Aurora HDR has long been a popular photo editing application for combining bracketed images into beautiful high-dynamic range (HDR) images. However, you don’t need to bracket images to make use of Aurora HDR. In fact, in short order, you can add a lot of life to your RAW images using the software.

First steps

The first thing you need to do is open the desired image in Aurora HDR. You can do this through Luminar, as well as Photoshop or Lightroom Classic as a plugin. You can also do this with the standalone Aurora HDR application.

When opening a file in Aurora HDR, the software will assess the image and determine what type of scene you have photographed.

Once you have selected an image for processing in Aurora HDR, the software will identify the overall exposure level of the image. Once you begin processing your photo, Aurora HDR identifies the type of image and then applies automatic adjustments.

Additional adjustments

While you may enjoy the automatic adjustments Aurora HDR applies, the real strength of the software comes when you manually control different image editing parameters. There are a variety of built-in Looks you can use as a basis. Further, you can adjust basic things such as white balance, exposure, contrast, highlights, shadows, white levels and black levels.

The user interface of Aurora HDR is accessible and looks nice.

However, there is much more you can do via additional filters. You can adjust individual colors in an HSL filter, adjust HDR Enhance properties, perform noise reduction, use LUT mapping, increase radiance, adjust a polarizing filter, add glow to your image, utilize top and bottom gradients and much more.

Aurora HDR includes a controllable tone curve as well, with RGB channels. Plus, you can even dodge and burn via in-app painting.

Aurora HDR includes many different adjustments you can make to your images, including a variety of basic and more advanced adjustments. In this screenshot, you can see a compilation of the different ‘Filters’ you can access to adjust your photo in Aurora HDR.

If you find yourself gravitating toward similar settings for multiple images, you can save your edits as an Aurora HDR Look, which can then be accessed with a single click.

Aurora HDR in action

It is amazing how much detail Aurora HDR can draw from a single RAW image file. You can recover considerable detail from highlight areas. Of course, you can also bring a lot of detail back from shadows as well.

One of the more exciting aspects of working with Aurora HDR on a single RAW image is experimenting with different options. I don’t often opt for a traditional ‘HDR’ look, but I really like how Aurora HDR allows me to quickly introduce detail to my images and give them a nice ‘pop.’

If you desire, you can even utilize a layer-based workflow within Aurora HDR. Importantly, you can access various history states and save your edits as a dedicated AUH file format. The software allows you to easily preserve the integrity of your original raw file. Aurora HDR includes a variety of export options as well.

Skylum’s Aurora HDR is an incredibly powerful application for creating and editing HDR images. However, it is a lot more than that. You can use the application as a quick raw image editor, even when working with a single RAW image file.

With the increasing fidelity of image sensors in modern cameras, there is a large amount of detail captured in a single file. Aurora HDR is an easy way to bring that hidden detail to the surface.

Want to get started with Aurora HDR? Save $10 when you use the code PHOTOFOCUS!