AURORA HDR 2019 review

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Version 1.0.0 (5674)
Developer Skylum Inc.
Website https://skylum.com/aurorahdr

 

ABOUT SKYLUM

Skylum was founded as Macphun in 2008 by two gaming developers and amateur photographers. Initially the company developed applications for iOS. One of its first applications was Vintage Video Maker, which was later named Vintagio. In 2009, Apple named Vintagio among Best iPhone apps of the year.[4][5] In 2010, Alex Tsepko joined the team. In total, the company released over 60 applications in the first three years. However, it saw the greatest number of downloads in the photography applications. Skylum thus decided to develop the same photography applications for MacOS.[6]

In early 2010, Skylum launched its first MacOS application, FX Photo Studio Pro, which was earlier available for iOS only.[7] Several other applications were also developed for MacOS including Snapheal.[8]

In order to tap the North Americas, the company moved its headquarters to San Diego, United States in 2013.[6] A great number of employees came from the Nik Collection, which was earlier acquired by Google.[9] Later that year, the company launched Intensify, a fully featured photo editing software, that was named among 2013 Best Mac App Store apps. In 2014, Skylum launched Tonality, a black-and-white photo editor software, that won Apple’s Editors’ Choice of the year.[10] The same year, Skylum hired a team in Europe to develop localized versions of its software and start European expansion.[6]

In 2015, Skylum released a new image noise reduction application called Noiseless.[11] Same year Skylum partnered with Trey Ratcliff to develop an HDR program. Through the collaboration Aurora HDR, a High Dynamic Range editing and processing tool, was released in November.[12] A year later, Skylum developed Luminar, an all-in-one photo editing software as an alternative to Adobe’s Lightroom. Both the software became the most known applications by the company. [13]

In 2017, the company released Aurora HDR and Luminar for Windows – software that previously was available for MacOS only.[14] At the same time, it was also announced that Macphun will change its name to Skylum.[15]

 

INSTALLATION & DISCRIPTION

Installation of Aurora HDR 2019 is straightforward and no need for a reboot. The start and actions with Aurora 2019 feel snappier then the 2018 version. Aurora HDR 2019 is the world’s ultimate HDR photo editing software, featuring the new AI Tone Mapping powered by the new Quantum HDR Engine. Its a complete and comprehensive tool kit for amateurs and pro-photographers. Its updated interface and new features complement a new release of Skylum HDR software. Perfect for single shots or multiple-exposure brackets, Aurora HDR 2019 is able to create beautiful HDR pictures from single shots, as well as the for HR photographed 3 pictures with different exposures. In fact Aurora HDR 2019 can turn any photographer into an artist.
Aurora HDR 2019 is a powerful update that has several new, and, frankly, compelling features.

 

WHAT IS ‘HDR’

HDR is short for High Dynamic Range. Pictures are taken in series or one and are processed and combined to one by adjusting the contrast ratios. An HDR image is commonly made by taking three photos of the same scene, each at different shutter speeds. The result is a bright, medium, and dark photo, based on the amount of light that got through the lens. A software process then combines all the photos to bring details to the shadows and highlights both. The result of this magic are stunning pictures with vivid colouring and lighting.

 

AURORA HDR 2019 in PRACTICE

 

 

 

AI TONE MAPPING IS POWERED BY THE NEW QUANTUM HDR ENGINE

Tone mapping converts (compresses) the wide dynamic range image into one that is more narrow and can be displayed on a computer monitor. In the past, tone mapping was done manually —   requiring the user to make these changes. Aurora HDR 2019’s new artificial intelligence changes this by using the new Quantum HDR Engine. This new HDR engine analyzes the dynamic range of the image to produce the best starting point to begin HDR processing.

INCREASE THE QUALITY OF AN IMAGE WITH HDR DETAILS BOOST

This filter allows you to control the details of the image, giving you the choice of making the image clearer and sharper or make it softer. This tool is useful for improving the overall quality of the image as well as to increase the quality of the images that will be used in high resolution, such as for printing. Increasing the sharpness can also compensate for lower quality optics used to make the captured image. Innovative technologies allow the HDR Details Boost adjustment to improve image sharpness without increasing digital noise or creating unnatural ghosting or halos in the image. This is a very powerful tool to improve the quality of images.

