“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….”
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
Australian cinematographer/director Paul Leeming with his Blackmagic Design Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K, 8Sinn cage and Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 Art zoom lens attached with Metabones Speed Booster EF-to-MFT adapter.
“… Try to think about Dolby Vision as a funnel. The HDR grade is the wide end of the funnel: a high dynamic range (HDR), large color gamut, and possibly high resolution and frame rate moving image.
The Dolby Vision process analyzes your HDR grade (in the grading software), creates some metadata, and a Dolby Content Mapping Unit (CMU) reads the metadata produced by the analysis process. The metadata is embedded over SDI and in real-time the CMU creates a Standard Dynamic Range (SDR) version of the project….
… I know this is going to sound funny, but by starting with the HDR grade and deriving an SDR grade from that through the Dolby Vision process, I feel like I’m getting better SDR grades than I would have if I did the SDR version alone….”
That MixingLight’s Robbie Carman is achieving better Standard Dynamic Range grades by starting off with a High Dynamic Range grade is not funny at all – this result has been reported for some time before he wrote his still-relevant article.
Although I do not currently have access to the means to shoot or post-produce in Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision, Mr Carman’s excellent three-part article is proving invaluable in better understanding the how, why and wherefor of two key Dolby Laboratories technologies that have found their way onto contemporary 4K television sets, Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision.
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.
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
Skylum Aurora HDR provides the most feature-complete set of controls for merging and styling multiple-bracket and single-frame high dynamic range images.
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.
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
2017 version of Aurora HDR, 3-exposure brackets, with optical corrections applied in DxO ViewPoint.
Skylum Aurora HDR 2019, 3-exposure brackets. Note the absence of the halos in the sky that often appeared when editing in previous versions of Aurora and other brands of HDR applications. Impressive!
Previous image further edited in Skylum Luminar 2018 with a little Golden Hour, Foliage Enhancer, Micro-contrast and Vignette applied. A much better rendition of how this scene looked and especially felt on the day.
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
Straight tone mapping, no further processing, shot in extremely hard available light without benefit of supplementary lighting or even bounce boards.
Minimal colour contrast, HDR details and vignette on two layers on top. Photograph made with Fujifilm X-Pro2 and Fujinon XF 56mm f/1.2 R lens.
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.
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.
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.
“The latest incarnation of the famous Atomos Ninja line is here. Seven years after the world’s most popular portable Apple ProRes recorders burst onto the scene, Atomos is delighted to introduce Ninja V – an all new compact 5.2″ 1000nit high bright HDR monitor/recorder with unrivalled advanced features. It has a sleek modern design and weighs just over 11oz…”
“… Whether you’re new to shooting and delivering in HDR, or have been practicing for a while, the Panasonic GH5S with V-Log L enabled provides a fantastic starting point for an all-HDR10 workflow. From monitoring what you’re shooting in HDR10 to delivering your content through the color grading process, the LUTs and workflow we’ve created will accelerate your ability to leverage HDR10 on nearly any size budget…”
Production and equipment rental company Mystery Box, LLC has published a number of articles about aspects of shooting and post-producing HDR video that are useful reading for those needing to dig deep into how to get the best out of it all.
Mystery Box – HDR Video Part 1: What is HDR Video? – “HDR video is as much of a revolution and leap forward as the jump from analog standard definition, to digital 4K.” – Excellent 5-part series on working with HDR video.
Clicking on these affiliate links helps us continue our work for ‘Untitled: Stories of Creativity, Innovation, Success’.
Angelbird 64GB AV Pro UHS-II SDXC Memory Card – B&H
Angelbird 128GB AV Pro UHS-II SDXC Memory Card – B&H
Angelbird 256GB Match Pack for the Panasonic EVA1 – B&H – special promotional packaging of two Angelbird 128GB AV Pro UHS-II SDXC memory cards that are just as usable in other cameras than the AU-EVA1 that also have UHS-II SD card slots.
Angelbird Atomos Master Caddy 4K RAW (500GB) – B&H
When a documentary video or photography project about people involved in creativity and innovation is not in the offing, what else is there to do other than picking up the latest review loaner, placing another review loaner upon it then jumping on a train to head off for the closest reasonably busy suburban shopping destination the afternoon of New Year’s Eve 2017?
Panasonic Australia’s media relations people kindly couriered over a GH5 just before Christmas, shortly after Guerrilla, formerly Miller & Schneider, sent over its G-Cup for GH5, and the G-Cup has been permanently fixed to the GH5 ever since.
It is still early days for me with the Guerrilla C-Cup but this first serious foray into shooting with it was a success.
