HDR Tutorial - Create your own HDR masterpieces using Aurora HDR from Macphun
I have developed a deep interest in and appreciation for HDR photography, after having crafted HDR images for many years now. I just love what it can do to my photos, and I still feel like a kid in a candy store when I start working on a new photo. It’s alway exciting! If you are not sure what HDR is, read on and I will cover that for you shortly. It is by far my favorite technique in photography. Here are some of my HDR photos - you can click on any of them to view larger.
More and more people are experimenting with HDR techniques and it also seems like most pros have a slightly different way of using tools to craft their images. So, this is my version. It doesn’t mean it’s the “right way” (because there’s not one), and it doesn’t mean it’s the only way - but it’s the way I do it. I consider this a very straightforward, simple way to create a beautiful HDR photo.
In fact, it's so simple that I have even created a video series called "5 Minute HDR" wherein I create a completely finished HDR photo in under 5 minutes. Here's one of the vids:
This tutorial is based on Aurora HDR from Macphun, because it is my preferred photo editor, and in my opinion, the best one out there. It has so many features in it that I can't even begin to list them all. It has allowed me to drop using other products and simplify my workflow considerably. Here's a description of the features of this amazing product:
But hey, don't just take my word for it - go download a free trial copy and test it yourself! You can CLICK HERE to get a free trial download, and I highly recommend that you do so, especially since that will allow you to follow along as I show some of the tricks I use in this software.
Note that this tutorial runs over several pages. There is just so much to talk about in regards to HDR, so I have broken it down in the following manner (and you can click on each item below to go to that page):
- Introduction (this is the page you are on now)
- Defining HDR and how it works (click here)
- When to use HDR, what equipment is needed, and some tips to get started (click here)
- Tips to get the most out of your HDR shooting (click here)
- Creating your base HDR photo + Using Brushes + Introduction to Presets (click here)
- Introduction to Layers and Masking + tips for the best results (click here)
- Creative HDR editing: using textures (click here)
- Creative HDR editing: black and white HDR (click here)
- Using Luminosity Masks (click here)
- Color shifting your HDR photos (click here)
- Noise reduction in Aurora HDR (click here)
- Wrap-up and parting thoughts (click here)
I create and finalize all of my HDR photos with just 2 products: Aurora HDR Pro and Lightroom. In fact, I use these two products for about 99% of my photos, whether it’s a single exposure or an HDR photo. I will get into the details of that later in this tutorial, but suffice it to say that I like to keep it simple. Why make it complicated?
There are several software products on the market that you can use to create HDR images, but this tutorial is based on Macphun’s Aurora HDR Pro, which I use exclusively. I spent many years using Photomatix, but once I started experimenting with Aurora, I never looked back. It is a great product and I recommend it highly. Honestly, it’s a game-changer in my opinion. Here's a video I made with Macphun describing why I moved over to Aurora HDR:
If you would like to read my review of Aurora, you can find that here. If you want to see Aurora in action, check out my YouTube channel. If you want to learn more about Macphun products, check out my Macphun page. If you want to read about why I switched to Aurora, you can find that article here.
If you decide to purchase Aurora (or any Macphun product), you can click here to get a 10% discount by using the discount code JIMNIX. Or, click the banner below, where you can also get a free trial download to test drive!
Now to be clear, should I want to do something other than my traditional full-color HDR work, then there are several other products that I use to accomplish whatever it is I may be trying to accomplish. Here are two of the most common ones (and you can click on them to read my review of each product):
- Tonality by Macphun - the best black and white conversion tool I have ever used
- Snapheal by Macphun - easily remove unwanted people or objects from the photo
In fact, I use the entire Macphun suite, known as the Creative Kit, for just about any effect that I want to achieve on my photos. It’s a very diverse and capable collection of tools that I really enjoy working with. Click the banner below to learn more about each of the apps in the Creative Kit. Or, check out my Macphun page!
Now, I’m not telling you that you have to use all of the Macphun suite, or any of it for that matter. But I can say that I have used nearly EVERYTHING else, and this is what I have chosen as my personal favorite. To be fair, all the other products are good. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with any of them. I just like Macphun products better.
If you want to check out other products, here are the ones that I have used:
- Photomatix - since Macphun products only work on a Mac, you can use this to create an HDR photo if you are using Windows (though it works just as well on a Mac)
- Topaz Labs - an entire suite of editing tools that will do just about anything you want to do
- Nik Collection by Google - I used this suite for years, and Color Efex Pro was my go-to editor for nearly every image - but I have since moved on to Macphun. If you want to know why, you can read about that here.
- On1 Software - another great suite of products that will do just about anything you want to do
There are many other products out there, but the above ones are the big product suites that I have experience with. They’re all good, should you choose to go with one of them. But this tutorial will focus on how I use Aurora HDR Pro and other Macphun products to create my images, because that is my process, and that’s what I will be sharing here.