Numerous photo-editing applications are designed to adjust image quality. Whether you’re seeking to brighten a photo, correct simple exposure problems, or apply professional-appearing filters, many options are available, from macOS’ beefed up Photos to such heavyweights as Adobe’s Photoshop. Macphun offers a few choices, and its Aurora HDR platform packs several new compelling tools within its 2018 refresh.

Primary among Aurora HDR 2018’s features is its ability to process bracketed HDR files. For those unfamiliar, many digital cameras can create bracketed HDR photos, which collect multiple exposures of the same image. A compatible photo-editing process or application, such as Aurora HDR 2018, can stitch all three images into a single image while simultaneously correcting for exposure issues, resulting in better quality photos.

Aurora HDR 2018, which earned Editor’s Choice designation within Apple’s App Store, creates HDR photos from a single file, as well as enables applying a range of edits and filters. The program, and its default filters, can significantly shorten the time required to brighten or darken photos, as required, while intensifying or manipulating different scenes, as might be desired.

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Will you use the program to generate high-quality photos for a four-color magazine? Probably not, although it’s possible. Most advertising, branding, communications, design, marketing, and public relations professionals will find that the reasonably priced program makes it easy to tweak photos for blogs, social media posts, and websites without having to become a digital software manipulation expert. A full license costs $99, and discounted upgrades are available, with the price varying on where and from whom you purchased your original license.

Aurora HDR has always offered these capabilities, including when I described how to edit bracketed photos using the program late last year. The 2018 edition adds several new improvements, including faster bracket merging, masking, and RAW image processing performance. The new version improves tone mapping and includes access to 2018 version-specific how-to videos for common actions.

Here’s a list of some of the new important tools that are packed into the Aurora HDR 2018.

  • A lens-correction tool–accessed via icon from within the side panel’s Filters section–helps compensate for common lens distortion problems, including barrel and pin cushion issues.
  • A transform tool–accessed via icon from within the side panel’s Filters section–provides individual slide bar adjustments for rotating and adjusting a photo’s vertical, horizontal, aspect, and scale elements.
  • An HDR Enhancer–located within the side panel’s HDR Basic subsection–presents a single slide bar control for adjusting a variety of HDR image foundations, including lighting and detail, simultaneously.
  • A Dodge & Burn console–a side panel Filters subsection slider control–provides selective fine-tuning of an image’s lightness and darkness elements.
  • A history panel view–accessed via icon from the main Aurora HDR menu–tracks changes made to images and permits reverting to specific versions created as edits occurred.

Considering Aurora HDR 2018 can also be loaded as a plug-in for Adobe Photoshop and Photoshop Elements, Adobe Lightroom, Apple Aperture, and macOS Photos, the tool is a capable application for novices and professionals alike. With numerous filter presets included within nine default categories, users will likely find no additional filters or textures are required, although Macphun makes them available, if desired. Macphun states that a fall 2017 update will enable porting Aurora HDR 2017 presets to the new 2018 version.

Free trials are available, so you might give it a try on your Mac.

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A Windows version is available, though not all Mac features and tools are available yet in the Windows edition. A wide variety of file formats, including JPG, JPEG, PNG, TIFF, and RAW, are supported. System requirements call for an Intel 64-bit Core 2 Duo or better processor, 4GB or more RAM, 2GB or more free disk space, and Yosemite 10.10.5 or newer.