Review: Aurora HDR 2018

For a few days the latest version of Aurora HDR from MacPhun is available. This new version is not only for Mac, it’s also for Windows. I got a review version for testing.

Yesterday, while out with my photographers roundtable, I visited a former coal mining building, now a museum. That mining buildings are notable because of its wonderful architecture made from brick-stones. The mine was open from 1899 – 1955.

Most of the time I was inside the machinery hall, a very modern building for that time, but with an unusual architecture style for a mine. Many parts inside reminded me to the movie “Metropolis” by Fritz Lang from 1927.

Being inside a quite dark building on a dark and rainy day gave me the opportunity to take some images by using bracketing. That is a technique where you’re taking one image just the way the light meter says, but two (or more) additional images with exposure correction (+ and – i.e. 1 or 2 EV) to develop them later with HDR or DRI software like Aurora HDR. Often HDR or DRI images have over-saturated bonbon colours, which I don’t like. So, you don’t see many of them here in my blog.

While the user interface of Aurora HDR did not change much and the preset sections are also still available, I won’t waste too much time on these parts. Have a look at my last review.

I want to focus on the new results and an unexpected feature I discovered: distortion control. The export results are much better in quality, than in the original version. I like the resulting colours more and the results don’t have so much noise in it. The auto-alignment feature works quit good. But ist’s still better to have exact aligned images by taking them with a tripod instead of free-hand. The distortion control feature is nice. I’m using DxO Viewpoint for distortion control. The results are great. Compared to Viewpoint, Aurora is too complicated. Here they have some work to do.

When you own some other tools from MacPhun, you can use them as plugins inside Aurora HDR and vice versa. They are also available as plugins inside Photoshop.

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Creating a photo collage the easy way

cubacars2Earlier this week I published a collage containing my top 10 images from last years Monochrome Madness, an open competition with only monochrome images. I got a few questions, how I was able to create it.

As usual, there are several options to create such collages. Some of the options might be Adobe Photoshop, Adobe InDesign, GIMP* or  Scribus*. (* these apps are open source and available for free legally!) I uses something completely different: Collage Factory Free. This is the light version of a software specialized for creating collages. The light version does not have all features of the complete version. Thus you might call it CrippleWare! Despite this, it has enough features for me.

First of all, you select a template. You can always modify the collage by adding further images, delete place holder or re-arrange them. You can also change the size and the angel simply by clicking on one of the blue dots in the edges of a frame and pull it or click on the red dot above the frame and spin it around as long as you like it.

Next, you select your images and pull them in the free space on the left. From here, you distribute them manually with your mouse or click on one of the automatic buttons in the upper left area (“fill random” and so on) I usually distribute them on my own.

Now, you can add a text box, if you want to. You can use every installed font. The software goes you some effects to add, like shadow, border or fillings.

Not everyone like the default background. That’s ok! You can change it. the app comes with many different option for the background: simple colors, color gradients, patterns and background images. You can even chose your own image for the background.

The last step is choosing the image size for the final image ind jpg format. Here we have the strongest restrictions in the software. There are only very few sizes available in the free version. For me, it’s enough. But, decide on you own. Don’t forget to save the creation in the edible format of the app, too. So you can change parts later, if you don’t like your original creation. The file format is a structure, that contains even the selected image. So, you can even move the edible file i.e. to an external storage and won’t loose one of the used images.

I attached screenshots from the app of a complete workflow. I created a collage from my Cuba images.

If you try the software on your own, please let me know, if you like it and, maybe, you can publish your creations somewhere and leave me a link to it. I’d like to see your creations!

Enjoy!

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My personal review in images

It’s December 31st again. Another year is over.

Sylvester is the perfect time for a review. I picked my personal highlights from the last 12 months and assembled a small movie for you. It’s a bout 3 minutes long and contains my favorite images taken during the last year in a random order. So, have fun!

(btw, I have a hint for you: in the lower right corner of the movie player you can find an icon for enlarging the movie up to 1080p)

I’m looking forward for some more interesting adventures. You, too?

And now: A happy new Year. See you in 2016.

A new kid in the block: Aurora HDR

20150729_204950-610_1948_hdr_wIn my previous post on HDR images I already mentioned this new software by MacPhun: Aurora HDR.

I got the opportunity to test it. As I mentioned in that post, I use HDR sometimes to enhance some of my images. Until now, I worked with Photomatix HDR, Luminance HDR, HDR Efex, Oloneo PhotoEngine and the build-in HDR function of Photoshop. All of these are great. So, why another software?

