Skylum Aurora HDR 2019 review

Version 1.0.0 (5674)Developer Skylum Inc.



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 Skylum Aurora HDR 2019 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 of Skylum 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.



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.




Skylum Aurora HDR 2019 review 1




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.



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.



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.

    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.
  • 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.
  • 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.




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.


Skylum Aurora HDR 2019 review 3



Skylum Aurora HDR 2019 review 4



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.



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 Skylum 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 Aurora HDR 2019 review 5

$ 89.00


6 Replies to “Skylum Aurora HDR 2019 review”

  1. I am a big fan of both Aurora HDR and Luminar. Both of these excellent programs offer the amateur photographer a wealth of tools. It does everything I need to do with regard to developing my images. Upgrades are easy and sometimes free for Skylum users. Help is readily available and one can usually get a response within 24 hours unlike some other outfits out there.

  2. No cons? Here’s a big one for some of us:

    If you rely on batch processing, look elsewhere, at least for now. I Just downloaded and tried 2019 in hopes that the batch processing may have improved from 2018, but it almost seems worse… of course, this would be a non-issue if we could bypass the auto-grouping and specify batches by multiples instead, or at least have the option to adjust/modify the auto “grouping”…

    I’m shooting with a D750 and a D600, both in aperture priority, auto bracketing 3 frames at 2 stops apart.
    For example, I tried to test batch a job with 282 images; in Oloneo and Photomatix, this yielded the expected 94 hdr images (282/3=94). However, in Aurora 2019, it yielded 50. Not only did some images not get “grouped”, some groups contained 2, 3, 6, 8 and 9 images!

    Obviously, this is unacceptable, so I’m not really seeing the point of the batch feature in its current state, unless I’m missing a setting to specify multiples, or a way to adjust the auto groups… I tried manually dragging the images to their correct groups, which it allowed me to do, but it didn’t change anything, as but the results remained the same.

    While the automatic grouping feature is an neat idea, it really doesn’t offer any advantages over the tried and true multiples method, but instead has critical disadvantages.

    1. You can move images out of incorrect groups before you start processing. Just drag them to create a new group before starting the batch. I had the same problem.

  3. So your discount code (macsoftreview) for upgrades will be valid after the presale finishes (at a lower price than the presale upgrade code?)

    1. Yes the code will work then $10 discount on retail by Skylum. Their presale can be even cheaper right now. Checked for you. Upgrade $49.00 presale and later $59. So discount comes to dame price as presale right now

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