Skylum: How to Make Real Estate Photos that Sell? [with Aurora HDR 2019]

https://skylum.com/blog/aurora-hdr-for-real-estate-photography

“If you saw two property listings – one with high-quality photos, and one with no preview at all, which one would you pick? 99.9% of the time you would go with the property that has photos.

It might sound drastic, but quality photos could make the difference between booking a viewing or not.

In this article, we look at Aurora HDR for real estate photography.

We look at why HDR photos are suitable for real estate photography, and why Aurora HDR, in particular, is an excellent choice as an editing program….”

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Skylum Aurora HDR provides the most feature-complete set of controls for merging and styling multiple-bracket and single-frame high dynamic range images.

Commentary

Skylum’s Aurora HDR software has reached full maturation with Aurora 2019 and has enabled me to create high dynamic range multiple-shot images that I could only visual but not achieve in previous years.

My interest in HDR imaging was first parked by its possibilities for portraiture where I was unable to carry the full complement of lights, lighting stands, power cables, power packs and filters that I used to carry and that all too often must be left behind at our home studio due to their size and weight.

I also rely on Aurora HDR when photographing cityscapes, suburban landscapes and interiors, as well as portraits and still life or product shots, when I need to present a full tonal range from deepest darks to lightest whites rather than simulate the truncated tonal look of the analog films of yesteryear such as Velvia or Ektachrome.

Photographs processed with Skylum Aurora HDR 2019

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Skylum Updates Luminar 2018 Raw Processor/Image Editor with Artificial Intelligence-Driven AI Sky Enhancer

While it seems that most Australian professional photographers of my acquaintance depend on Adobe Bridge’s Camera Raw module in conjunction with Photoshop as their first choice for raw processing and imaged editing, followed by Adobe Lightroom in order of popularity, there are alternative products and alternative software companies.

One of the most creative is Skylum, formerly named Macphun, maker of Aurora HDR and Luminar, the first a high dynamic range image merging and editing application and the second a raw image processing and image editing application the features of which are ever-growing and unlike any other image editor in their scope and innovation. 

Luminar 2018 recently gained an artificial-intelligence driven feature, the AI Sky Enhancer, and the long-awaited major update, Luminar with Libraries, due sometime in December 2018, will add sync and batch editing, image organizing, rating, labelling and tagging to improve Luminar’s photo management and editing editing workflow.  

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Skylum Luminar AI Sky Enhancer filter applied to a Fujifilm X-Pro2 raw file of a local landscape after initial processing with Iridient X-Transformer. Photograph © copyright Karin Gottschalk 2018. All rights reserved.

Ever since Apple signalled the coming end of its support for Aperture, one of the best media management, picture sorting and editing, raw processing and image editing applications ever, relied upon by photographers as well as picture editors, magazine publishers, advertising agencies, deign firms and more, photographers have been searching for a direct replacement and the available solutions have been found wanting to various degrees.

Since then I have tried a number of media management applications and modules built into raw processing and image editing software and none of them have filled the bill in exactly the way I need them to.

Skylum has verb working on a media management solution aka library for Luminar for some time and it looks like it will finally make its appearance soon.

I cannot want to try it out and with luck it will be the media manager cum image library I have been after for all these years.

Skylum Luminar 2018 AI Sky Enhancer Before and After

How Does AI Sky Enhancer Work?

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Sky detection & object recognition: With the help of our deep neural network, Luminar analyzes the image and detects the sky. This neural network had been trained using hundreds of thousands of images with different amounts and different types of sky, whether it’s a tiny patch of blue peeking through a skylight, a cloudy sky flaunting sunset colors, or a dark, ominous sky signaling a storm.
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Semantic Segmentation: Once image analysis is complete, Luminar performs what we call semantic segmentation, separating the image into different layers, based on the semantic and contextual meaning of the objects it detects. This analysis allows the most precise and intelligent sky enhancement with minimal noise, halos, and negative impact on other areas of the image. The AI detects objects in the foreground, defines edges, and analyzes the textures and tones of the sky itself. The deep neural network that powers AI Sky Enhancer had been trained using thousands of real life examples we’ve either taken ourselves or obtained from other professional photographers.
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Smart masking: Following sky detection and segmentation, Luminar applies an automatic mask to the sky that’s invisible to you as the user. When you move the slider to the right, you only notice how the sky becomes more and more beautiful. Just like a professional photographer, AI Sky Enhancer treats different images differently. It applies a custom set of adjustments to a sky, depending on its look. This means that a blue sky will get a treatment far different from a grey sky, and a sunset sky will be enhanced differently from a mid-morning one.

