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Last updated on March 25th, 2023

Creative photographers, especially landscape photographers shooting during the twilight hours, love HDR photography. The workflow helps recover the detail in a dynamic scene, allowing human eyes to better view the image, including the usual overblown shadows and highlights.

In order to add HDR photography to your arsenal, you’ll need the best HDR software. This allows you to merge the bracketed photos in post-image editing and makes your image more aesthetic.

HDR programs use exposure fusion or tone-mapping to merge the photos. You can read about it more in the article: What is HDR Photography?

Best HDR Software

1. Aurora HDR

Aurora HDR software screenshot

Aurora HDR by Skylum has received several recognitions from HDR photographers all over the world. For photos that need more detail in the shadows and highlights, Aurora HDR is an excellent choice to address this concern. 

The Quantum HDR Engine powered by AI delivers unparalleled results, which delivers zero chromatic aberration, halos, and artifacts. Artificial Intelligence produces the highest quality of bracket merging and outstanding color enhancements. 

Aurora HDR not only lets you work on shadows and highlights but also with color toning, polarizing filter, details enhancer, LUT mapping, and so much more. For the more advanced photographers, pro features such as RAW support, batch processing, and layers & masking are available.

It works as a standalone tool or a plugin to Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Lightroom, and Apple Photos. Aurora HDR works for both Mac and PC. It isn’t free, so you will have to pay for it should you wish to use it, but it tops our list of the best HDR programs.

Aurora HDR Review

Operating System: Mac and Windows

Price: $99. Follow this link and use coupon code aperlust for $10 off regular price.

2. Photomatix Pro

Photomatix Pro HDR software screenshot

Photomatix Pro is a powerful HDR software that lets you merge three or more bracketed photos to create a High Dynamic Range photo without sacrificing the details in the highlights and shadows. It creates the HDR photo by aligning bracketed exposures of the same photo, resulting in a perfect shot. 

A ghost removal tool lets you remove unwanted artifacts, which are caused by motion blur. If you need to kick things up with your photo, Photomatix Pro offers extensive styling tools, which you can use for enhancement.

It also comes with 40 built-in presets, which you can use as a reference point when editing photos. If you think the preset did a great job refining your photo, you can accept it as it is. If not, you can tweak it according to your liking.

You can use Photomatix Pro as a standalone application or directly within Capture One or Adobe Lightroom. The application requires a license but has a free trial that never expires. However, when working with a free trial version, a watermark appears in the final output.

Photomatix Review

Operating System: Mac and Windows

Price: $99. Follow this link and use coupon code aperlustphoto for 15% off.

3. ON1 HDR

ON1 HDR allows you to create a natural, excellent High Dynamic Range photo without sacrificing shadow details and highlights. Its live preview feature provides control of the movement of objects. The best part about the live preview feature is that it only takes a few seconds compared to the competition that could take minutes.

When you’re satisfied with what you got in the live preview, you can quickly jump to removing ghosting, adjusting tone, adding layers, and so much more.

Another great feature of ON1 HDR is producing HDR-looking photos from a single photo. In case you do not have bracketed exposures of a photo, ON1 HDR lets you use the HDR toolset on a well-exposed raw photo to reveal all the highlights and details. 

The ON1 HDR can work as a plugin to Adobe Lightroom CC or as a standalone application. The application has a free trial version, which lets you use it for a short period.

ON1 HDR Review

Operating System: Mac and Windows

Price: $49.99

4. Eclipse HDR Pro

Eclipse HDR Pro lets you create professional, high-quality High Dynamic Range photos in a fast and easy way. It provides full control of exposures, tones, and brightness, letting you achieve a whole new level of creativity. 

The HDR Tone Mapping Engine of Eclipse HDR Pro lets you adjust the photo’s exposure without compromising color and detail. It provides a real-time preview of the tone mapping, resulting in no color shifts and no halo.

If you love working with RAW images, Eclipse HDR Pro has a built-in RAW photo processing feature that allows for full optimization of your RAW images. It supports over 600 cameras coming from various camera manufacturers.

For a more creative touch on your images, Eclipse HDR Pro comes standard with over 40 presets, which you can use as it is, or edit according to your liking.

Eclipse HDR Pro only works on PC. It is a paid application but has a trial version for interested photographers who want to try the application before committing to it.

Operating System: Windows

Price: $149.99

5. HDR Efex Pro

Producing an HDR image that looks natural is tricky for HDR applications. HDR Efex Pro lets you create natural-looking images without having to break a sweat. 

Merging bracketed exposures of an image takes a lot of effort. HDR Efex Pro’s efficient processing of these images provides stunning results in a matter of seconds. What is even better is that you can make a single image appear like it is an HDR image. The advanced tone-mapping algorithm is exclusive to HDR Efex Pro.

The HDR Efex Pro is a paid application but has a free trial version that photographers can use to give it a feel. It works as a standalone application for Mac and Windows or as a plugin for Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop.

Operating System: Mac and Windows

Price: $149

6. Luminance HDR

Luminance HDR has a wide range of functionalities, which you can utilize when working with High Dynamic Range photos. It works with both JPEG and RAW images and outputs different formats such as TIFF and JPEG.

