The Best HDR Image Editor There is, Skylum’s Aurora HDR 2019, is Available for Pre-Order until October 4, with Discounts

Towards the end of each photography editing software maker Skylum, formerly Macphun, announces then releases the annual major update to its two multiple award-winning flagship products, Aurora HDR and Luminar, and both are made available at pre-order discount for a certain period from announcement to the actual release date. 

Right now it is Aurora HDR’s turn, about to be updated to Aurora HDR 2019, with discounts applying until October 4 2018, and the many new additions and improvements in this version make it an absolute must-have update in my humble opinion. 

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Skylum Aurora HDR 2019, with this version blessed with more smart enhancements than ever before as well as a good list of other new features and improvements.

I have dipped my toes in and out of the high dynamic range aka HDR realm for some years at least since Adobe added HDR capability to Photoshop, trying a range of HDR software whether in the form of plug-ins or standalone applications, but none really caught my attention nor got me excited by the possibilities of this form of image creation and editing until Aurora first made its appearance.

Over the years since then the Skylum team has steadily improved Aurora as well all the rest of its software with concepts and features very different from what those usually found in more conventional image editing software made by more conventional image software companies.

One of those unconventional concepts involves features that appear to derive from a side project, Photolemur, described as “the world’s first fully automated photo enhance that makes all your images great automatically with the help of Artificial Intelligence”.

The products of Photolemur’s AI advances started to find their way into Aurora HDR and Luminar a versions or two ago and, with Aurora HDR 2019’s software engine being radically updated to the brand new Quantum HDR Engine and with a number of AI and Smart features appearing in both flagship applications.

I suspect the AI integration in both will continue and look forward to seeing what will appear in Luminar 2019 in the coming months.

Skylum’s modus operandi has been to create standalone versions of its software that can also operate as plug-ins to popular host applications such as Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Photoshop Elements, and more recently to each other with, for example, Aurora HDR 2019 being able to call on Luminar and Photolemur as well as a long list other popular Photoshop plug-ins.

My personal MO when processing HDR images is to do the fundamental HDR tone mapping and basic editing in Aurora then pass the image on to Luminar directly or oftentimes export as a TIFF file with a detour through DxO ViewPoint for powerful automatic optical corrections based on my raw files’ EXIF data and sometimes though DxO FilmPack or Alien Skin Exposure as well for each application’s excellent simulations for classic and quirky analog films and printing processes.

With the addition of Look Up Tables aka LUT support in Aurora HDR 2019 as previously occurred in Luminar, I suspect I will doing less of this detouring with the benefit of applying items from an extensive LUT collection acquired over many years shooting video.

A number of those LUTs are derived from scans of classic, now often sadly discontinued, colour and monochrome movie film stocks and printing films or are based on feature film colour grading looks based on analog films, with one of the most recent such releases being Digital Film Stock aka DFS by LookLabs.

There is a host of similar LUT collections available on the Web for free or very reasonable prices given their quality and if you are new to the world of LUTs I recommend searching and trying to see what LUTs can do with the benefit of Aurora HDR 2019’s new LUT Mapping tool.

Screenshots, Aurora HDR 2019 user interface

The new and improved features in Aurora HDR 2019

User Interface / Performance

  • Tone-mapping technology for bracketed images with the Quantum HDR Engine.
  • Tone-mapping technology for single images with the Quantum HDR Engine.

Editing

  • HDR Smart Structure for realistic and artifact-free structure.
  • All new Aurora HDR Looks to enhance and stylize images.
  • LUT Mapping filter for creative color and tone adjustments.
  • Eleven integrated LUTs to use with the LUT Mapping filter.
  • HDR Details Boost filter that allows for high-resolution tuning while adjusting – improved.
  • Adjustable Gradient filter with new controls for Shadows and Highlights– improved.

Open / Plugin / Export

  • Photoshop plugins support.
  • Photolemur plugin support.
  • Plugins menu for both Mac® and Windows® users
.

A quick tryout, resurrecting ghosts

Unlike most of the photographers who rely on HDR, I use this style of photography not so much for landscapes, cityscapes, architecture or interiors but for portraits, product shots and stills for use in videos often for use with the Ken Burns effect.

For portraits and product shots in particular, most often shot with a mixture of natural and artificial light and increasingly with rather challenging natural light conditions, the HDR plus Aurora HDR combo results in images where textures acquire a hyperrealism that enhances the feeling of actually being in front of that person or those objects.

But I digress.

