Aurora HDR is not a piece of software I use very often. But it’s one that is nice to have in my toy/toolbox to play with when I feel the need to try something different.
This particular time though, I needed it (or another HDR post-processing option). Why?
I was asked by an art gallery I have work in to take some images of the current exhibition and gallery. It’s relatively new and they wanted some images for print and web-based use. This is not my typical genre of photography but I’m always up for helping someone out and after all, any promotion they do is good for me and my art that is in the exhibit, right?
My plan was to take my tripod and create images by shooting three to five +/-1 exposure shots to merge in Aurora HDR. Best laid plans turned into, oh no, I forgot my tripod plate. Usually, it’s always on my camera but I had been experimenting with an L-bracket so had taken it off.
In some ways, it was a bit of relief because I do much better without a tripod when creating compositions and getting creative with the subject. I also had some constant lights with me, just in case I needed them.
The biggest challenge in a space like this is lighting. You can see by the lead image that the entire front wall of the gallery is windows. The time of the shoot was just before the sun would head around and shine directly in the windows.
Other challenges included several different types of light, besides the window light, there are also ceiling lights and lights that spotlight the artwork.
While photographing I was very aware of the light and shadows. Keeping bright streaks of light or dark shadows off of any artwork that was in my frame took being diligent about seeing what was in each image as I composed it.
Besides showcasing the gallery, they wanted to also present the artists in the current exhibit. Photographing artwork so that you’re reproducing proper colors, depth or textures is also something I was acutely aware of.
Do the work anyway
Heading home for the plate was not an option. The gallery is an hour from home so I did what I do best. I just winged it.
Well, winging it isn’t exactly true when you have years of photographic experience to use. Knowing your gear and its capabilities is quite helpful in a situation like this. I knew how far I could push the ISO if I needed to. I also knew at what shutter speed I could handhold my camera and still get sharp images.
Aurora HDR for post-processing
When I got home and uploaded my images, I knew they’d be shadowed and dark in some areas and OK in others. It was the nature of the space. I also knew that with post-processing I could get the images exposure to mostly match through each shot. Here is the process I used.
First I imported it into Lightroom Classic, which is my go-to database and editing platform. After culling the shots and enabling profile corrections, I used Lightroom to adjust sharpness and straighten each chosen image. Then I went to Photo > Edit In > Aurora HDR and once the image opened there, checked the Chromatic Aberration Reduction box and clicked on Create HDR.
I clicked around on several of the preset options to see what I could get that I liked and also looked natural. To be honest, most of the images were pretty good with just the default processing that Aurora HDR applies when you import the image from Lightroom. There are a few that I used some of the presets in the Architecture category on, but overall I didn’t need to do that. This made it really easy and helped me save time.
After I saved the image from Aurora HDR, I went back into Lightroom and made any minor adjustments I felt needed to be made. Some images required the exposure to be increased a bit and in some cases, I removed light reflections in the glass on the artwork and some of the electrical sockets on walls.
Aurora HDR made the job simple and quick
The best part about using Aurora HDR? Easy. Simple. Fast. I’m not an HDR photographer or editor. I rarely if ever use this process while shooting or post-processing but knowing that I had this available to me to use made me comfortable photographing without my tripod or extra lighting.
Are there other ways this could have been done? I’m sure there are. Could I have saved even more time by batch editing images from the same areas in the gallery? Sure. I chose not to and it was still an easy and time saving process. All images in this article were single shots and edited using Aurora HDR.
Thanks to Aurora HDR, the gallery were happy with the images I delivered and I’ve already seen some of them put to use in their promotional posts.