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Working with Aurora HDR 2019, you’ll access controls from three primary areas. The Top Toolbar contains general-purpose and frequently used functions of the software. The Side Panel is located to the right of the main image display; all adjustment tools, layers and the histogram can be found here. You can also save time with the Aurora HDR Looks Panel which offers one-click Aurora HDR Looks at the bottom of the screen.
As you work with an image, the top toolbar contains many commands that you’ll frequently use. These are grouped logically for easier use.
Open Images / Batch Processing Button
The first button is a drop-down menu that controls how files are opened. You can choose to open files to process one image or bracket set, or choose the Batch option to process multiple images using similar settings. The batch feature is currently a Mac-only feature but is coming to Windows®️ soon. Click and hold down the button to choose between two options.
These next three buttons are used for changing your view of the image size in the canvas. If you view from left to right, the buttons are the following.
You can also use keyboard shortcuts to control the display of an image on-screen. To view an image at its original size, press Cmd+1 (Mac) or Ctrl+1 (PC). This sets the image to a 100% magnification showing the pixels in actual size. To see the entire image in the canvas at once, try the Fit to Screen command. Press Cmd+0 (Mac) or Ctrl+0 (PC) to automatically scale a photo to fit the canvas.
These buttons allow you to compare your enhanced image with the original default image, so you can easily compare how your enhancements change the original image.
Undo / History Buttons
The next two buttons control the Undo command as well as let you view an image’s history. These two buttons give you complete control over reverting to an earlier state of an image.
The next button activates the crop tool. This makes it easy to change the composition of your image as well as a viewer’s perception of an image. You can choose to tighten the area of interest which allows you to de-emphasize (or even eliminate) parts of a photo and improve the image by better framing the subject. An additional benefit is that the crop tool can also be used to align (straighten) the horizon in an image it is not horizontal. We’ll discuss cropping again in a later chapter.
View Aurora HDR Looks Panel/Side Panel Buttons
The next two buttons affect which controls are visible. You can choose to hide options like the Preset Panel and Side Panel to make a larger preview image.
The last button in the top Toolbar is used to export an image from the application and save it as a graphic file. The same image can also be shared with other editing software from Skylum (and others) or shared via email.
The Side panel gives you access to three important sets of controls. The Histogram is a useful tool for judging exposure and details. Layers lets you work with multiple objects to create a composite image or to isolate effects or textures to their own place. The Filters section gives you precise control over each filter applied to a layer.
Histogram /Layers / Info Buttons
At the top of the side panel are three buttons that provide advanced controls over your images. If you are just getting started with Aurora HDR 2019, you might leave these three options inactive. However, as you grow more comfortable with editing tasks or are looking for maximum flexibility and control, be sure to explore them.
While color correcting or adjusting exposure, the histogram can be a great help. A histogram is a graphical representation of the tonal values of your image. This graph illustrates how the pixels in the image are distributed across brightness levels. In other words, it shows the amount of tones of a particular brightness found in your photograph, ranging from black (0% brightness) to white (100% brightness). Ideally, well balanced images will have tonal values across the entire range of the histogram.
To read a histogram, start at the left edge, which shows the shadow regions. The middle shows the midtones (where most adjustments to an image are made), and to the right are the highlights.
The histogram is able to displays Red, Green and Blue channels separately or by default shows all of them at once. Click on the Histogram to switch between seeing a composite Histogram or just viewing details about the Red, Green, and Blue channels (which can be useful for spotting tint issues and color casts). You can also see a grayscale average for luminance.
Additionally, clicking the two small triangles in the upper left and upper right corners will show cold and hot pixels respectively. These are pixels that have shifted or exposed to become absolutely black or white pixels. This is generally undesirable as it causes a loss of detail.
In both cases this can be problematic (especially for printing) as there is too much ink coverage for cold pixels and no details at all in the hot pixels. These indicators are a sign that you should adjust the exposure of the image. You may want to leave the Histogram panel open as you work, because it is an easy way to learn to read the graphical details of a digital image.
The use of the HDR Basic filter is an excellent way to take control of the Black and White points as well as the Shadows and Highlights of an image. We’ll explore filters more in later chapters. Pressing the J key will also toggle the clipping indicators On or Off if you want to see the pixels underneath.
Layers are a powerful way to “build up” your images with different enhancements and use of blending modes and masks on each layer. Using layers, you can apply corrections or enhancements on different layers and experiment until you achieve exactly the look you’d like for your image.
You’ll learn more about layers in the chapter “Working with Layers.”
The Info Bar provides basic information about the file and can help you better understand your HDR image, as well as the zoom percentage. This information is divided into several sections and displays the following information (from left to right):
Transform & Lens Correction
Aurora HDR 2019 offers powerful corrections to adjust the shape of your photo. There are many reasons why an image can show distortion including the type of lens used and the position of the camera versus the subject. Compensating for these issues makes it easier to quickly straighten images and remove distractions caused by perspective issues or camera position.
Transform Tool You can easily scale, rotate and shift your image to better fit your vision. This gives you full control over the position of your photo or any texture layer.
Lens Correction Tool The Lens Correction tool easily fixes all kinds of lens distortion, from barrel and pincushion to chromatic aberration and vignetting. This can help compensate or totally remove the visual artifacts caused by your lens.
You’ll learn more about the Transform and Lens Correction adjustments in the chapter “Crop & Transform a Photo.”
Filters are how you can adjust the exposure, color, contrast, and style of your image in Aurora HDR 2019. The proper use of filters can significantly improve your image. Each filter is designed to solve specific problems or enhance an image in a particular way. The Filters section of the Side panel contains 15 control groups which allow you to achieve the best possible image results. Each of the groups contain sliders and controls related to the filter.
Aurora HDR 2019 contains the following filters:
You’ll learn more about each filter in the chapter “Using Filters.”
Aurora HDR Looks Panel
The Aurora HDR Looks panel contains all of the one-click Aurora HDR Looks available in Aurora HDR 2019. These Aurora HDR Looks can be applied to any open image or to a new Adjustment layer. To apply a Look, simply click on its thumbnail. To adjust the intensity of an effect, use the Amount slider to lower the Opacity of the adjustment. We’ll explore Aurora HDR Looks in depth in the next chapter.