper.  Here's the outcome of that after adding the texture, choosing the Blend Mode, and reducing the opacity (which takes mere seconds, really):

I was able to quickly and easily achieve my desired outcome, which was an "Old West" sort of vintage print.  Just for fun, I did another shot from that morning, which is below.  It was just a lonely road with a gorgeous sky, so I blended in a texture on this one as well.  Quick and easy!

Photo #2: Route 66 sign

Now here's one that's a little different.  This is an old sign I encountered in New Mexico.  I love signs and find myself taking a lot of shots of them when I travel.  Since this one said Route 66 on it, I couldn't really pass that up.  :-)

As you can see in the first screenshot, it was pretty much a boring photo.  While I like the sign, there was nothing happening in the sky behind it and the brown color of the sign against a basically white background was just begging for some changes.  So, I obliged.  :-)

Here's a screenshot from Aurora prior to adding the texture so you can get a sense of how this photo started out.

To add the texture, just head over to the Layers panel on the upper right side of the screen.  Hit the bluish-green plus sign + and it creates a new layer.  Give it a name (I used the super-original "texture"), and then click on the little drop down menu which is to the right of the Opacity gauge for that layer.  Choose "Source Image" and then "Custom Texture".  It adds the texture to the layer.  Now you just experiment with the blend mode (it's the box to the left of Opacity that currently shows "Hard Light" - there are several choices - just experiment to see what works best for you).  You choose your blend mode, adjust the opacity to suit your taste, and you're done.  Easy, right?

And here's a screenshot of it while I am working on the texture in Aurora (you can see I chose Hard Light and reduced the opacity down to 54%):

In this case I added another crumpled paper texture (I seem to like them), though this one also had tea or coffee stains on it.  So, slightly different than the last texture.  As you can see below, it ended up looking a bit like crumpled metal to my eyes, so that seemed like a good fit for a metal sign.   Then I made a few adjustments and here's the output:

Photo #3: The Loop 360 Bridge

And here's the last example for you.  This is the Loop 360 Bridge in Austin, formally known as The Pennybacker Bridge.  It's a landmark here in town, and at every sunset you will find people up there taking in the view.  It's a beautiful structure and one that I photograph often, since I only live a few miles away from it.

Now this is a really old photo, going back 5 or 6 years I think.  It was just a basic single exposure and that's why I chose it.  There wasn't anything interesting or different about it - it's the same photo about a billion other folks have taken.  I wanted to try a texture here and see what sort of creation I could come up with it.

Here's a screenshot from Aurora prior to applying the texture (I did make some minor color adjustments in Aurora, which the below screenshot already include):

That photo was nice-enough looking, but not fun, creative or different in any way.  As seems to be my pattern thus far, I used a different paper texture on this one:

This texture is not the crumpled type like in the previous examples, but more like a piece of construction paper.  Maybe I'm branching out a bit?  :-)

After applying the texture, I also made some additional color adjustments, both in Aurora and back in Lightroom.  I wanted to give it a little bit of a historical feel, sort of like those old colorized postcards from yesteryear.  Know what I mean?

Well anyways, here is the final result:

I'm not sure if "vintage colorized postcard" is the most accurate description, but hopefully you know what I am talking about here.  The bottom line is that I took a pretty basic photo of a common subject here in Austin, and turned it into something unlike what you normally see from this spot, in just a few minutes.  That's the power of textures, and Aurora HDR Pro makes it easy.


So how did Aurora HDR Pro convert me from a "not interested in textures" kind of photographer into a "hey, I like this stuff" kind of photographer?  Here's how:

  1. Aurora made it super quick to add a texture to any photo.  It literally can be done in under a minute.
  2. Aurora made it super easy to add a texture to any photo.  Literally just a couple of clicks and you are in business.
  3. Aurora made me realize that what I used to consider throwaway shots can be turned into art and are worth saving.

The only problem?  Now I find myself with two additional tasks added to my photographic "to do" list:

  1. I am digging through my archives and trying out textures on everything!  I don't really have enough free time to do all this stuff, but who cares?  It's fun!
  2. I am planning on taking photos of walls, papers, rocks, fences - you name it - all in the name of creating my own textures to start employing on this vast trove of discarded photos I have accumulated over the years.

Oh well, at least I won't run out of things to do, will I?  Lots of processing fun ahead!   :-)

Thanks for checking this out, and let me know if you have any questions!

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of this software, click the banner image below and you will be redirected to the Aurora HDR Pro website.  You can use the code JIMNIX to save 10% on your order!