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Starting with Aurora HDR 2019

Aurora HDR 2019 offers many easy-to use as well as powerful controls to adjust and improve your image.  The first step of course is opening one or more images within the application.

Aurora HDR 2019 can open a series of the same images shot with different exposures. A series of images with different exposures are commonly known as HDR brackets. Aurora HDR 2019 supports any practical number of images in a bracket. In addition, all versions can open just a single image which is great for enhancing the dynamic range in your photo (especially for raw photos).

How to Open a Single Photo

There are several ways to open images based on your personal preference.  Each of these four methods generates the same outcome, so choose the one that works best for you.

  1. First, launch Aurora HDR 2019.
  2. You can now open a supported file format using any of these methods:
    • At the startup screen, click the Open Image button to navigate to and open a file.
    • Choose File > Open… to navigate to and open a file.
    • To open an image you recently edited, choose File > Open Recent.
    • You can also drag a photo directly onto the Aurora HDR 2019 application in the Mac OS Dock or Windows Taskbar.
  3. A preview of your photo opens in a new dialog box where you may want to make a few selections.

  4. Click the Settings icon (gear) to choose from two options that can affect the opened file.
    • Color Denoise. Turn this option on to remove lowlight color noise when merging brackets.  This option is visible only when opening a raw file.  It will also increase the processing time for the image due to the noise removal process.
    • Chromatic Aberration Removal. Use this option to remove the purple or green fringe that can appear along the edges of an image (especially in areas of high contrast or backlight).
  5. Click Create HDR to open the file and begin editing.


Supported File Types

Aurora HDR 2019 is designed to open a wide range of file formats.  This ensures compatibility with most cameras as well as common graphic file formats.  Supported file types include:

Graphic Formats

  • PNG
  • JPEG
  • JPEG-2000
  • TIFF (8-bit and 16-bit)
  • PSD
  • HEIC (Mac-only)

Popular RAW formats

  • .CR2
  • .NEF
  • .ORF
  • .RAF
  • .ERF
  • .ARW
  • .RW2
  • .DNG
  • .PEF
  • and more

The Purpose of Bracketed Photos

In order to capture all the details in a scene, many photographers turn to bracketing.  When using the bracketing option on a camera, (or manually adjusting exposure), the photographer will capture two or more shots.


The most common number of exposures taken is three, in which a base exposure is used and then an under- and overexposed image are acquired to preserve the highlights and shadows. However, any combination of exposures can be used to properly portray the scene. The wider the dynamic range of the scene, the higher the number of exposures needed. If the light source is directly in the frame, you may need as many as seven exposures.

Typically, these multiple exposures are taken from a tripod to ensure that there is no movement between each exposure.  However, some users do shoot handheld and rely upon the Alignment option in Aurora HDR 2019 to help them align the images. When you select multiple images in a bracketed set, you will see a preview window with the images you plan to process as well as additional details about those images.


The image on the left was captured two stops over-exposed (EV +2.0)  to preserve details in the darker areas of the image.  The middle photo is the base exposure as calculated by the camera.  The image on the right was captured two stops under-exposed (EV -2.0) to preserve details in the brighter areas of the image.

Creating the Merged HDR Image

When you have a series of bracketed photos, you can choose to merge them together for a photo with significantly more dynamic range.  The Open dialog box allows you to open your own images, (and also includes a set of sample photos).  You can also choose to open a folder of images for Batch Processing. (More on this later.)

  1. First, launch Aurora HDR 2019.
  2. You can now open a supported file format using any of these methods.
    • At the startup screen, click the Open Image button.
    • Choose File > Open… to navigate to multiple files, select them, and open them.
    • You can also drag a series of photos directly onto the Aurora HDR 2019 application in the Mac OS Dock or Windows Taskbar.
  3. Your photos open in a new window where you’ll need to make a few selections.
  4. Click the Settings icon (gear) to choose from three options that affect the opened file.

    • Ghost Reduction Ghosting is caused by subject movement, (such as clouds blowing, trees swaying, or people moving). If there is a long time delay between your brackets, you may notice areas of high movement appear to have multiple copies of image details that overlap.  This option can remove these repeated details from your final photo.
    • Color Denoise Turn this option on to remove lowlight color noise when merging brackets.  This option is only visible if opening a raw file.  It will also increase the processing time for the image due to the noise removal process.
    • Chromatic Aberration Removal Use this option to remove purple or green fringe that can appear along the edges of an image (especially in areas of high contrast or backlight).
  5. Use the Auto Alignment option if shooting handheld or if you think that there might be slight camera movement between each shot.
  6. When ready, click Create HDR to merge the brackets together.

Ghost Reduction

If there are moving objects in your HDR brackets — tree leaves, flags, people, etc. — the resulting image can look a bit unusual after the HDR merge process. The moving object may appear as a translucent “ghost.” This is simply because the image information is different in each HDR bracket image, (i.e., something has moved through the frame of the photo).


The image on the left was merged without the Ghost Reduction option.  In areas of high-movement, (such as the nets blowing in the wind), parts of the photo look unusual.  Ghost Reduction will increase processing time but should be considered for photos with lots of wind or long delays between brackets such as low-light shooting.

To minimize this problem, click the Additional Settings button which will reveal a pop-over panel for enabling Ghost Reduction. This feature will let you choose a reference image from the bracket. The software will then analyze each of the exposures and compare it to the reference image before merging them into a single HDR image. The result is that any object that changed positions between exposures will be replaced with a static object whose position is selected from one of the images in the bracket.


Color Denoise

This feature reduces low-light noise found in color or “chrominance” pixels during the merging process for RAW files. Access this by clicking on the Additional Settings button which will reveal a pop-over panel for enabling Color Denoise. There are no additional controls provided when using this option. This option will increase the processing time of your image.

Chromatic Aberration Removal

This feature analyzes the merged HDR image and minimizes any chromatic aberrations which have been detected. These are typically characterized by a slight red or purplish glow along the edges of stark contrasting areas in the image. These optical aberrations, however slight, are always present on any photo and may reduce picture quality. If you think that your image may include red or purple halos, click the Additional Settings button which will reveal a pop-over panel for enabling Chromatic Aberrations Reduction. This option will increase the processing time of your image.

Auto Alignment

If the photos in an HDR bracket set were taken by hand (e.g., without a tripod), they may differ slightly in alignment. If the Alignment option is checked, the application automatically aligns all the images before merging them into a single HDR image. Aurora HDR 2019 makes it easy to use images from an HDR bracket series, even those shot without a tripod. 
If you open an image from an HDR bracket without Alignment, and it is slightly blurred, simply open it again with the Auto Alignment option enabled.


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ATTENTION!

Each of these three options can slow down the creation of your HDR image because they require significant computing resources to analyze the images. In the case of Ghost Reduction, it is also worth noting that this feature may not always work as expected while attempting to obtain a single static image from a series of moving images. Keep this option off and use it only when you need to fix apparent problems with ghosting.
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