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Combo superpower: Using Luminar 3 and Aurora HDR 2019 together

Whether it be for outdoor images or oppositely poorly lit indoor ones, combining the power of both Aurora and Luminar in my editing workflow helps me achieve looks that would otherwise be impossible to get. Here are two recent pictures example I did with two different lighting conditions.

Example 1: The breezy sunrise

Picture yourself: It’s 6:30 in the morning and you are in the middle of a vast area surrounded, wind and snow and below zero temperature. The sun isn’t up yet but a bunch of courageous athletes is already warming up to take on the day. They were all meeting up at this specific place to run, climb stairs, do squats, jumps and lunges for the next hour. We call it “The November Challenge.” As I was snapping pictures of people coming by, I saw four coaches on top of a small hill. I would only see their silhouette, trees on the background and the blue-purple sky over them. It was so beautiful. I couldn’t wait to edit it back home.

The RAW image

The original file

My three goals for this picture:

  • Increase contrast (so the silhouettes would stand out even more from the sky)
  • Enhance the sky’s purple hue
  • Add structure to the silhouettes (so I could get more details around them)

Step 1: Aurora HDR 2019

I opened the image first in Aurora HDR 2019 to play with the exposure and color grading. I played with the contrast and the white balance, warming the color temperature and pushing the purple tint up to 100.

I lightened the sky with the highlights and whites. I also added a warm adjustable gradient on the top of the picture and a purple color toning to the highlights. Noise starts showing as I brighten the sky. I could’ve chosen to easily lessen it with the HDR Denoise Filter, but I actually liked it that way. It added to the wintery, cold and rough conditions of this very moment.

The image edited in Aurora HDR 2019

Step 2: Luminar 3

My goal in Luminar was to bring the little details from the silhouette contours. I used the Structure and Details Enhancer and decided to add more contrast to the shadows. I painted them only on the silhouette’s contours rather than applying it to the whole image. There was no point of adding more definition to the sky and it only added more noise.

I topped it off with a little bit of Dramatic and Golden Hour filters. The result is subtle and yet makes the difference. The sky’s color is richer and the silhouette is more defined. Being able to see the pieces of hair in the wind was important to me. It adds movement and suggests how cold it was.

Example 2: The pool event

Those of you who have already taken pictures at an indoor pool already know the struggle. Poorly lit, high shutter speed – depending on the effect you want to have – and weird color walls. This image has been taken at a CrossFit competition. The athletes had a swimming event – which never fails to remind me how grateful I am from being behind the camera rather than in the front.

The RAW image

The original file

The three main goals with this picture were:

  • Color correcting (the ceramic and walls were orange/red and resulted in unpleasing warm tone)
  • Retrieve details in the athlete’s shadowed face
  • Add more details to the dripping water

Step 1: Aurora HDR 2019

The software did a great job right off the bat. It gave me the exposure I wanted on the athlete’s face and evened the contrast. This meant I only had to play with the HSL filter, bringing down the reds, oranges and yellows. On a second adjustment layer, I started to add details with the HDR Enhance and HDR Details Boost filters. As I did with my previous image, I only painted the areas where I wanted to add details rather than applying it to the whole thing — in this case: Face, water drops, pool side, arm and back.

The image edited in Aurora HDR 2019

Step 2: Luminar 3

Now was the time to have some fun! I used my all-time favorite filters: Structure and Details Enhancer (which I painted in the same areas I did in Aurora). I also chose Dramatic and Split Toning filters to add an edge to my sports look.

The final result once edited in Aurora and Luminar

These are only a few examples of how I could combine Aurora and Luminar in my post-editing workflow. Using the two of them gives me access to best of both worlds: High-quality dynamic range editing and amazing filters to create the gritty sports look I love. Doubled creativity, doubled possibilities and double fun in an efficient and seamless workflow. For more before/after creative editing with both software, head to this article. You will see the progress stages with a more in-depth, step-by-step process.

Happy editing!

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