LUTs in Skylum Luminar 2018 and Aurora HDR 2019

I have been developing an approach to portrait photography based on five to seven bracket images batch processed in Iridient X-Transformer then merged in Skylum Aurora HDR 2019 with maximum image editing done in Aurora’s 16-bit colour space including applying film emulation and looks LUTs.

This has only been possible in the way I have long envisaged it since the release of Aurora HDR 2019 and its amazing realistic automatic tone-mapping, a huge evolutionary leap beyond previous versions of Aurora HDR and other HDR software I have used over the years.

The addition of the LUTs feature in both items of Skylum software is welcome as I have assembled an enormous collection of camera profile, film emulation and looks LUTs over the years and enjoy applying the film emulation LUTs in particular to portraits.

The challenge when editing with LUTs is to choose exactly the right one, or two or more of them in combination, to communicate the information and emotions I visualized for the finished image when I made the exposure.

Right now selecting that one or more perfect LUT from a big collection of them is a time-consuming process of trial and error, loading and looking, rejecting then choosing again.

Some video editing applications and colour grading applications and plug-ins have LUT library previewing capabilities that speed up the processing of choosing the best LUT for the job and I want to see the same functionality added to Skylum Luminar 2018 and Aurora HDR 2019.

In illustration, the above three portraits have been graded with three different film emulation LUTs, one from a medium-sized collection and the other two from a far bigger set of LUTs.

Choosing the looks I wanted took far too long and I skipped over thousands of other possible candidates.

Small previews of how each LUT would render the image would have sped up the process considerably.

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Skylum Releases Tonality Mega B&W Pack, Huge Free Monochrome Presets Collection for Its Luminar Image Editing Powerhouse

Skylum has released Tonality Mega B&W Pack, a massive free collection recreations of the looks from Tonality, the company’s legacy black-and-white aka monochrome plug-in cum standalone application named Tonality CK.

Tonality CK is part of the Creative Kit 2016 collection from the days when Skylum traded under the name of Macphun.

The Tonality Mega B&W Pack has been created for Luminar, Skylum’s image editing and raw conversion powerhouse application cum plug-in, available in versions for macOS and Windows. 

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Skylum’s film simulation subset of the Tonality Mega B&W Pack presets pack for Luminar.

I have been hoping for some time that the many excellent film simulations, photochemical toning looks, HDR renderings and more would find their way from Tonality CK into Luminar so the arrival of the Tonality Mega B&W Pack for Luminar is welcome indeed.

The Tonality Mega B&W Pack can be traced back to the Nik Collection’s Silver Efex through Creative Kit 2016’s Tonality CK component via the Nik Software company, several of whose former employees joined Macphun.

Google bought Nik and thus the Nik Collection, apparently for the sake of the company’s Snapseed mobile and desktop image editing application.

Google discontinued the desktop version, sadly, then sold Nik Collection to DxO where it is being developed as a set of Photoshop plug-ins and soon, hopefully, as a plug-in for DxO PhotoLab.

The free Tonality preset collection for Skylum’s Luminar image editing software

Skylum’s Luminar is undergoing development in leaps and bounds with an artificial intelligence-driven Sky Enhancer filter being released shortly, followed not long afterwards by the long-awaited Luminar Libraries module aka media management application that will be released free.

Recent and coming Luminar upgrades are being built with AI technologies developed by Skylum side project Photolemur, an application useful in its own right especially when batch processing large sets of images from events.

I am very excited by the potential of the Tonality Mega B&W Pack for processing raw images I visualized as monochrome when shooting.

Although several image editing applications and plug-ins contain film simulations, can import film simulation styles  and presets or are based entirely upon them, having them contained within Luminar in the form of the Tonality preset pack is handy for keeping it within the same application rather than jumping from one to another and back again.

