Jay, long time reader recently ask the following:
I was wondering if you could put out a question on your blog. I just downloaded Aurora HDR Pro yesterday (it was released in November and only works on Macs) and I'm curious if anyone has had any experience with it. Maybe you already posted something about it that I missed but I didn't find anything on your site when I did a search.
I usually don't write about HDR or Apps that are just Mac or just Windows so my first reaction was, "Why do you want to use HDR for interiors when LR/Enfuse, Photomatix Fusion and Lightroom HDR are so much easier to control?" But AuroraHDR was the Apple Store's App of the year for 2015 and many readers claim that their agent clients just love HDR images. So just for fun I decided to take a look at AuroraHDR Pro. I downloaded it, shot some ambient brackets of my living room and processed them with AuroraHDR Pro, LR/Enfuse, Lightroom HDR, and Photomatix Pro (Fusion option) to compare results. Also, Jay added that his intended use of AuroraHDR Pro was to give exterior shots some punch and drama because many of his clients wanted strong standout exterior shots because he shoots in the grey overcast Northwest.
Here are my thoughts on AuroraHDR and the results it gives:
- AuroraHDR Pro was co-designed and heavily promoted by Trey Ratcliff, maybe the most followed photographer on the planet (64K on twitter, 8M on G+, 52K on Flickr, 66K YouTube, 80K Instagram, 4.5 M on Pinterest, 259K likes on Facebook). This has a lot to do with AuroraHDR Pro's Apple App of the year for 2015. I follow Trey and enjoy his fanciful artistic work but I'm not convinced this style has a place in marketing real estate. Certainly not in interiors and probably not in exteriors but I'd have to see some examples to make up my mind.
- The strength of AuroraHDR is that it as bracket processing software goes it has many more features than other bracket processing software. Layers and more tone mapping controls than other HDR software so it is a self-contained HDR editor. You don't need Photoshop or Lightroom, you do everything in AuroraHDR. So if you are going to do tone mapping this is where you want to head.
- My experience with AuroraHDR is even with it's layers and extended control I find it difficult to impossible to control images so the look realistic enough for real estate marketing. I can't manage to bring the results down to earth. Mostly because the editing controls are not intuitive. This is the same issue I have with other HDR software like Photomatix HDR and others. I've only seen a handful of photographers that can get realistic looking HDR results. For the average user, it's time-consuming to control and eliminate all the wacky artifacts that tone mapping creates. Let's face it, tone mapping isn't intended to be realistic.
- To me, it is far easier and less time consuming to make a front exterior shot have punch by editing in Lightroom where there are intuitive controls to tune the image. My experience is that there's rarely a reason to shoot brackets for exteriors because you are almost never shooting a scene with as wide a dynamic range as you typically face with interiors. You can almost always shoot a single RAW image and get the result you want.
My conclusion: The question is how fanciful do you want your real estate marketing images to look? For the majority of people that want to shoot brackets and get realistic results, it's far easier and less time consuming to use to use Photomatix Fusion or LR/Enfuse or Lightroom HDR and then give the image the punch you want after bracket processing in Lightroom or Photoshop than to use any of the HDR processes. HDR clearly appeals to many agents but, if you are working to raise the quality of your images, I don't think HDR takes you in the right direction.
So what do you think? I'm sure there are some that disagree with me on this.