THE CLASSIC HDR EFFECT STARTS WITH THE HDR ENHANCE FILTER

Aurora HDR 2019’s HDR Enhance Filter allows adjusting an image’s detail and clarity. Using this tool you can get a classic HDR effect with great detail or get a smoother picture with less detail. This is the main tool to increase micro-contrast of an image and visualize more details.

The tool has three sections: HDR Clarity, HDR Smart Structure, and HDR Microstructure.

  •  HDR CLARITY
    The HDR Clarity slider is a single slider that adjusts a variety of controls including lighting effects and detail. It offers a special ability to configure balanced image brightness without getting completely white or completely black areas. This has the effect of making the image less realistic and more classically the look a lot of people associate with HDR.
    HDR SMART STRUCTURE
  • Increases image detail by revealing the structure and texture of the surfaces in the image. This enhances the image and hidden details appear. This slider adjusts the overall display of details. Moving the slider to the right will accentuate details and make the image more unrealistic.
    HDR MICROSTRUCTURE
  • This section amplifies micro-detail within the image. These are small details that form the surface of any object in the image. They can further enhance details of the image and provide a more vivid artistic HDR effect, however, it can also make the image very noisy.
  • Amount. Increases micro-details and contrast.
  • Softness. Affects the general “softness” and realism of the photo. Moving the slider to the left will cause the image to become very finely detailed and unrealistic.

 

 

CHECK BASIC IMAGE AURORA HDR 2018 vs AURORA HDR 2019

I wondered if there would be any difference in creating a HDR image from one of Trey Ratcliff’s images with Aurora 2018 and the updated 2019 version. To be fair the difference is not huge of course, still I feel the 2019 version does a better job with the sky elements. Check the left top sky and see that 2018 version shows more noise and artefacts then the 2019 update. All settings to ‘reset’ level in transformation of the image. The blue rooftop sections look much more defined on the 2019 version.
So we can state: Aurora HDR 2019 absolutely performs better then Aurora HDR 2018.

AURORA HDR 2018

 

AURORA HDR 2019

 

TONE MAPPING

What is tone mapping?
Skylum AURORA HDR 2018 already had Tone-mapping feature but version 2019 has a complete revolutionary Quantum HDR tone mapping engine. I guess this is one of the most used features within this application. Nice to fiddle around, but what does it really do?
It’s the process of converting the tonal values of an image from a high range to a lower one. For instance, an HDR file merged from multiple images with a dynamic range of 100,000:1 will be converted into an image with tonal values ranging from around 1 to 255.
Why do we want to reduce that tonal range so much? Well the reason is simple. Most standard display devices (and printers) can only reproduce a low range of dynamic values (between 100 or 200:1 or lower). The goal of tone mapping is to reproduce the appearance of images having a higher dynamic range to fit/display properly on standard display devices, thus keeping the image looking realistic.
The algorithms that tone mapping use to scale the dynamic range down attempt to preserve the appearance of the original image captured by breaking the information up into two categories: global and local.

 

VERDICT

Skylum raised the bar again with their Aurora HDR 2019 version, which doesn’t leave much room for improvement yet. There are some other applications available right now, which offer similar techniques and adjustment settings, but I feel Skylum Aurora HDR 2019 is the easiest to master for any user. Speed improved as well as a improved techniques like the new Quantum HDR Engine. The Lens Correction and Transform Tool are the obvious implemented features. HDR Clarity, HDR Smart Structure, and HDR Microstructure complete a perfect application.
I am a big fan of Skylum software, and I tried them all ! I love their clean interface and easy use. The offered presets are limited but when you add the mentioned Free packs or buy the available Presets from Macphun you can’t go wrong anymore.
This software can make any photographer into a true Michelangelo. How’s that for software changing your world !

So, I recommend Aurora HDR 2019 to anyone looking for the best HDR-editing application.

  • Current users of Aurora HDR 2018 may upgrade for $49 ($39 with our affiliate coupon code= MACSOFTREVIEW) NOT for pre-sale !!

