Bracketing—i.e., capturing multiple photographic copies of the same image in which each copy possesses different camera settings—extends the abilities of advertisers, marketers, and other creative professionals to produce attractive photos. By collecting different exposures, for example, you can leverage a Mac to blend a set of images possessing different lighting characteristics into a single photo tweaked for optimum impact.
Macphun's Aurora HDR 2017 application ($89) is a powerful post-production editing tool that simplifies melding bracketed photos. The program also makes it easy to apply one of numerous preset filters to images to immediately create more striking, dreamy, dramatic, lighter, darker, or subtly refined photos, depending upon the need at hand.
Aurora HDR 2017 requires a Mac possessing an Intel Core 2 Duo CPU from late 2009 or newer, 4 GB RAM, OS X 10.10.5 or newer, and 2 GB free disk space. The program also supports Retina displays and can be used as a Lightroom, Photoshop and Photoshop Elements, and Apple Aperture plug-in. JPG, JPEG, PNG, TIFF, and RAW files are supported.
To create a single HDR file within Aurora HDR 2017 that combines a set of bracketed photos, open the application, click the Load Image(s) button, and select the images from your bracketed set. Alternatively, you can drag-and-drop the bracketed images onto the Aurora HDR 2017 Load Image(s) box; Aurora HDR 2017 will display the images—click Create HDR to proceed.
Once the single image is created from the bracketed set within Aurora, a series of predefined filters appear at the bottom of the application. Scrolling right-to-left reveals various filters within the selected category. Filter categories include Basic, Realistic HDR, Landscape, Dramatic, Trey Ratcliff Presets, Captain Kimo Presets, Serge Ramelli Presets, Indoor, and Architecture. Scrolling and selecting a filter changes the preview displayed within the application's main pane—just click different filters to see and gauge their impact on the photo. Reversing a filter is as simple as clicking Undo.
Once bracketed images are melded within a single HDR file and a filter is applied, you can edit numerous settings within the Aurora file, including exposure, contrast, tone, highlights, and shadows. Creating a new JPG is easy—just click File, select Export to Image, and confirm JPG is selected within the format drop-down box. The application also enables exporting images as PNG, GIF, TIFF, Photoshop, and PDF files.
A one-two punch with Luminar
Combined with Macphun's standalone Luminar program, creative professionals now possess a capable one-two punch that can significantly reduce the time it takes to edit and tweak photos. The new $59 Luminar application, which is exclusive to Macs, offers an adaptive user interface that provides an additional set of filters, processing, and tuning features.
Luminar possesses the same system requirements as Aurora HDR 2017. However, Macphun recommends using a late 2012 or newer Mac with an Intel Core i5 CPU and 8 GB RAM, as well as 15 GB free space on an SSD drive.
Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president of Eckel Media Corp., a communications company specializing in public relations and technical authoring projects.