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If you’ve ever tried your hand at real estate or architecture photography, you know that these are two of the most complicated forms of photography out there. The challenge is due mostly to having to balance out shadows created by harsh or uneven lighting. Thus, it’s no wonder that High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography is one of the most-used techniques for capturing real estate and architecture photos.
Before I go any further, let’s make it clear that this article is not about defining what HDR photography is or debating its merits. There is a myriad of arguments for and against HDR, but let’s save those are for another article. For now, let’s talk about Aurora HDR 2018 and how it might help you capture and process better HDR images.
If you’ve made HDR images using other photo editing programs such as Adobe Photoshop, you’ve probably had trouble figuring out how to use the software. One of the best features of Aurora HDR is that it is very stripped down, presenting you with only a few essential options that you can select to create your image. This greatly reduces your learning curve and makes it easy to get started immediately.
Speaking of other photo editing programs, you can use them in conjunction with Aurora HDR. It’s very easy to do. When you install Aurora HDR 2018 you can set it up to work both as a standalone program, or as a plugin for Lightroom, Photoshop, and others.
Historically, you’ve always needed to shoot bracketed images with a tripod to make sure they’re all aligned before merging them into a single HDR image. Not so with Aurora HDR. Thanks to their handy Alignment feature, Aurora HDR can automatically align your bracketed images (more on this in #2 below). This means that you don’t necessarily need to capture brackets with a tripod.
Of course, your images should be relatively aligned beforehand, but you don’t need the pinpoint accuracy that you used to need with other HDR photo editing programs.
When you first open Aurora HDR, you’re presented with a straightforward dialogue box that offers you three options (as seen in the screenshot above).
a) Open Image – In the very center is a button labeled “Open Image.” You can click on the button to select your images, or drag and drop them.
b) Batch Processing – If you have multiple sets of bracketed shots that you want to process all at once, drag and drop them into the Batch Processing dialogue box! Aurora HDR is intuitive enough to sort through the batch of files for you and automatically detect and match up your bracketed images.
c) Open Sample Image – This is a blue hyperlink below the “Open Image” button that you’ll probably only use the very first time you’re getting your feet wet with Aurora HDR. It exists mainly for demonstration purposes.
For now, let’s assume you chose to Open Images (or, in the demo screenshots below, Load Sample Images). After doing so, another dialogue box appears with just a few options. The Alignment option is visible, and the others pop up when you click on the “Additional Settings” button.
As mentioned above, checking the Alignment box will make sure all of your bracketed images line up properly. This means that you could possibly hand hold your camera while taking bracketed shots. But if you’re shooting a paid job, I’d still recommend shooting on a tripod to make sure you get the right shots, in perfect registration.
If you happen to have a moving subject in your HDR brackets, enable the Ghosts Reduction setting. This can minimize the effect of ghosting in which moving objects may appear translucent or ghost-like in your final image. For real estate and architecture photography, you’re unlikely to have moving subjects unless you’re incorporating people in your photo or you can see moving tree branches through a window.
Reduces the low-light noise in color pixels that can sometimes occur when merging photos together. This option is automatically enabled (as seen above), but you can shut it off if you wish.
It’s not unusual for real estate or architecture photos to have chromatic aberrations. Luckily, Aurora HDR has an option for minimizing the appearance of the purple and green glow along your image edges that is a clear indication of chromatic aberration.
After checking the settings, click on the blue Create HDR button, and wait for your images to merge. This is perhaps the only downside to Aurora HDR (or, the whole HDR process in general). It takes a minute or two for the images to be merged together, so sit tight!
Once Aurora HDR is done merging your photos, you’ll be presented with a more robust workspace where you can edit your HDR image further.
At the very bottom of the screen are a bunch of presets that you can choose to automatically adjust your image to a certain style. The Basic presets are selected by default, but if you click on the yellow “Categories” hyperlink, a bunch more will appear. For real estate, the Architecture presets are particularly helpful. Once you select a preset, you can adjust the amount to lessen or magnify the effect to your taste.
If you prefer to manually edit the photo with or without presets, use the far right panel where you’ll find basic photo editing tools. Scroll down to find even more editing tools such as Adjustment Layers and Dodge and Burn (more on these below).
Another fantastic feature of Aurora HDR is the ability to easily add Adjustment Layers in order to make targeted, non-destructive edits to your image. This is extremely useful in real estate and architecture photography, as you often need to make color and tonal adjustments to your image without inflicting permanent changes on the pixels.
For example, the image below illustrates the addition of an Adjustment Layer that targets the blue tinge in the staircase and chairs in the middle of the image, with the goal of color correction. Adjustment Layers also exist in Photoshop, and they function very similarly in Aurora HDR. The best part is that it is much more intuitive and easier to find in Aurora HDR than they are in Photoshop.
If you’ve upgraded to the brand new Aurora HDR 2018 version, you’ll find a couple of essential real estate photo editing tools that are much handier to access: Dodge and Burn Tools! If you’re unfamiliar with dodging and burning, you can read up on these photo editing processes in this dPS article.
In short, dodging helps you brighten targeted areas of an image while burning lets you darken them. Both techniques are essential for real estate photography retouching. In the new version of Aurora HDR, these tools are easily accessible in the right-hand panel. Simply scroll down to the “Dodge and Burn” panel and click on “Start Painting.” This will activate a few settings right above your image.
If HDR photography sounds interesting to you and you’re looking for an easier way to post-process your images, give Aurora HDR 2018 a shot! Its intuitive, clutter-free interface is relatively easy to learn and you can begin enhancing your real estate photos in no time.
Disclaimer: Macphun is a dPS advertising partner.