Aurora HDR 2017 Pre-Orders and Preview!

How about a closer look at Aurora 2017?

As you know from this previous post, I have been experimenting with an early beta copy of Aurora HDR 2017, the newest version of the world’s best photo editing software (I’m a little biased).  I’ve also been traveling around Italy with my family for 6 weeks, so I am WAY behind on processing photos and sharing articles like the one you are about to read.  But here it goes.

I now have a FULL copy of the new Aurora 2017 from Macphun and it is excellent - and you can pre-order yours today!

Although that first post I referenced above contained a few screenshots, it wasn’t nearly enough in my opinion to give you a good feel for the new tools and improvements in the program.  So, that’s what I am covering here today, down below.  There is a bit more detail here and I hope it demonstrates to you just how amazing this product is.

But first, let me tell you a few things and share a special pre-order offer that Macphun has for you.

AURORA HDR 2017 PRE-ORDER OFFER INFO - includes over $300 in bonuses!

Offer available: September 14 – September 29

Upgrades and Pricing: 

  1. New Customer Pre-Order Price: $89 –> Save $10 during pre-order, Includes Pre-Order Bonuses!
  2. Current Users of Aurora HDR Pro Upgrade Price: $49 Includes Pre-Order Bonuses
  3. Current Users of Aurora HDR Upgrade Price: $69 Includes Pre-Order Bonuses

Pre-Order Bonus Items:

  1. Trey Ratcliff Deep Dive video
  2. 1 Year basic subscription to SmugMug
  3. 60-day KelbyOne membership
  4. 25 Square Prints from (free global shipping)

Aurora HDR 2017 Key Features:

  1. NEW: Polarize Filter
  2. NEW: Powerful Zone System for Luminosity masks
  3. NEW: Defringing Tool to remove chromatic aberration
  4. NEW: Batch Processing
  5. NEW: Radial Masking
  6. IMPROVED: Tone-mapping technology with reduced HDR noise, improved realism of initial result and faster performance
  7. IMPROVED: User Interface with a cleaner more modern style
If you are interested in buying a copy of this new product, you can do that here.

You will receive your software on Sept 29 when the new version of Aurora is released, but buying now gets you all these great bonuses AND you save $10 off the normal price!

Ok, back to the screenshots I promised you.

This post will be mostly screenshots, each with a little explanation.  I assume you aren’t here today to listen to me ramble.  If you want to read my ramblings, this recent post is the one for you (I called it “100 completely random observations about photography”).  You may laugh at it - or at me - but it could be a fun read.

Anyways, back to the matter at hand - Aurora HDR 2017 is AWESOME.

These screenshots should give you a better feel for this new version.  There are several new tools (Batch Processing, Polarizing Filter and Radial Mask, for example) and a LOT of improvements over some existing tools (Luminosity Masking is way more capable, there are more blend modes, the Tonemap settings are expanded considerably, etc).  It's like a completely new and more capable product, although the easy-to-use interface is still just that.  It's easy to jump in and start processing an image, even if this is the first time you have seen Aurora.  You'll love it.

You will immediately see that the interface, though simple and intuitive, is slightly different.  Things have moved a little bit, there is more real estate for your image (yay!) and overall it has a more modern feel.

Note that I do not cover EVERY new feature here today.  A couple that I don't cover are the new DeFringe tool (UPDATE: the DeFringe tool was removed from the final version, sorry!), and the addition of Hue to the Saturation/Luminance panel.  Both of these are great additions, and I know I will be using Hue a LOT because it was something I did often in Lightroom - but now it's here in Aurora.

And two disclaimers:

  1. Please disregard the processing on these photos that are used in the examples, and the dust spots on the photos. They are for example only and are not finished in any way, shape, or form.  I literally took some files, dumped them into Aurora 2017, and started taking screenshots - and I did this while riding on trains around Italy.  I don’t want you to judge Aurora 2017 (or me!) by these example photos.  I am just showing you the tools in Aurora - this is not about finishing an image, and these are not finished.  Thanks for understanding. 
  2. In some screenshots below you will see a little green box in the upper left corner that says Buy Now.  This was when I had the pre-beta version.  Once I got the full, final version that box went away (you may notice that in other screenshots).  But the product is the same.

Shut up Jim and show me the good stuff!  Ok, let’s get started…(and these are in no particular order).

Next to each feature I will designate it either "New Feature" or "Redesigned/Enhanced" if it's an update or expansion of an existing feature.  Not sure if that part will matter to you, but just wanted to point out what is new vs. updated.

1) Adding a new layer (Redesigned/Enhanced)

Look at the layers panel in the upper right, just below the histogram.  Note that you can add an adjustment layer, or a texture, the original image, or one of the HDR brackets.  This differs from "old Aurora" in that you used to only add an adjustment layer - it was done by default that way, and then you customized it.  Now you can choose what sort of layer to add.  It saves you a step, basically.  Quick and clean.

In this screenshot you can see how you choose one photo from the original bracket set in case you want to use that.

2.) More blend modes (Redesigned/Enhanced)

There are 8 blend modes in old Aurora, and there are 11 modes now.  I haven't experimented with them yet, but will do so and share anything interesting.  I actually like to experiment with them when using luminosity masks, which I shared in a YouTube video a while back (here:  You reach them the same way you did in the previous version.  These also work great when applying a texture to a photo.

3.) The brush has changed (Redesigned/Enhanced)

You can see here that the brush is different than before.  The solid circle is the brush while the hollow circle is the eraser. You activate in the upper right along the top of the screen (above the Histogram), similar to the previous version.  But as with the rest of Aurora, it's a more modern-looking, cleaner design with more space for the image.

4.) The polarize filter (New Feature)

This new feature is a handy one.  It resides as an adjustment in the right hand panel.  You just slide it, simple as that.  It will darken your sky as you slide it - works wonderfully.  I will point out that it appears to vary slightly in terms of how it's applied based on the image.  I have tried a handful of images with the polarize filter, and in some cases it seems to darken ALL the highlights, and in others just the brighter parts of the sky.  Nonetheless, this feature will come in rather handy I believe.  I'm looking forward to using it, since I don't use a polarizing filter on my lens.  You could also combine this tool with an adjustment layer to get very specific in terms of how you apply it.

5.) The radial gradient mask (New Feature)

Ooh, this one is awesome!  I love the radial mask in Lightroom, and now I have it here in Aurora.  To reach it, you first click on the brush icon, and then on the little circle that will appear in the upper menu bar, which looks like the one in the screenshot below.  Once you click that, it appears on your screen in the center, with two circles, as per below.

Here I have changed the size, shape and orientation just to give you a little flavor for the tool.  I then dropped the exposure outside of the radial mask, creating a vignette. However, it's much more than just a different way to apply a vignette.  You can change saturation, noise, details - whatever you want, either inside or outside the mask.  You can invert it if you want to do the reverse.  The list goes on.  This is a great addition to Aurora and one that gives you a lot of control over your image.

6.) Top and Bottom Lighting (Redesigned/Enhanced)

TBL has long been one of my favorite sliders in Aurora, and now it is even more powerful.  In the prior version, you could change the exposure and then adjust how and where it fell in the image.  But in Aurora 2017 you can adjust Exposure, Contrast, Vibrance and Warmth for both Top and Bottom - and then change the Blend, Shift and Rotation.  This gives you considerably more control than before.  I'm pretty excited about this update because I use this feature a LOT.

Say you want to darken the top of the image, but give it a little more punch.  Easy.  Just move the sliders around to get exactly what you want.  It's nice to have the ability to punch up the vibrance here, because there are definitely times when it makes sense just to do so in the top portion of the image.  (And no, I did not make changes in the example below - just showing you the tool.  Look at the second screenshot to see changes.)

7.) Enhanced Tone Mapping Settings (Redesigned/Enhanced)

As you can see below, the tone mapping controls are better than in the prior version.  The first version of Aurora had 3 sliders: Spectrum, Spot Lighting, and Final Touches.  I have never done much with any of them, frankly, and the names they have don't really provide a lot of clarity about what they do.  

