By now most of you have heard of Aurora HDR from Trey Ratcliff and the team at Macphun, and if you haven’t, well it’s a joint project by Trey and Macphun to create an application tailored to exactly what the most prolific HDR photographer in the world would want out of software. Over the course of an entire year they worked together to create an app for photographers of all skill levels that would produce incredible images. You can run it as a plug-in for Photoshop, Lightroom, Aperture, and Photoshop Elements, OR you can run it as a complete stand alone application also!

Now like you might be, I was a skeptic, but after spending a significant amount of time working with the application and creating tons of new images, (as well as digging through the old archives also), I have to admit I’m a believer! As a professional photographer, what pushed me over the edge was mostly the rock-solid alignment and de-ghosting tools, but we’ll get into those later. Recently, the Aurora HDR team released a free update to it’s users that added a couple of new features and some impressive enhancements to an already extensive list of features . To quote from the Macphun team, “You’ve asked, we’ve listened! And thanks to your feedback weve got another action-packed cluster of improvements for you in Version 1.2.0!”

Here’s what’s new in Aurora HDR Pro 1.2.0;

  1. LEICA M MONOCHROME (Typ 246) Raw File Support
  2. Open .HDR, .EXR images and save in these formats
  3. Photos for Mac editing extension support
  4. Updates to Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop Plug-ins to support keywords, metadata, and full-screen handling
  5. Improved masking brush for better smoothing on edges
  6. Enhanced clipping results for overall HDR effect
  7. Improved Chromatic Aberration Reduction
  8. Better UI support for 11″ and 13″ displays
  9. Reduced artifacts on highlights zones
  10. Multiple performance improvements and various bug fixes including better Metadata and EXIF data saving
  11. Better RAW file handling for Panasonic, Olympus, Fuji cameras

If youre new to Aurora HDR, youve got nothing to worry about! Just download/purchase the latest version here and youre set!

If youve already purchased Aurora HDR, heres how you update to 1.2.0!; Open Aurora HDR with any of your images, (or the sample images provided), When the app has launched, just select Aurora HDR Pro menu and choose Check for Updates

Check For UpdatesThis will open a dialog box that will allow you to download the new version and guide you through the steps to update. You may have to re-install your plugins also for Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, Lightroom, Aperture, and now Apple Photos!

Now that we’ve gotten through the news, we’ll get into WHY I feel like Aurora HDR is pretty darned awesome!

A few years ago I was on a trip through Antelope Canyon in Arizona with a bunch of friends. It’s an amazing place however, my photographs from the trip were rushed, jammed with a plethora of other tourists, and well…frankly not very good! Hey…I was a new photographer at the time, what can I say? I never showed anyone or released the images from Antelope as they never came out the way I wanted them. Flash forward to every HDR plugin and update that’s come out over the last 3-4 years that I’ve tried…and they just never came out right. Not even with version 1.0 of Aurora HDR Pro.

However, with the latest release, things changed! Here’s the series of 5 brackets I shot from the canyon that I’ve been trying to merge for a while. Everything was shot hand-held, since I was walking in a group I had no choice other than to move every shot, so not only where the images shaky, any apps would have to deal with parallax issues also. (All these were shot on a Nikon D800 with Tamron 24-70mm VI DC II at 24mm)

Antelope Canyon Brackets

Now some software has been able to align them properly, but they looked terrible. Some were able to make the colors and noise look normal, but the alignment and ghosting was crazy! For example, here are the 5 brackets merged with NO alignment done to them.

Aurora HDR - No Alignment

As you can see….it’s…not good at all!

Now lets try to merge these in the latest updated Adobe Lightroom CC using the auto tone and alignment checked.

Lightoom Merge with Auto Tone

Now we’re getting somewhere, but it’s still REALLY noisy, and still not quite awesome. And honestly, I’ve been merging these files with every update for a long time, this is one of the better results i’ve gotten from Lightroom!

So here’s what happens when we run these brackets through the latest Aurora HDR Pro (version 1.2.0).

Aurora HDR - Aligned

BOOM! While there’s still a lot I can do to this image within Aurora HDR, it’s pretty impressive with nothing but auto alignment and de-ghosting applied. This merge took next to no time at all and in about 2 minutes more of editing I went a step beyond and created this as my final shot with a little extra cropping and detail punch.


And this is the reason why I became a believer in the app! I’ve now got an outlet to start merging and editing a plethora of images from this trip and I can _finally_ share them with the world! In fact, it’s got me even more excited to go back and shoot here again. Here’s a few more frames that i’ve put together from the trip with Aurora HDR Pro.

Antelope Aurora 2Antelope Aurora 1

Download your free trial of Aurora HDR from Macphun and lets see what you can create also!