Winning awards such as Apple’s Best Mac App and Digital Photo Editors’ Choice, Skylum software is set to unveil the next iteration of their AI-powered photo editing software in October. High dynamic range (HDR) image editing can often get the best of both newcomers and veterans alike, but Skylum aims to change that with their latest release.
Enter Aurora HDR 2020, an AI-powered all-in-one HDR image processing solution that Skylum is set to release on October 4. I’ve been a longtime supporter of Skylum, who takes a different approach to photo-editing software with both Luminar and Aurora HDR. The 2020 release of Aurora does not disappoint.
With brand ambassadors such as Jerry Ghionis, Joel Grimes, and HDR hall-of-famer Trey Ratcliff supporting and utilizing Aurora in their workflow, Skylum has gained a reputation for producing easy-to-use, powerful software since 2008. Take a few minutes to see Ratcliff work on images from Burning Man with Aurora 2020 here.
An easy adaptation of my workflow makes quick work of loading both bracketed sets or single images into Aurora for tone-mapping. Personally, I’ve installed the plugins packaged with Aurora to allow opening from both Lightroom and Photoshop, but Aurora also allows for plugin installation with Photoshop Elements and Apple Aperture as well. For users of tools such as Exposure X4, Aurora can easily be used as a standalone tool as well.
Once you save your tone-mapped image back to the corresponding folder, X4 should detect the new image for you to continue editing. Skylum has also brought Windows users into the fold with their tools, and the Windows version worked just as seamlessly as the Mac version throughout my testing.
Aurora 2020 HDR has a multitude of different Looks, with categories from Trey Ratcliff, Serge Ramelli, and Randy Van Duinen. Needless to say, there are quite a variety of Looks for editing your images. For the image below, I utilized the Bright Sun Look, making the image pop with just a single click. That’s impressive!
A new addition to Aurora 2020 is LUT (lookup table) Mapping, which gives the user further color grading options. The image above included the use of Faded Afternoon from the LUT Mapping tab. Skylum has designed Aurora to allow users to import their own LUT’s or navigate out to Skylum’s Marketplace for additional LUT packages.
I’m also impressed with the improvements made to one of the biggest telltale signs of HDR images, haloing, which is typically found around contrasting areas. I’ve reprocessed images that I initially used Aurora 2016 or 2018, and found immediate improvements to the trouble areas in the images. If for no other reason, this improvement justifies the argument for me on whether to upgrade or not.
What I Liked
- Great results, Fast
- Powerful LUTs
- Adjustment layers for global or targeted adjustments
- Opacity sliders on the HDR presets
What I Didn’t Like
- HSL Sliders don’t have a color picker
- Can’t reorder the filters
Overall, this is another home run from Skylum, giving their customers as much flexibility and power as they could hope for when working on HDR images. Personally, I hope people don’t go too extreme when playing with the different Looks and filters that Aurora offers, but hey, to each their own!
Regardless, Aurora has definitely earned a place in my bag of photo editors. If you haven’t purchased Aurora, you can preorder for $89, but for individuals looking to upgrade, your preorder cost will be $49.