The 3-bracket HDR image above is one of my less frequently shot scenic photographs and my rather unsophisticated quick and dirty edit in Aurora HDR 2019 in the middle shows just how far Skylum’s software engineers have come with their Quantum HDR Engine and its radically improved processing quality and speed.

Instead of needing a fair bit of work to get a typical HDR image natural looking, Aurora HDR 2019 creates a very realistic tone mapping rendering from the word go, then allows you to choose from a large and growing selection of naturalistic or highly creative presets, or even more image editing controls than in previous versions of Aurora.

From the evidence of the list above of new and improved features in Aurora HDR 2019, and the results of my quick and dirty tryout scene, I will be rethinking my use of HDR imaging and especially how I will be processing future HDR images. 

Reservations that I used to have about HDR due to haloing and processing speed have now gone and I am looking forward to counting on HDR and Aurora HDR 2019 far more than I ever have before.

Portraiture tryout, 7 brackets, straight tone mapping and minimal processing

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Expressing exhaustion and resignation via Aurora HDR 2019 and a film emulation LUT.

A friend I have often used as a test subject dropped by and I decided to try out Aurora HDR 2019 as a portrait processing toolset.

This is the result, above, after minimal processing entirely in Aurora HDR 2019.

During my editorial photography career in the analog era, I specialized in making emotive close-up portraits and information-packed environmental portraits for magazines and newspaper colour supplements, using colour transparency films, Polaroid Type 55 instant positive/negative film and Kodak Tri-X using sheet film and 120 roll film cameras of various types.

That career was interrupted at its height due to succumbing to photochemical allergies followed by conceiving and cofounding “not only Black+White” magazine, a project that helped further my longtime ambitions to help bring about positive change in how photography was understood and used as a means of communication and as an art form in Australia.

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The light in the café where this was shot is amongst the worst that I have shot in over the years and previous attempts using earlier versions of Aurora HDR have been disappointing. This attempt processed with Aurora HDR 2019 is much better. HDR portraiture benefits from expressive lighting, whether natural or artificial, rather than this sort of dull overhead illumination.

My portraiture practice was intimately shaped by the cameras, lenses, films and processing and printing materials and methods of the time.

I carted my 4″x5″ sheet film camera with a medium wide and a medium long lens, sheet film and 120 roll film holders, Broncolor 3-light electronic flash kit, tripod and light stands, with my two Leica M-4P rangefinder cameras and lenses as backups, around the city and suburbs on assignment, photographing creative people, chefs, actors, celebrities and businessmen.

It was fun while it lasted and I used it as an opportunity to introduce my clients to new ways of processing, printing and reproducing my work all the better to communicate the emotions I wanted readers to experience when looking at my photographs in those magazines.

I have long wanted to get back to those forms of photography but this time unencumbered by all that gear, stripping my means of production back to just me, a handheld camera and uncomplicated but expressive processing methods.

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Portrait of a real estate agent on a day of smokey sunlight due to burning off in the local national park nearby.

Will Aurora HDR 2019 allow me to do that?

I hope so, based on the results of this quick and dirty test above.

Time to take a good, hard look at the current state of the magazine editorial photography landscape here in Australia now?

Definitely time to build a new portrait portfolio, and Aurora HDR 2019 may well be an important factor in that.

One of my aims in portraiture was and is to create the impression in the viewer’s mind that they are in the same room as the subject.

High dynamic range photography appears to assist in helping form that impression, though I have much to try and much to learn about how and why, and how to get the best out of it for portraiture.

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SmallRig Has Two Fujifilm X-T3 Cages in Pre-Order, One for the Camera with Battery Grip and One Without. First 100 Orders Get 30% Off.

Camera accessories maker SmallRig is quick off the mark with not one but two camera cages for the Fujifilm X-T3 APS-C/Super 35 hybrid mirrorless camera to take advantage of the X-T3’s radically boosted video capabilities. 

My experience with a range of Fujifilm cameras indicates that almost all of them benefit at least from metal hand grips and more so from vertical battery grips for better, safer handholding and extra power. 

It is pleasing to see that SmallRig has acknowledged this by adding extra gripability to its cage for the X-T3 minus vertical battery grip. 

Both camera cages are currently available under SmallRig’s Pre-Order scheme at 30% off an already low regular price and the estimated shipping date is October 11, 2018, well-timed for the official release of X-T3 production models. 

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Fujifilm X-T3 with Fujinon XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4.0 R LM OIS kit zoom lens.

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Fuji Island, Picture Perfect Paradise [Special offer time-limited until December 7, 2018]

https://www.fujiisland.com.au/

“Ever wondered what life would be like on your own private island? Or dreamt of whiling away your days as a travel blogger?