Similar to other HDR software, Luminance HDR lets you merge multiple photos to create a single HDR photo. Multiple tone map operators allow you to map HDR photos to standard displays. It features a 16-bit channel output that extends the range of post-processing of photos. Another great feature of Luminance HDR is the ability to export your work to a different photo editing application, such as Adobe Photoshop and GIMP.

Luminance HDR is a free application, which you can download and install on your Mac, Windows, or Unix system.

Operating System: Mac, Windows, and Unix

Price: Free

7. EasyHDR

EasyHDR is an awesome High Dynamic Range photo-editing application that works well for Mac and Windows. Photos from a digital camera come in sequences, which are processed to create an HDR photo. EasyHDR is compatible with handling several image formats such as PNG, FITS, JPEG, 8/16-bit TIFF, 8/16-bit JPEG2000, and RAW. 

When working with HDR photos, you will need multiple images with bracketed exposures. Merging these photos into one photo produces an HDR photo. However, there are times when you can only work with a single photo. EasyHDR can also process Low Dynamic Range photos, which is a single photo instead of multiple.

Before deciding to buy EasyHDR, you have the option to download a demo version to try it out. Should you decide to purchase a license, it is valid for any new release of EasyHDR. 

Operating System: Mac and Windows

Price: $39

8. HDR Projects Pro

HDR Projects Pro offers a wide array of tools for both amateur and professional photographers. When generating an image, all information contained in the photo goes with it, so it does not lose any detail. Out of the box, it comes with over 188 optimized presets that you can quickly apply to your photos.

HDR Projects Pro fine-tunes the most brilliant colors and the most delicate details of the photos. The intelligent search feature of HDR Projects Pro lets you go through over 100 suggested photos to choose which one you like. It makes it convenient for you to pick the perfect shot. 

The color module with an eyedropper that comes built-in with HDR Projects Pro allows you to manipulate colors easily. It lets you do selective color, so only photos in that color range are affected by any changes. The color range immediately appears in the color wheel, which you can narrow down or expand on depending on your preference. 

HDR Projects Pro works as a standalone application or as a plugin for Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop. It comes with a free trial version, so photographers can give it a try first before purchasing the paid version.

Operating System: Mac and Windows

Price: $99

9. Dynamic Photo HDR

Dynamic Photo HDR is a powerful High Dynamic Range photo-editing application that comes with HDR fusion, anti-ghosting, and a wide variety of effects.

The latest version of Dynamic Photo HDR is faster than ever, allowing you to edit and export HDR photos in a matter of minutes. It also works with a single photo or a series of bracketed photos.

The effects that come with Dynamic Photo HDR are versatile, which allows for full adjustment of layers and quick application of textures and masks. Dynamic Photo HDR allows for batch processing, which allows you to batch process HDR photos.

Dynamic Photo HDR only works with Windows. It comes with a trial version, which you can use first before buying a license.

Operating System: Windows

Price: $59

10. SNS-HDR Pro

SNS-HDR Pro is an application that lets you process High Dynamic Range photos. Sequences of the same photo merge to create a single HDR photo with the shadows and details adjusted. 

It supports several popular photo formats such as TIFF, JPEG, RAW, Radiance HDR, and OpenEXR images. Aside from being able to process sequences of the same photo, SNS-HDR Pro can also process single photos. Photo editing tools such as ghost reduction, image alignment, masks, and presets come with the application.

SNS-HDR Pro works with Mac and Windows. It has a demo version, which you can use to give it a try before deciding to purchase it or not.

Operating System: Mac and Windows

Price: €30

11. Lightroom

Lightroom is a digital asset manager made to organize your photos. It has a built-in, comprehensive image editor that can complete most jobs.

In order to compete with standalone HDR programs, Adobe added HDR merging to Lightroom. The HDR capability is extremely basic because no other shadow or highlight recovery or tone mapping can be adjusted. However, you can still use Lightroom’s main image editor to make further adjustments in the develop module.

The good thing about Lightroom is if you don’t intend to do advanced HDR editing, then the HDR merge in the software will be sufficient. In addition, you receive one of the best photo filing systems and image editor that many professionals use.

The downside of Lightroom is you need to purchase it as a subscription of the Adobe Creative Cloud membership.

Operating System: Mac and Windows

Price: $9.99/month

12. Photoshop

Like Lightroom, Photoshop has a basic HDR merge but with a few options to adjust the highlights and shadows.

Photoshop is an advanced raster image editor that can also be used for graphic design. On the HDR side, it’s not that great.

And just like Lightroom, if you’re only going to be doing basic HDR editing, then Photoshop may be a good option, especially if you decide to utilize its other advanced tools for creative photography. But there are other far superior HDR software such as the ones listed above.

And just like Lightroom, Photoshop needs to be purchased as an Adobe subscription. However, you can usually get Photoshop and Lightroom bundled together.


We hope this list of the best HDR software gave you a better idea of which application to choose.

To round it up, Aurora HDR is the best HDR program, followed by Photomatix Pro.

The best free HDR software is Luminance HDR.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is HDR photography?

HDR photography is the image-editing process of merging bracketed photos to recover shadows, highlights, and details. HDR stands for high dynamic range.

What is the best HDR software for real estate photography?

The best HDR software for real estate photography is Aurora HDR. Photomatix Pro is also a great option.

What is the best free HDR software?

The best free HDR software is Luminance HDR.

About the Author: Aperlust

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