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Last updated on March 6th, 2024

Note: This product is now replaced by Luminar NEO and the HDR Merge extension.


One of the most effective ways to capture and edit a dynamic scene is with HDR Photography.

What is Aurora HDR?

Aurora HDR is a photography application that merges bracketed photos to create one single HDR image. It helps recover the highlights and shadows through a process called tone mapping.

What is HDR Photography?

This Aurora HDR review will go over the basics of the high-dynamic-range editing software developed by Skylum (formerly Macphun and creators of Luminar 4), as well as my first impressions. I’ll let you know what I believe are the most essential features.

I should first point out that the software is a direct competitor to the main HDR program I use, Photomatix. Therefore, I was a bit hesitant about the quality of Aurora HDR since HDRSoft’s Photomatix was known to be the king of HDR tone-mapped images.

Aurora HDR was first introduced in 2015. Until now, I haven’t used it for the reason mentioned above. But I thought I would give it a chance, especially since it now had a few years to improve.

The last major release of the software was Aurora HDR 2019, and it is still going strong. There have been no other major releases, but the software still receives maintenance updates. It still tops our list of the best HDR software.

Basic Review of How Aurora HDR 2019 Works

Aurora HDR 2019 has many features and filters to produce high-quality HDR photos.

Here are some of the main highlights of the software.

Quantum HDR Engine

The main hype around Aurora HDR 2019 is its new Quantum HDR Engine technology. Cool name, right? Consequently, it sounds like a neat marketing strategy.

Nonetheless, I’ll bite.

According to Skylum, they tested thousands of bracketed photos which provided the results to develop the Quantum HDR Engine.

What this means is that the patent-pending AI-powered technology helps reduce problems that many HDR software have: ghosting, halos, noise, color burn, chromatic aberration, and loss of contrast.

Smart Tone

Use Smart Tone to intelligently brighten or darken your photo without modifying the areas that are already bright or dark. It’s a quick way to make your HDR image look vivid.

HDR Smart Structure

The HDR Smart Structure feature allows you to add more detail, texture, and depth to your image. Be careful not to overuse this feature, as it can make your image look overcooked.

Color Grading

Make enhanced color adjustments and give your photos an aesthetic look with LUT mapping. The software comes with preinstalled LUTs, or you can load your own LUTs.

Aurora HDR Looks

Probably the best feature is the Aurora HDR Looks, which is just another name for presets. There are several high-quality presets that accompany Aurora HDR. You can also download my free Aurora HDR Looks.

Image Radiance

This feature allows you to add more vibrant colors by increasing global contrast. With slight use of image radiance, you can give your image a utopian or dreamy feel.

Aurora HDR Includes Plugins

The benefit of plugins is that it speeds up editing workflows. Unfortunately, the initial installation of Aurora HDR on your computer doesn’t automatically install the Lightroom and Photoshop plugins.

How to Install Lightroom and Photoshop Plugins

  • Open Aurora HDR
  • On Mac, select Aurora HDRInstall Plugins
  • On PC, select FileInstall Plugins

Example of 3 bracketed photos that I edited in Aurora HDR 2019

I photographed these images in Tikal, Guatemala. The first 3 images have exposure values of 0, -1, and +1. The fourth image is the final HDR image. I tried to make this image look realistic by making simple adjustments in Aurora HDR without being too creative. You can also watch the YouTube video of this demo.

aurora hdr example 1
aurora hdr example 2
aurora hdr example 3
aurora hdr example final image


At the time of writing this, the price of Aurora HDR 2019 is $99. You can use discount code aperlust for a $10 discount.


I have to say that I’m very impressed with Aurora HDR 2019, even as far as saying that it’s better than Photomatix.

I really can’t find any mentionable cons with the software. Maybe the manual work to install the Lightroom and Photoshop plugins is a nuisance for some photographers. Or that it doesn’t have a sharpening tool – which is quickly resolved in Lightroom and Photoshop. Of course, I shouldn’t assume you have LR or PS.

