Skylum’s Aurora HDR app has quickly gained recognition as one of the most powerful and efficient HDR application available. Initially, this was due in part to Trey Ratcliffe’s active collaboration with development but two versions later the app’s high standards and ease-of-use have made it the HDR image editor of choice. The 2019 version has just seen some major improvements.
Aurora HDR 2019 has a patent-pending HDR engine, called the Quantum HDR Engine. It is based on machine learning, with the algorithm automatically analysing millions of pixels and intelligently building the HDR starting point for you to create your own HDR image. I put Aurora HDR 2018 next to version 2019 and compared the two for this feature specifically and I found the 2019 version better in the sense that the HDR image from which you start your edits is more natural-looking. A realistic starting point lets you edit your image with less unwanted artefacts caused by the HDR engine, but it also lets you be more creative when the starter scene is more the way you saw it when looking through the viewfinder.
In the same realm, you’ll find that Aurora HDR 2019’s new HDR Smart Structure lets you bring forward a more precise amount of details and structure in an image without creating the artefacts that make most HDR images look too over-the-top. I did find that it pays off to experiment with the Smart Structure slider. It seems that some lower settings may boost other details than higher settings, and so, in some cases you may be better off with a lower structure level than with a higher setting.
3D LUTs are well known in the filmmaking world and now HDR image creators can apply LUTs from within Aurora HDR 2019. As LUTs are sort of black boxes, I think you should only use the ones you create yourself or those that were created by top photographers, but you can download free and paid-for LUTs from within the app. Make sure you take a good look when using LUTs that were originally made for film and video as those may cause unexpected colour shifts. Best is to avoid film/video specific LUTs altogether as those were really meant for motion picture.
Finally, Aurora HDR 2019 now supports Imagenomic Portraiture, Nik Collection and other popular plugins for Photoshop, and it has Photolemur 3.0 plugin support.