Fuji Island is the ultimate luxury escape for photography lovers….

… Created by FUJIFILM, the island comes with the latest camera equipment – including FUJIFILM’s brand new X-T3 mirrorless camera, world-famous lenses and a range of other photography goodies. You even have your own personal photographer on call….”

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Fujifilm X-T3 with Fujifilm VG-XT3 Vertical Battery Grip and Fujinon MKX 18-55mm T2.9 cinema zoom lens. Photograph by Jonas Rask, courtesy of Fujifilm.

Fuji Island picture gallery, images courtesy of Fujifilm Australia

Commentary

This sounds like an interesting concept, and I am looking forward to seeing participants’ photographs made on Fuji Island at a Fujifilm event that was apparently held there last week, the week of 3rd September 2018.

Although the Fuji Island web page states “Experience  Fuji Island  for USD $2,200 per night for up to two people (minimum two night stay)”, it appears that the island resort is capable of accomodating at least sixty-three people as that was the number of guests invited to the event.

Fuji Island seems to be a time-limited phenomenon rather than a permanent one:

Fuji Island is available for private hire and overnight luxury stays until 7th December 2018.

If you wish to take up Fujifilm’s special offer then make your booking fast, before southern hemisphere vacationers book up all available places!

Meanwhile we have received further information about another Fujifilm Australia event associated with Fuji Island.

Fujifilm Australia held “the XT-3 launch event on the mainland of Fiji where guests were staying (The Marriott in Momi Bay). The following day, we took everybody out by boat to Fuji Island. The launch event was held on the 6th September, and Fuji Island on the 7th.”

“There were 60 people in total attending the event. It was a mix of Fujifilm retailers, partners, staff and media.”

“We don’t have control over when media will publish articles, but we have already started receiving coverage.”

Further on Fuji Island, “Fuji Island is supposed to be an island paradise people can book. On the private island, there will be a host of FUJIFILM equipment, including an X-T3 that people can try out and take amazing holiday photos with.”

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Fujifilm Small Eyecup EC-XT S: might this be a good choice for eyeglasses wearers?

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Kickstarter: The Travel Line: Versatile Travel Backpack + Packing Tools, by Peak Design

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/peak-design/the-travel-line-versatile-travel-backpack-packing

Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L and internal packing bags and cases.

Commentary

It was inevitable that Peak Design would expand its Everyday bags line into bags more suited to travel, and more power to their arm for doing so.

I am especially impressed that the Peak Design crew has given serious thought to how best to pack and carry photographic equipment and personal gear within larger bags and backpacks, and suspect that not a few of their customers will be using their Camera Cubes, Tech Pouches and Packing Cubes inside other Peak Design bags and backpacks.

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1Styles.pro Offers 200+ Excellent Film Emulation Styles for Capture One Pro at 40% Off, Until July 9

Photography has a glorious and long pre-digital history in form of black-and-white aka monochrome, colour in the form of colour transparency film and colour negative film, and colour and monochrome in the form of instant films. 

Little wonder, then, that for many of us who grew up in the analog era analog film emulations provide an essential array of image processing presets, ways of interpreting images based on how films and printing methods shaped tone and colour and thus emotion and information. 

One raw digital negative, three interpretations using 1Styles.pro film emulation presets for Phase One Capture One Pro – Kodak Portra 160VC v2, Kodak Ektachrome mid-1970s (blue) and Kodak Royal Gold 400 v4 Winter.

I often rely on film emulation software in the form of look-up tables aka LUTs, presets, plug-ins and standalone software whether editing stills or video, and one of my favourite film emulation preset collections is made by Alexander Svet of 1Styles.pro.

Mr Svet’s Capture One Film Styles and Capture One Film Styles Extended Set play a big role in how I use Phase One’s Capture One Pro raw image processing software and both sets’ 200in-total film emulation styles are, in my opinion, essentials for anyone needing to make the most out of image editing in Capture One.

I cannot recommend them too highly.

Here, at 1Styles.pro, we started a great sale: 40% discount on all the Film Styles for Capture One till July 9.

If you’re following AlexOnRAW for a while, you know – that’s a big deal. Discounts on our styles are a quite rare, and it’s 100% worth to grab.
Let me remind you how our styles can improve your Capture One workflow:

Original Film Styles Set – https://sellfy.com/p/c9Em/

$29.97 (regular price – $49.95, you save $19.98)
100 styles which emulate classic films. That’s a great tool to find a glorious color correction for your images quickly.