In Aurora 2017, you can see that the descriptions are clear and specific and of course there are quite a few more of them.  This is a HUGE improvement.  Now you can more easily tweak your base HDR photo to get you to a starting point that fits your needs for the photo.  This is a great update in my opinion, and certainly gives you a lot more flexibility in building your base HDR.

I haven't done anything in the screenshot below, but just look at all the slider in Tone Mapping.  Smart Tone works great, and having control over so much more than the previous version is a big win.  I have been using this on every HDR, whereas in the previous version I rarely ever opened Tone Mapping settings

8.) Batch Processing (New Feature)

For those of you that want to process your photos in batches, you can now do that in Aurora 2017.  While this is not a feature that I use, it definitely has its place and can come in really handy.  For example, if you have several sets of brackets from the same spot with minor variances in zoom length, you could batch process them to get it done more quickly.  All you do is open Aurora, click on Batch Processing, select the photos, and then you get this menu.  Here you choose your options, then click Process.  Easy as that!

9.) Luminosity Masking (Redesigned/Enhanced)

If you follow me on YouTube or have attended my Aurora HDR webinars, you will know that I use Luminosity Masking a lot.  It's one of my favorite features in Aurora, and it just got a major facelift.  It's now MUCH MORE DETAILED and you have much more control over how the luminosity mask (LM) is applied to your image.

Essentially, there are now "zones" for LM which are grouped by the light levels.  In the previous version, you just created a LM for the entire photo.  But now you can create it based on specific zones.  This means the LM is created for only the portions of your image that you want to have the LM.  

First, click on the brush and then click on Luminosity Masking.  See the little boxes across the top of the screen, numbered from 0 (darkest) to 10 (lightest)?  You can click on any or all of those to create the LM based on the specific light levels that correspond with the box you select.

And in the screenshot below I have selected a few of the boxes, which are now Yellow (numbers 6-10 in this case).  I also click on the Mask button on the far left, right next to where it says Luminosity Mask, and that gives me the option to see the LM as it appears on the image (see all the green little marks?).  Each zone has a slightly different pattern of green marks so you can tell your zones apart.  Also note that when you do this, the histogram will reflect where the LM will apply.

Once you have chosen the zones, just click the green check mark and it will create the LM for you.  Here is how the LM looks, after clicking the green check mark and showing the mask on the image.  Obviously it does not cover the entire image, as a LM did in the previous version, because we applied it specifically to only certain zones.

You can also add a LM in the Histogram area.  Just mouse over it and then select your zones, and click Create Luminosity Mask.  It's the same result as we showed above, just a different way of getting at it.  And of course, you can also add a LM the same old way as the previous version, although that is a "full" mask without being able to specify the LM by zone.

If you are new to LM, perhaps you could watch the video I created below.  I did this on the previous version, but it's all still applicable here (and I will do a new one at some point).  This will give you a good foundation for understanding LM and how to use them in your images (and perhaps WHY to use them).

Today I demonstrate and explain what a luminosity mask is, and how to use one in Aurora HDR. It's a very simple yet powerful feature of Aurora and one that can help you create very natural-looking HDR photos. Enjoy!

Macphun have created an amazing product here my friends, and one that I know you will love using as much as I do.  They took an already great product and added some killer new features while updating and expanding upon some fabulous features from the previous version.  And yet the product retains it's ease-of-use and intuitive interface.  Frankly, I am blown away and look forward to using this product as my primary photo editor, as I have done with the previous version for many months. It's just THAT GOOD.   And I'm not just talking about using it for HDR - I use it for EVERYTHING.  Single exposures, iPhone shots, you name it - I run it through Aurora!

Ok friends, thanks for stopping by.  I hope these screenshots got you excited about Aurora 2017.  I know I am excited and have been using this product a LOT lately on all these pics I have been taking in Italy.  I know you will love it!  Get over to Macphun's website and get your pre-order in and start getting excited!  You'll get the product really soon (Sept 29) and of course with the pre-order you get all the fabulous bonuses.

Click here to check out the offer!

Let me know if you have any questions, and thanks again!