 

SKYLUM LUMINAR 2018 JUPITER review

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Version: 1.2.0 (4245)
Developer: Skylum Inc.
Website: https://skylum.com/luminar

 

ABOUT SKYLUM

 

SKYLUM (Macphun,early 2018 they’ll completely switched to SKYLUM) a San Diego, USA based software company, is famous for its outstanding photo editing software products. Their latest software tool LUMINAR 2018 JUPITER has been upgraded to a new product supporting numerous improvements.
LUMINAR Neptune 2017 was launched 15th June 2017 and LUMINAR 2018 launched 16 November 2017 which makes it a real quick update. This review will discover and disclose wether the 2018 Jupiter upgrade is a true improvement over Neptune 2017 .
LUMINAR Neptune 2017 and LUMINAR 2018 are used by professionals as well as enthousiasts. SKYLUM has a great reputation for their outstanding products and aim to listen to their clients and implement their wishes in new product versions.

 

WHATS NEW

Luminar 2018 Jupiter offers a re-engineered proprietary RAW engine that can handle high-quality images faster. New filters include the ability to enhance Color with Brilliance, selective lighten or darken area’s with Dodge & Burn as well the addition of a new Sun-Rays filter. Apart from speed, the core of the update is two new features available in both the Windows and MacOS versions of Luminar 2018. They are: automatic lens correction controls and an improved Raw conversion engine that’s said to yield better exposure calculation, cleaner gradients, minimized chromatic aberrations and more robust camera compatibility.

   

Overall speed improvements are great !

 

LUT’s
Lookup Table Adjustments, known as LUTS. Creative color, perfect black and white conversions and even digital films stocks are just a click away. Lightroom users can convert their custom Lightroom presets into LUT’s with a free tool. There are a number of tools around, you may try this https://generator.iwltbap.com

First of all what is a LUT and what are its typical uses?

LUT means “Look Up Table.” It’s helpful to think of it like a math problem: R= S+L
“R” being your result or what you want to attain.
“S” being your source or what you start with.
“L” being your LUT or the difference needed to make up between your source and your desired outcome.

In all cases of LUT use, the LUT is the means to make up the difference between source and result.((All cases assume the colorist (or you) is grading through a correctly calibrated monitor for evaluation and finishing. LUTs in no way replace proper calibration or color correction. They only assist in the process.)) It’s never the result by itself. How does this play out? I’ll layout a couple probably over-simplified examples:

 

Color Correction

A very common example is printing your final film to…real, actual film. Print film came in a variety of flavors and styles. Each style had different nuances in color. The film lab would have all that nuance information or be able to send you a print test to work with. That would be your final result. The colorist grades a picture on his calibrated monitor but if he were to send that to print, it could come out looking far different due to the nuances of the physical film.

So in our math analogy, his graded film is “S” and his film print is “R.” He then uses the information from the film lab or on his own, creates and applies the LUT or the “L” to get him from his graded film to the print and to have it look as intended after it’s on the physical film. After applying the LUT, his graded film may look awful on his monitor, but will come out correct on the film print.  ( source http://nofilmschool.com/2011/05/what-is-a-look-up-table-lut-anyway)

 

NEW LUMINAR 2018 JUPITER INTERFACE

Luminar Interface is very good laid-out and intuitive as all filters show a pre-view of the actual filters capability and use. All is absolutely nicely placed on the interface and your most used filters can be set as preferred by clicking the little star at the bottom.
A full list of possible filters is present in the interface, there’s really nothing left out ! This filter collection should be enough for any user to create the best final master-picture.

Luminar 2018 Jupiter is equipped with a collection of preset effects organised into categories, and you can download more from the Skylum website. 
Each preset is a combination of filters and adjustments to create a particular ‘look’. You can browse the presets via a horizontal panel at the bottom of the screen and take a look at the filters and adjustments used in the tools panel on the right and modify them if you need to – or save your own adjusted custom preset.

 

There’s one more thing. Luminar also offers layers and masks, so that you can not only combine effects and filters selectively in different parts of the picture, but even combine different images. It doesn’t just support simple adjustment layers, but image layers too! LUMINAR 2018 has again evolved and sets itself at the top in this price-range !  Photoshop will have some bonuses but also has a huge price ticket and needs a lot of training. LUMINAR 2018 JUPITER however is easy to use for beginners but also professionals benefit from its range of (new)-filters and adjustments.