Tonality Mega B&W Pack contains ten preset categories and over 170 monochrome looks and styles:

  • Tonality Street
  • Tonality Vintage
  • Tonality Toning
  • Tonality Dramatic
  • Tonality Film Emulation
  • Tonality Outdoor
  • Tonality Portrait
  • Tonality Architecture
  • Tonality Basic
  • Tonality HDR

I hope that the Skylum team will look into releasing emulations of great colour films of the past as well as a range of silver-based and non-silver printing processes.

Meanwhile I am excited by the prospect of trying out the Tonality Mega B&W Pack, especially in combining emulations of some of my favourite classic monochrome films with emulations of some of my favourite monochrome split-toning processes.

I visualize, photograph and process my work in monochrome when the colour in the subject and the scene does not serve to convey useful information and emotion, but often choose to process my monochrome images in ways that communicate emotions and informational subtleties swamped by colour.

Example, Tonality Mega B&W Pack in Skylum Luminar 2018

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A quick and dirty sample documentary photograph shot tonight then quickly processed in Skylum Luminar 2018 with Tonality Mega B&W Pack using Ilford Pan F 50 ISO film emulation and gold/selenium split toning.

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Jim Nix: Mastering Aurora HDR 2018

“Learn how to use Aurora HDR 2018 to create stunning and powerful photos. Learn tips and tricks for better HDR photos, follow my editing workflow ideas, and master this powerful image editing tool.”

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Macphun Announces Aurora HDR 2018 for Pre-Order Right Now for Release September 28, on Mac and Windows

Macphun has announced it is now accepting pre-orders for the latest version of its high dynamic range image editing software Aurora HDR. Aurora HDR 2018 is scheduled for release on September 28 and will be launched with a big, impressive set of new features, improved current features, new and improved tools and filters, and a more sophisticated user interface as well as a 200% speed boost. 

Aurora HDR 2017 will be available for Mac and Windows, and both versions can be pre-ordered right now at a 60% discount along with bonuses.

As with Macphun’s other products, Aurora HDR 2018 can be used in its standalone version or as a plug-in or external editor for a range of popular image editing applications, supports raw files as well other common file formats and exports to PSD (Mac-only), TIFF, PNG, GIF, JPEG and JPEG 2000 as well as to other Macphun products.

Aurora HDR 2018 User Interface, Tools and Features

Macphun’s Aurora HDR 2018 high dynamic range image processing software is the most sophisticated and feature-rich of its kind, and has persuaded me to create a growing proportion of my stills photography work in HDR. Each version of Aurora keeps getting better.
The HDR brackets import dialog offers Ghost Reduction and Chromatic Aberration removal options, both of which I choose especially when shooting HDR brackets handheld or of scenes containing moving objects. Aurora HDR does a great job of ghosts removal, giving me the confidence to shoot almost anything anywhere as HDR even when I am not carrying a tripod.
I first started seriously looking into HDR imaging when working on a short video project involving applying the Ken Burns effect on a long series of stills images shot in hard sunlight in the tropics. I was disappointed by the inability of non-HDR photographs to retain a long dynamic range, leading to near-black shadows without enough detail to justify a camera move into those areas. The HDR software of the time was not sophisticated enough for what I visualized. Then, Macphun released the first version of Aurora HDR.
Aurora HDR 2018 comes with plenty of realistic and beyond realistic presets, and a straight, unedited HDR multi-bracket merge might be exactly what you want without any further image editing. The choice is yours.
One of the most exciting new features in Aurora HDR 2018 is its manual Lens Correction tool. When using previous versions of Aurora, I would export TIFF files to DxO ViewPoint 3 to apply automatic profile-based lens corrections. Having Lens Correction in the new version means avoiding that extra, external step to keep your files fully editable within Aurora HDR 2018 alone. I am hoping that lens-based corrections will find their way into future versions of Aurora and Luminar.
Aurora HDR 2018’s new Transform Tool allows corrections to perspective and other attributes in a way that needed to be done by exporting TIFF files to external editors like DxO ViewPoint 3. Now we can keep it all within Aurora and eliminate those extra steps.
Aurora HDR 2018’s History panel is another very welcome new feature in this version, allowing you to backtrack and refine your edits in the same way as History panels in other image editing software like Photoshop.

