Typically, a camera (even the best) is capable of capturing only a fraction of tones in a single shot. This is called its Dynamic Range. It just refers to the range between extreme brightness and peach-darkness tones that a camera can hold or process at any given point in time. In other words, it is a number of details that a camera can capture (at the same time) in the highlights and shadows.
In reality, a camera device with a small-dynamic-range capability would do a great job capturing the shadow detail but a poor job with the highlights or the other way round. A photo is therefore said to have a wider dynamic range when it features a significant amount of highlight and shadow details.
Back in the days of film photography, it was an established fact that no darkroom process was capable of bridging the huge gap between the quality of light and darkness that the human eye is capable of seeing, and that which was captured by the camera. That entire phenomenon has changed tremendously with the coming of digital photography –many thanks to the High Dynamic Range Imaging (HDR or HDRI) technique.
The High Dynamic Range technique makes it possible for the photographer to capture a greater range of tonal detail (in an HDR image from bracketed exposures) than could have been possible in a single shot. Thus making way for a whole new set of possibilities.
The Real Essence of Megapixels
It is interesting that a number of folks are still chasing after megapixels (MP), thinking their image quality can solely be improved by it. Well, if you belong to that category, or know someone who does, the REAL DRAMA lies in the Dynamic Range parameters of an image. Megapixels only give you a larger dimension which is ideal for large prints or very detailed cropping, just that –nothing more!
That was just a little detour to make sure we are clear on the concept of the pixel (or megapixel) as it relates to picture quality, concerning highlight and shadow details.
Let’s get back on track by delving even deeper into the High Dynamic Range Imaging technique earlier mentioned.
High Dynamic Range Imaging Technique (HDR or HDRI)
As earlier stated, the “High Dynamic Range technology makes it possible for the photographer to capture a greater range of tonal detail than could have been possible in a single shot. Thus making way for a whole new set of possibilities”. This is achievable through some very special series of procedures well put together in an HDR app.
The HDR App
Simply put, an HDR app is one that’s used to Merge and Tone-Map all the different exposures that have been captured. The app is used to process them into a single HDR image of a better dynamic range quality.
Basic Requirements of an HDR App
For a typical HDR app to work efficiently, it’d require that the pictures generally fulfill some specific conditions:
- The pictures must be of different exposures (3 to 5 stops)
- The scene must be the same/identical
- Camera movement (shakes) should be minimal, preferably use a tripod
- The image files should be set to RAW, TIFF or some very flexible format supported by the app
- Using Adobe Photoshop CC for Your HDR Workflow
Adobe is renowned for its exceptional photo editing app, Photoshop. The latest release of the app features the “merge to HDR” tool. Photoshop modus operandi follows the sequence of the typical HDR process –combining series of bracket exposures into a single image (HDR image). The resultant image is encompassing the full tonal detail of the entire series.
Photoshop creates the HDR image by analyzing and using the EXIF information of the exposures to determine their ISO setting, shutter speed, and aperture. It processes this information, using 32-bits to analyze each exposure’s color channel, and more; eventually resulting in a finished HDR image.
Photoshop’s overall outstanding photo-editing nature nonetheless, its HDR tool is a far cry from what one would expect from Adobe. The results from Photoshop CC HDR tool do not look so unique or incredible (HDR images from Photoshop Elements are not much better). As a matter of fact, some of the resultant images, depending on the complexity, do require HDR finishing in an app like Aurora HDR or others. Interestingly, the image-blending in Photoshop’s Layers gives a better result than what’s obtainable from its HDR tool that currently produces relatively flat results.
Photoshop’s HDR tool can be unnecessarily time-consuming, producing results that sometimes require further enhancement for more natural and realistic effects.
Aurora HDR: A Perfect Alternative to Photoshop CC
Aurora HDR is an ultra-modern, easy-to-use and highly intuitive HDR app that contains every conceivable tool needed for the creation of top-quality HDR images in record time. Aurora comprises of a single-click preset, custom textures, native RAW support, custom textures and several other features that make the app a delight to every photographer.
Aurora’s Amazing Features
You possibly couldn’t expect too much from an app that’s born out of the collaborative project between the Mac photo-editing app-giant, Macphun, and the world’s best HDR photographer, Trey Ratcliff; the app is a compilation of the most popular HDR tools in the market and Macphun’s advanced digital photography technology. It is designed for professionals and hobbyists of all skill levels, providing them with HDR Photography guide as well.
Aurora is simply the best! It combines “Macphun's proprietary tone-mapping algorithm with Trey Ratcliff's amazing photography vision. You'll achieve highly realistic, high quality natural photographic results in no time”. Aurora features “an excellent layer system that supports custom textures, blend modes and uses original exposure images as source files; it’s masks, lighting, Brushes, image radiance, vignettes, lighting and more, are perfect for achieving stunning effects”.
The most interesting feature of Aurora that indeed makes it a perfect alternative is its plugin option. Besides being available as a standalone app, Aurora HDR also functions as a plugin for Photoshop, Lightroom, Aperture or Photos. Aurora does great in most photo-editing environments and can be used within the Photoshop environment to complement its HDR-shortcomings.
Aurora HDR is the app for digital artists, photographers, and hobbyist who are keen about creating top-quality HDR images in the most simplified and intuitive way. In comparison to Photoshop CC, Aurora is easy-to-use and time-saving. It is currently a Mac-only app and promises to be available to Window users in the coming months.
Price flexibility is another factor that makes Aurora a perfect alternative. In spite of its wide range of options, the Standard version is available at a very affordable price of 39.99 USD. While its Pro version costs 99.99 USD and can be paid in three installments. The app is so cost-effective that a single license can be installed on up to 5 computers owned by the same person.