With the multiple features mentioned above, including the benefits of adjustment layers and masking brushes, this software is worth buying for your high-dynamic-range photography.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Aurora HDR?

Aurora HDR is the perfect choice for photographers and digital artists who need to achieve top-notch results in their high dynamic range images. It offers a comprehensive set of creative tools that allow users to optimize, edit, and enhance their photos with speed and precision.

With an easy-to-use interface, expertly designed presets, one-click presets, intelligent tone mapping algorithms, and exclusive macros and layers, Aurora HDR has everything you need to take your photos to the next level. Whether you’re an experienced pro or a budding enthusiast learning the ropes, this powerful software will enable you to create breathtaking HDR images with ease.

Is Aurora HDR discontinued?

Aurora HDR was a powerful yet easy-to-use image editor, admired and used by many professional photographers around the world.

Unfortunately, the time has come for its journey to come to an end, with Aurora HDR reaching its end of life in mid-2022. This means that any new user won’t be able to purchase the program with existing users still having access to the software.

Taking its place is Luminar NEO — an advanced photo editor created by the Skylum team offering more excellent tools and presets than ever before. It also comes with noise reduction, lens correction, and exceptional raw editing capabilities for users to finish off their photos in no time at all.

So although we start to bid farewell to one of our beloved programs, a new exciting era begins.

Is Aurora HDR better than Lightroom?

The debate between Aurora HDR and Lightroom has been raging for years now. Aurora HDR is the market leader in HDR photo editing, offering complete control over individual color profiles and lighting effects that give your images breathtaking richness and depth. For more detail, read the full Aurora HDR review in this guide.

On the other hand, Lightroom offers a powerful yet more straightforward solution for all kinds of editing jobs. It’s streamlined interface permits users to quickly adjust brightness levels, clarity, saturation, and more within an intuitive workflow.

The choice between these two depends on your individual needs; whether you’re looking for detailed manipulation of an image or a basic edit to improve its overall appearance, there’s a perfect solution out there. With such remarkable choices available, it can be hard to choose — but one thing’s for sure: whether you decide on Aurora HDR or Lightroom, you’ll be sure to get great results.

Is Aurora HDR any good?

If you’re a serious photographer looking for the right tool to help bring your photos to the next level, Aurora HDR should be at the top of your list. This powerful piece of photo editing software is trusted by some of the most influential photographers making waves today, providing them with all the tools they need to produce truly stunning visual masterpieces.

With its intuitive yet feature-rich interface and unmatched power, you can make any photograph shine like never before. Plus, with plenty of creative options to explore and experiment with, it promises endless opportunities for creativity. For more information, read the full Aurora HDR review on in this post.

Is Aurora HDR better than Affinity Photo?

When it comes to editing photos and digital imaging, lots of people are keen to find out whether Aurora HDR or Affinity Photo is better. Both programs offer a comprehensive suite of features, allowing users to create stunning images at the click of a button.

However, the finest details set these two apart. With features like layer masking and HDR merge, Aurora stands out as the more sophisticated and innovative choice for advanced HDR image processing tasks.

Affinity Photo also has amazing tools for photo retouching and is more similar to Lightroom, but Aurora’s cutting-edge layering capabilities make it the most potent choice for complex HDR manipulations.

Ultimately, deciding which one is better will depend upon your own experience and abilities — so go ahead and explore each program’s extensive feature set to see which one suits you best.

Vincent Croos
About the Author: Vincent Croos

Hola Parceros,

I’m the founder of Aperlust. I enjoy web development and SEO and am into snowboarding and linguistics. In my spare time, you can find me destroying my opponents in chess across the globe.

Aurora HDR 2019
Aurora HDR Review

Edit bracketed photos with Aurora HDR 2019 by Skylum. This Aurora HDR review covers the highlights and will let you know if it's worth buying.

Price: 99

Price Currency: USD

Operating System: PC, Mac

Application Category: Photography

Editor's Rating:

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