Before and After, Naturalistic and Enhanced

With Aurora HDR 2018’s new capacity to create an acceptably naturalistic HDR merge before you apply presets or controls, you cam choose a wide range of looks for each image from mildly realist through to wildly surrealistic, as illustrated by the following images from Macphun’s Aurora HDR 2018 press pack.

If Aurora HDR 2018’s over one hundred tools and editing features are not enough, you can export your images directly into Luminar as a plug-in for even more editing tools, presets and more extreme looks again.

Lone Yucca, White Sands, by Alik Griffin

Moraine Lake, by Jim Nix

Dubai, by Dima Sytnik

Using Aurora HDR

Based on the lovely landscape and travel photographs most software developers use to promote the products’ capabilities, I am not their typical user.

My photography practice centres on documentary genres in monochrome and naturalistic colour, on portraiture, on scene-setting cityscapes and street photography to keep my visual reflexes in order in between documentary projects.

I have yet to produce a sunrise or sunset landscape like the many fine examples Macphun uses to show off its excellent Aurora HDR and Luminar raw processing and image editing software.

But I do use both Macphun products for all the genres and subjects un which I work, as well as the company’s Creative Kit, and I am increasingly shooting portraits and product shots as multiple bracket HDR images.

Although I have some excellent LED lights for stills and video in the form of a Rotolight Neo 3 Light Kit, I often need to quickly grab fast but good quality portraits or product shots with camera and lens only, handheld.

Since its inception Aurora has been adept at handling handheld HDR brackets, automatically erasing the effect of movement between frames aka “ghosting”.

Each successive revision of Aurora has made it easier to avoid HDR’s more blatantly surreal effects, adding controls and presets permitting more subtlety, increased realism.

Aurora HDR 2017 was key in that regard, persuading me to shoot almost all my product shots as HDR images, all the better to deep dive into the textures, materials and construction of the objects depicted.

Early forays into handheld HDR portraiture bore encouraging fruit and the arrival of Aurora HDR 2018 with even more improvements in more real than real image processing now have me planning an environmental and head-and-shoulders portrait project.

The photographs in this project will initially be handheld and consist of three to five brackets, but I am itching to try seven and even nine brackets under challenging lighting conditions to learn whether that will reveal even more information and a visual richness not achievable by any other means.

Having tried out 3 Legged Thing’s Equinox Leo micro-traveller tripod some time ago, the same company’s taller Albert travel tripod is looking appealing so that I can stand face-to-face with my subjects or a little higher art lower as demanded by an environmental portraiture approach.

I will be working on new HDR photographs in several of my favourite genres – portraiture, still life, urban documentary – over the coming weeks and look forward to sharing the results in other articles on Aurora HDR 2018 as well as using them to illustrate articles on production hardware.

First images processed in Aurora HDR 2018

These first stumbling steps into Aurora HDR 2018 reveal new possibilities and some major improvements over its predecessors that I will continue to explore over the coming weeks and months.

I have been wanting to explore new directions in photography for some time, other ways of making images more related to what I experienced of painting and the other fine arts way back in art school compared to the film-simulations-influenced way I usually default to when processing digital photographs.

One thing I am really happy about is how Aurora HDR 2018 is not subject to halos in the skies like previous versions. In the photograph of the garage, Aurora HDR 2017 would always render distinct halos around the power lines and now there are no halos at all!

Another thing I really like about Aurora HDR 2018 is how good the initial tone mapping looks, how naturalistic it is. It is a great starting point from which to explore realism or surrealism with further manipulations within Aurora based on what works best to support the ideas and emotions I want to express.

Links

Macphun: New Aurora HDR 2018. Coming soon. (For macOS and Windows)

https://aurorahdr.com/2018#

“The strikingly beautiful, amazingly powerful, and finally cross-platform HDR photo editor that helps you make HDR photos you’ll really love. Watch video…

… Cross-platform

Enjoy an amazing HDR experience, no matter what kind of computer you use….”