MacPhun Aurora HDR 2017 Review

If you’ve been admiring the stunning landscape and travel photography online, you’ve likely seen a lot of HDR without even knowing it. HDR photography has undergone something of a Renaissance. I’ve caught myself several times thinking, “How did they get that photo to look so brilliant?” And then, I realize that the photographer has processed the image, which appears natural, using the HDR technique.

I used to be a big fan of Photomatix to apply the HDR process to my images. I do still like Photomatix but I believe the current software leader in the field of HDR is Macphun’s Aurora HDR 2017 that was created with the HDR photographer Trey Ratcliffe. With over 600,000 downloads of the software, there’s no denying its popularity.

What is HDR?

HDR is short for High Dynamic Range. It is used in post-processing by taking either one photo or a series of images. When multiple photos are used, they are combined (merged) it is possible to adjust their contrast ratios. The most common was of producing an HDR image is by taking three photos of the same scene, each at different shutter speeds: one photo that is underexposed (dark), one that is exposed correctly (medium), and one that is over-exposed (bright). Software is then used to combine all the photos and to bring out the details in the shadows and highlights.

MacPhun Aurora HDR 2017

Aurora HDR 2017 Features

The list of the new features that Aurora HDR 2017 includes is extensive. Compared to Aurora 2016 Professional, Aurora HDR 2017 includes new and improved tools, more powerful algorithms offering even more realistic and natural results.  There’s even a new Zone System for Luminosity Masks to make your photos sizzle with light and colour.

  • Improved tone-mapping technology
  • Batch image processing
  • Advanced HDR tone-mapping adjustments
  • Automatic RAW color noise reduction
  • DNG file support
  • Polarizing filter
  • Radial masking tool
  • Zone system for luminosity masks
  • Advanced top and bottom adjustment panel
  • Hue-saturation-luminosity (HSL) tool
  • Feather and density parameters for layer masks
  • Image resize and sharpen on export
  • Improved user interface
  • HSL panel
  • Additional blend modes for layers
  • Serge Ramelli signature HDR presets
  • Captain Kimo signature HDR presets.

As primarily a travel photographer, I find the most impressive improvements in this list include batch image processing, advanced tone-mapping adjustments, advanced top and bottom adjustment panel and the HSL tool. The new Polarize filter and Radial Masking tool are also powerful tools for generating more realistic or fantastical-looking photos.

Aurora HDR 2017 is able to work as a standalone program or as a plug-in for software such as Lightroom and Photoshop.

MacPhun Aurora HDR 2017 Review

Ease of use

The designers of Aurora HDR 2017 can be used easily by beginners and more experienced users. As someone who is new to creating HDR images, the software will guide you through the process of loading your images with explanations of what you need to do. Users who are more experienced can simply ignore these guides and tutorials.

MacPhun Aurora HDR 2017 Review


I tested Aurora HDR 2017 on a 2012 iMac with a quad core processor and 8GB RAM with no performance issues.

MacPhun Aurora HDR 2017 Review


I’m really impressed with this powerful HDR processor and editor. Macphun’s Aurora HDR 2017 provides you with the creative freedom to create completely natural looking HDR images or vibrant and dramatic effects quickly and intuitively.

Whether you’re a beginning in the field of HDR imaging or a more experienced user, the learning curve is not steep and experimenting with the effects along the learning journey is fun.

At the time this post was originally published I wrote that one of the main downsides that I think my readers will highlight is that Aurora HDR 2018 is currently only available to Mac users. However, as of mid-August 2017, MacPhun announced that Aurora HDR 2017 will be available for Windows users in Autumn 2017. Read the updated announcement here.

Availability: Aurora HDR 2018 will be available for pre-order on September 12, and released on September 28. To sign up for pre-order announcements and more, please visit sign up for my free newsletter: Lens Flare Newsletter


MacPhun Aurora HDR 2017 Review
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MacPhun Aurora HDR 2017 Review
If you've been admiring the stunning landscape and travel photography online, you've likely seen a lot of HDR without even knowing it.
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David Sornberger Photography
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