Macphun’s Luminar and Aurora HDR
If you’re always on the lookout for new ways to improve your photography and create the best images, you’ll have heard of Macphun and their range of editing software. I tested out two of their products – Luminar and Aurora HDR – and have put together this review of their features, usefulness and quality. Be sure to keep reading if you’re thinking about investing in some top-notch editing software.
HDR is an incredibly useful tool when used correctly, and it is crucial to have high-quality, powerful editing software that will best combine your images and bring out important details. Aurora HDR is the primary software of choice for most users who have tried it, but how can it change your photography? The first thing that you need to bear in mind is that it is only available for Mac, and your Mac should have reasonably decent specs. With that slightly inconvenient hurdle behind us, we can take a closer look at Aurora HDR and its features. The latest version is packed with powerful and intuitive tools that are designed to easily create the specific effect you want, whether that’s a dramatic, highly processed look or a natural and realistic image.
The software is available as a Pro version for $99 (shop it here), with massive post production and editing features, particularly the RAW support, unlimited layers, and Trey Ratcliff’s set of HDR presets. Upon opening Aurora HDR, you can upload either a set of bracketed images or a single image, and will be presented with three options: alignment, ghost reduction and chromatic aberration reduction. Once the imaged is merged and opened, you can make all adjustments easily, with a specific-to-HDR workflow that appears very similar to Adobe Lightroom.
Down the right side, you will have access to all of the tools, as well as the preset groups, which include any you choose to create yourself. I found the presets to be a solid starting point from which to work, making it quicker and easier to tweak more detailed preferences. Admittedly, the presets do tend to be on the stronger, more processed side, so it is often a case of selecting the right combination of which preset suits your image, and toning it down for subtlety. The tools, as mentioned earlier, are very intuitive, meaning you should quickly become comfortable with the full range, which includes Tone, Structure, Radiance, Details and Color. While working, you can choose from options along the top bar to compare before and after images for adjustments, either by setting them up side by side or by using split screen.
The quarrel many photographers have with HDR comes as a result of the garish, overdone images that are often far too conspicuous. While these have their own place in the world of art, Aurora HDR makes it easier than ever to combine HDR with a natural, realistic effect that appears barely tampered with. The application is certainly not perfect, with slower processing on lower end computers and easy loss of detail by overworking images, but any quality software requires a little practice and testing before you can become comfortable with quickly applying adjustments. With this in mind, Aurora HDR is a neat little app that brings HDR blending to the next level for a very reasonable price.
Like Aurora HDR, Luminar Neptune is available for $69 (shop it here) and is also limited to Mac only, although both are rumored to have Windows versions in the works. Luminar is a powerful, effective photo editor that aims to make the editing process both simple and fun. With easy-to-use tools and convenient sliders for the various aspects of editing, it’s pretty successful. The first thing that strikes you when launching Luminar is how clean and refined the whole application looks, allowing editing to become less complex without taking away the ability to fine tune individual preferences. It even works to make secondary adjustments for you while you change certain details such as contrast or shadow adjustments to ensure that the whole image retains the desired look.
The latest version of Luminar also has added features designed specifically for aerial photographers, and uses tools powered by artificial intelligence to enhance your DJI drone images. There is an aerial photography workspace that is full of various tools, including Dehaze and a dedicated Whites / Blacks filter. The Accent – AI filter is particularly striking, with the ability to quickly adjust colors and structures to bring life to aerial shots. What’s more, the software has been tested with RAW files from the Mavic Pro, Phantom Pro and other DJI drones, meaning it is easy to upload and work with your footage from the minute you get home.
I have created multiple presets of my own on Luminar based on the issues I find most regularly, and not only is it easy to make individual adjustments after applying presets, but all of the editing work is non-destructive. This means you can play around with adjustments and effects without worrying about pixel changes being permanent, as with older software and Photoshop’s legacy controls. This makes it significantly easier to either revert back to the original or to alter previously made changes without having to backtrack through various tools. Luminar also allows you to create your own customized Workspaces, which are collections of adjustment filters that you can group together to save time and effort when editing similar types of images.
Both Luminar Neptune and Aurora HDR are highly intuitive programs that I believe will change the way we work with image editing. By creating software that focuses less on complex details and more on powerful effects, Macphun have provided photographers with the opportunity to re-evaluate and refine their editing processes. Ultimately, the software we use should not be a comfortable remnant of the past, but an innovative step towards the future.
Credit & Copyright pictures:
MacPhun Software / Brazil before & after Aurora by: Dmitry Sytnik
before & after Luminar Neptun by: Jose Ramos