Extended Film Styles Set – https://sellfy.com/p/ufdj/

$41.97 (regular price – $69.95, you save $27.98)
Additional 100 new film styles! All styles are unique, there are no duplicates in both sets. Extended Set delivers more artistic emulation of film picture, plus it offers film grain emulation styles.

Film Styles Bundle – https://sellfy.com/p/uGx5/

$57 (regular price – $95, you save $38)

200+ film styles in a bundle with additional 20% discount. That’s a fantastic source of inspiration for your editing.

All the color styles work with layers in Capture One Pro 11. Each B&W style has four versions with different opacities: 100%, 75%, 50% and 25%.

You can download 12 sample styles for free to try them before buying – https://goo.gl/SoHVa3

If you had thought of purchasing Film Styles before – this is the moment.

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James Miller’s DELUTS Creative LUTs Discounted 25%, with New LUTs Collections and Methodologies Added

Cinematographer/Director of Photography James Miller of DELUTS has been busy of late updating and adding to his DELUTS creative LUTs collections, most recently releasing a DELUTS Universe ARRI Set, a DELUTS Lightroom ACR Looks set, DELUTS C200 Looks and Transforms, DELUTS Overlook, DELUTS Universe Red Digital Cinema IPP2 Set v1 and DELUTS Universe, a whole new concept in sequential LUT application inspired by the beauty of Log C footage from ARRI’s ALEXA cinema cameras.

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Profile from DELUTS ACR Look Profiles collection applied to original TIFF file provided by James Miller of DELUTS.

“… I first started DELUTS in 2015 after years gathering look profiles that I have generated for film projects. I decided to share these and have tried to build upon this offering creative looks for Video and now for Lightroom & Photoshop using the new Profile system in CC 2018 versions.

The DELUTS Universe set was born after nearly 2 years building the back bone of the system. If you just need looks to go over the top of footage that you have already balanced, then thats the DELUTS Overlook set is a great place to start. If you are working with images and want the look of DELUTS with RAW, TIF, JPEG etc then the new DELUTS Lightroom ACR Looks is the one to use. I have offers when purchasing 2 certain sets. The DELUTS Lightroom ACR Looks & DELUTS OVERLOOK are a great match for video and stills.”

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Joel Wolfson: Raw Processors Compared, There’s A Lot More To It Than Quality, Efficiency, Accuracy and Enjoyment with the Latest Fuji Raw Processors* plus Comparison Chart

http://joelwolfson.com/raw-processors-compared/

“… I’m covering a couple different categories of raw processors: Two optimized for single image processing and two that are more comprehensive hub type solutions with image management capabilities. They are Luminar 2018 (v1.1.1) and Topaz Studio (v1.8.2) for the former category and ON1 Photo Raw 2018 (v2018.1) and Lightroom Classic CC (v7.2) for the latter….

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Fujifilm Australia Red Badge Cash Back Promotion for X-H1 and Choice of Three Fujinon Red Badge Pro Zoom Lenses, 1st March to 30th April 2018

https://fujifilmcashback.com.au/?admin=click

“… Cash back via redemption. Australia residents only. Limit of 1 claim per eligible claimant. Promotion runs 1st March 2018 to 30th March 2018. Claims must be submitted by 27th May 2018….

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Fujifilm X-H1 with VPB-XH1 battery grip and Fujinon XF 16-55mm f/2.8 R LM WR professional zoom lens.

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Fujifilm X-H1 with Fujinon XF 50-140mm f/2.8 R LM OIS WR professional zoom lens

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Please refer to Fujifilm Australia’s Terms & Conditions if seeking to take advantage of the cash back promotion.

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  • Fujifilm XF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR LensB&H

Nubrella: On Sale for a Limited Time

http://www.nubrella.com/shop/

“The umbrella has been our go-to for rain drop coverage for centuries. We thank you for your service. There’s a new kid in town. Meet Nubrella. Worn back-pack style… it won’t invert and it’s hands-free…rain, wind, snow and sun….”

Nubrella

Commentary

It looks like something out of Blade Runner and Blade Runner 2049 but it is very much a contemporary solution to a problem throughout the ages, how to keep your hands free to do more important things than hold an umbrella steady against the wind or the rain, the sun or the snow.

A Nubrella without or more likely with its matching optional backpack is definitely on my stills and video production gear wishlist – umbrellas and long raincoats fail to liberate both hands to get the best out of shooting in challenging weather.

We might be in the middle of a heatwave right now but February is traditionally the month of relentless heavy rain in Sydney, and I have some outdoors projects scheduled for then and beyond that cannot be put off for another day, or week or two.

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