 

HISTORY & UNDO STEPS

Like Luminar Neptune 2017 we find these useful tools in the Tool-bar of the interface.

The three buttons control the Undo/Redo commands as well as let you view an image’s History. These three buttons give you complete control over reverting to an earlier state of an image.

  • Undo – The Undo Button (left arrow) cancels the last action (for example, changing the slider).
  • Redo – The Redo Button (right arrow) returns the last undo function.
  • History Panel – The History panel will quickly become an essential part of your workflow. It’s here that Luminar 2018 Jupiter keeps a list of what you have done to the image since you opened it. These are multiple undos and an easy way to go back in time. 
Simply click on an early History State to revert the photo to that stage of editing. History states are also saved with an image when you store it in the native Luminar (.mnr) file format. This allows for a nondestructive editing workflow and let’s you revert to an earlier version of the image.

 

LAYERS

Layers are a powerful way to “build up” your images, with different enhancements and use of blending modes on each layer. Using layers, you can apply corrections or enhancements on different layers, and experiment until you achieve exactly the look you’d like for your image.

 

DENOISE & NEW FILTERS

This tool is useful as it allows you to slightly blur an image to reduce the amount of noise and any image artifacts. The tool is similar to our Noiseless application and offers easy to use presets to control the strength. When you switch to the Denoise tool, Luminar zooms the image to 200% magnification to make it easier to see any noise or artifacts. Use the Amount slider to refine the results.

Also available: impressive filters to stylise, tone, and enhance your photos, including Sun Rays, Dodge & Burn, LUT Mapping, Hue Shift, Brilliance, and a cool new Matte Look.

 

NEW PRESETS FREE

Find a number of great presets here: https://macphun.com/luminar/new-presets?
product=luminar_2018_main_mac_welcomescreen_presets&c_url=2

 

NEW AI SKY ENHANCEMENT 

This filter was created for photographers who would rather focus on creating photos and have neither the time nor inclination to spend hours correcting their images.

By moving a single slider you can add depth, definition, and detail to the sky without exposing unwanted artifacts or affecting any other aspect of the image.

No one wants boring skies in their photos, and restoring and improving the sky is one of the most important parts of creating a masterpiece. We’ve done our best to make this process as simple as it can be. The new AI Sky Enhancer creates no halos, automatically detects the edges of the sky, and recognizes the sky even inside other objects such as bridges.

 

 

Examples of my own, just to show the editing capabilities of Luminar and AI Sky Enhancement. It’s a bit over the top in terms of colouring, but it will show you how capable Luminar is in transforming rather dull image into a
full detailed revealing image. Colouring is to your liking and taste.

 

 

Statement from Skylum:

Last month, Skylum announced that from now through 2019 it would include:

“every new feature of Luminar — big or small — at no additional cost to customers. This includes Libraries, the much-anticipated addition to Luminar. Libraries will allow photographers to organize, browse, and edit images on-the-fly. Luminar Libraries will be the first of many exciting updates to Luminar over the coming months.”

 

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VERDICT

So is this the great improvement (again) we’ve all been waiting for ? Well my opinion is Yes, it is now more mature and incorporates more filters and tools then ever before. The improved RAW engine is not only much faster but delivers less noise and better color. The all new included Artificial Intelligence Sky Enhancement ( Nov. 2018 ) and Accent AI Filter complement this great application.
LUT’s support is a long awaited addition for Adobe Lightroom users enabling them to import/convert their Lightroom Presets for use in Luminar 2018. Overall Luminar 2018 Jupiter is much faster and handles all changes in a great clean interface. The sun-rays filter and real-time noise removal sets it at the top of its competitors. Shame on Skylum that the promised free update in 2018 throwing in the all new DAM image browser, is still NOT published. Libraries (DAM) is to be expected in the coming months. Still this is the application to beat for any competitor in this price range. The best gift for yourself or any friend.

Its stunning, its easy to learn, it takes photo-editing to a new level.