New Year’s Eve 2017 was a hot and muggy day with constantly changing low-angle light filtering through the glare of a cloudy sky in Sydney’s northern suburb of Chatswood.
A Brisk New Year’s Eve Walk Through Chatswood with a Lumix GH5 and a Guerrilla G-Cup for GH5
DxO Optics Pro Elite with its companion applications cum plug-ins DxO FilmPack and DxO ViewPoint was the first dedicated raw file processor I bought after being less than impressed with Adobe’s Camera Raw of the time.
The DxO combination has been my raw processing benchmark provided, that is, the raw files in question are not Fujifilm X-Trans non-Bayer raw as DxO’s code base sadly only supports Bayer sensors.
This set of images was processed with DxO’s Agfa Scala 200x analog film simulation and selenium/gold split toning to emphasize the heat and light of my walk through those gritty streets.
Even the light indoors in the shopping centres and arcades both upmarket and down seared my eyes as it shafted through the skylights and windows into the gloomy lower floors below.
Agfa Scala 200x, intended for processing as a transparency film, was discontinued in 2010 and the closest extant film is reportedly Adox Silvermax.
The Guerrilla G-Cup for Panasonic GH5
I was glad of the way Guerrilla’s G-Cup for the GH5 shielded the edges of my eyes in those searing shafts of light so I could peer more effectively into the darkness.
More importantly, the G-Cup did exactly what Guerilla’s product page text promised it would:
The G-Cup is a replacement eyecup designed to fit the electronic viewfinder of the Panasonic GH5. It enhances the clarity, comfort, and stability of your camera by securely attaching to the EVF to block out light and provide a comfortable cushion for firm pressure and improved handheld stability.
Custom-designed and optimized for each camera, the G-Cup adds very little weight, and it perfectly compliments the camera’s shape and balance. It enables run-and-gun shooting with your camera stripped-down, right out of the box.
That run-and-gun shooting experience is important to me with the GH5 and its DSLR-style form factor that is so different from the types of cameras I usually prefer for stills photography, rangefinder and rangefinder-style cameras like Panasonic’s GX8 and Fujifilm’s X-Pro2.
I am right at home with those two cameras for the urban documentary approach I applied to my walk around Chatswood on New Year’s Eve, 2017.
The G-Cup made the GH5 look and feel like something very different, a marksman’s sight for peering distantly at the target and that feeling was underscored by my choice of lens, the Panasonic Lumix G 25mm f/1.7 Aspheric.
I received the 25mm f/1.7 with my Panasonic Lumix GX8 during an end-of-year promotion and it is currently one of my fastest Micro Four Thirds lenses.
Its 25mm focal length is not one I would have chosen to buy as I tend to shoot documentary stills with wider or longer focal lengths – in M43 they are 14mm, 17mm, 20mm and 42.5mm and in 35mm format they are 28mm, 35mm, 40mm and 85mm.
For documentary video as well as stills, I am very tempted by the Olympus M.Zuiko Pro f/1.2 prime lenses range and its 17mm, 25mm and 45mm focal lengths with their manual clutch focus capability, crucial for accurate and repeatable manual focussing and focus pulling.
Panasonic’s fast little Lumix G f/1.7 primes are a different proposition, better suited to autofocus and one carrying on M43’s initial promise of smaller, lighter, more affordable cameras and lenses as well as more discretion when shooting in public.
For that they are well-matched with Panasonic’s GX8, a camera that is the height of discretion due to its unique tilting electronic viewfinder, which I hope will soon be updated as the GX9.
I have tried using the fully-articulated monitor on Lumix cameras in lieu of the GX8 tilting EVF’s waist level finder effect, but success is dependent on being able to shield the monitor from the sun or in having a main subject lit brightly enough.
I recently bought SmallRig’s LCD Screen Protector to try when shooing video in challenging light and needing to have the camera low rather than eye level on a tripod or gimbal, though it may be unwieldy for run-and-gun stills and video.
“Apple has gone ahead and and released what can only be described as a humungous update for Final Cut Pro, including the ability to edit 360° video, advanced color grading tools like curves and wheels, look up tables without the need to use third-party plug-ins, support for high dynamic range video and a whole bunch more….
… But while on the surface, the UI looks reassuringly familiar, those who shoot HLG for rec. 709 delivery using the Leeming LUT may be in for some unpleasant surprises….”
“We’ve just got back from the Apple Presentation that’s part of the FCPX Creative Summit and we have some great news about 10.4 to share. New colour tools including wheels & curves and 360 tools built in….”
Some interesting acronyms and abbreviations from this article: