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How I use the new Aurora HDR 2019 for NON-landscape photography

Create amazing HDR photographs with Skylum’s Aurora HDR 2019. Purchase today and save plus get a free bundle of training, LUTs and Looks too!

I don’t shoot landscapes (like, never, ever). So when the Skylum’s team asked us to give it a try on their Aurora HDR 2019 update, I wasn’t sure what I could write about. My amazing editor, Kevin, told me the articles didn’t have to be super long – and I just had to stay true to myself. So I thought about this big CrossFit event I covered a few days earlier. We were outdoors and the lighting conditions were challenging — to say the least. So I just popped my images into the software and well… I got results I wasn’t expecting. Here are my thoughts on the new Aurora HDR 2019 for NON-landscape editing!

I already said it and I’ll say it again: “I’m not a technician.” I like to understand why and how my gear/software works but I am far more into creative discoveries and “trial and errors” to see how I can make something work for ME, in a way that suits my own personal style. I know the purpose of Aurora HDR and I understand what is HDR editing. With that being said, how can I use this to my advantage to create the results that I want for MY sports images?

Right: unedited image. Left: edited with Aurora HDR 2019. You can see how much details and contrast I’ve been able to get back.

HDR = High Dynamic Range

Put in a “very” simple way (because that’s how my brain works), the dynamic range is the difference of light intensities from the shadows to the highlights of an image. For example, in the picture above (the athlete running on a trail), the sun was very high — as you can see from his shadow — and the light was very harsh. I chose to place myself in a way that the photo would be backlit. This kept deep shadows from hiding the details from his face and skin. This shot has a huge dynamic range, because of the difference between the highlights of the sky and the pavement and the shadow detail in his face/shorts.

Left: unedited. Right: edited with Aurora HDR 2019. This picture was taken in a barn. The huge doors let the light in but some spots were still very dark in there. The HDR edit helped me recover details of the athlete’s face as she climbed her rope.

How I like to use it

Since I discovered Luminar 2018 back in February, I am only swearing by it… totally! I had Aurora HDR 2018 but kind of left it to the side because I feel like Luminar is the perfect match for my style. I can add structure, details and really get this grit look that I love for my sports photography. For the purpose of this article, I had to change my habits and find new ways to achieve a look that I love in Luminar by only working in Aurora.

Note: Luminar and Aurora’s working spaces are the same. If you are used to using one of them, it’s really easy to switch from one another and keep your workflow going fast, intuitive and efficient.

Left: unedited. Right: edited with Aurora HDR 2019. Harsh light. Very bright highlights and dark shadows. Aurora works wonders in the worst lighting conditions.

Stack your layers

I like to create multiple adjustment layers so I can come back to fine tune, paint certain details or change my opacity at any time.

On my first layer, I worked on my exposure, the intensity of my blacks and whites, the contrast and then, the colors. I like to desaturate with a combination of the Vibrance/Saturation/HSL filters.

On my second layer, I concentrated on structure and details enhancing. I like to use the HDR Enhance and HDR details boost filters. I then paint this layer on the parts of the image I really want to pop.

On my third filter layer, I discovered the new LUT Mapping filters Skylum added in the Aurora HDR 2019 version. I chose the one that fits best my image to bring a more dramatic effect and I low the opacity to about 30-40%

Left: unedited. Right: edited in Aurora HDR 2019. I absolutely LOVE how this software allows me to get back the smallest details… from wet hair to the beard, and even the water droplets. Amazing!

My top picks filters for action shots

  • HDR Enhance (including HDR Clarity, HDR Smart Structure & HDR Microstructure)
  • HDR Details Boost (I play with the small/medium/large sliders)
  • LUT Mapping (my favorite is “Impressive” – because that’s exactly what it does!!)

Final thoughts

Don’t be afraid to get out of the constraints in your mental photography box. Because you don’t take landscape pictures doesn’t mean you can’t use this incredibly powerful software to your advantage. Try it and see how it works for YOUR OWN photographic style!

If you’d like to learn more about the Aurora HDR 2019 upgrades and details, you can have a look at this great and straight to the point article written by my friend Bryan.

Create amazing HDR photographs with Skylum’s Aurora HDR 2019. Purchase today and save!

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