First of all, Aurora HDR can open RAW files. The other tools only work with TIF or JPG files (never try HDR with a bundle of JPG files!!). Next, it will align your images if necessary and remove ghost artifacts as well as chromatic aberrations. It also works great with a single image, although this is not the common situation when it comes to HDR 🙂

The image alignment and ghost artifacts removal functions work really great. The above image consists of 3 single images +/- 1EV and were all shot hand-held, because it was an unplanned shot. Thus, I didn’t have had a tripod with me. While the alignment function shifts the images in layers in a manner, so that all lines are in the exact same positions, the ghost artifact removal function tries the same with moving elements. You know, taking a few images in a row, moving elements (i.e. the people in the above image) are moving further and the software hast to estimate, which parts to keep for the final image and which parts to skip.

The GUI is very similar to the other MacPhun tools, like Tonality, Intensify and so on. In the lower right corner you get a collection of presets grouped in categories as a starting point. At to bottom of your screen, you can see a small preview of a the pre-sets applied to you current image. You can suppress this area, once you have chosen a preset. Now, you work with the sliders on the right of your screen to adjust the settings inherited from the chosen preset. Each change is displayed at once. So, you can see, what you get when changing a setting. An other similarity to the other MacPhun products is, you can work with layers. This is, you can paint an enhancement in parts of the image, while having a different setting for other parts of your image. So, you can work in layers without Photoshop. On the other hand, Aurora HDR will also work as a plugin for Photoshop (just like the other MacPhun products, too)

Although it comes with many presets, I miss some of the typical HDR presets available in the other tools. Those, with the over the top colorful output. OK, I won’t ever use them, but I guess, some guys out there will complain about it. In my opinion, there are enough presets. Finally, you will end up using only a few of them on a regular basis, those fitting most to your personal style. And, you have the option to save your own presets and eventually exchange them with your friends.

Jump over to MacPhun and get your trial. You can also apply for a free seat and attend a webinar to see this software in action. Currently there’s a Black Friday Promo running ’till December 1st.

 

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Hey guys, you know, I do monochrome photos quite often. Most of the times I use Tonality Pro by MacPhun for doing my post processing for my black-and-white photographs. Last night I got an email saying, there is currently a special promotion for getting this wonderful piece of software with a 25% discount. Go over to the MacPhun webstore, process your order as usual and then use the coupon code JulySpecial25 to redeem your discount. The coupon is valid until end of July.

There are also 2 bundles available: One is with Intensify Pro and the other with Noiseless Pro. These are also great tool for your post processing.

As always, you can download the software for free to test them for a few days, before buying.

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Many more examples are available here:

Take care!

Any problems with noise in your photos?

Have you ever had the problem with noise in your photos? This is a result of high ISO and / or very slow shutter speeds. You zoom into you photos and see those small colorful dots everywhere. Most current cameras already have mechanisms build-in, to avoid or at least reduce this. But, for the price of unsharp and slushy photos.

There is some software available to da a better job and preserve the structure while eliminating the noise anyway. Although, there is already such software around, MacPhun also offers such a software soon. Starting from April 16th, they offer Noiseless. Currently you can get it with a preorder discount.

Here you can get an early preview:
http://macphun.evyy.net/c/145312/185399/3255?u=http%3A%2F%2Fmacphun.com%2Fde%2Fnoiseless

Have fun!

How to store photos on your disks

As a photographer you collect many, many photos over the years. Back, in film days, there were prints, slides, mounted slides and developed films to store carefully. They had to be stored dark, dry and preferably dust-free.

Today, when we have digital photos, the problems changed a bit. We don’t need that large cabinets anymore, because a digital photo need much less space. But, because it’s so cheap to make a photo, we have much more of them.

In film days, we have had folders for the developed films and hand-written index sheets or card boxes for the slide trays. This was done carefully, to have chance to find a certain photo without much effort.

Today I want to introduce you to my digital filing system.

photo-development-workflowFirst of all, I have my SD card containing the photos. On trips I usually transfer them every evening from my card to my computer and check them. The check is for making sure there is no corrupt file. I also delete bad photos: unintentionally shutter releases, obvious mismatched focus or unrepairable over- or under-exposed photos. Then I make a second copy to an external USB disk and clear the SD cards for the next day.

I create a folder for the trip like: “20140629 – Iceland”
Below this folder I create separate folders for each part of the trip. (note: photowalks and roundtables usually don’t have this additional level)

20140629 – arrival
20140630 – 01 – Gullfoss
20140630 – 02 – Geysir
20140630 – 03 – Brúaráfoss
20140701 – 01 – Pseudo crate field
20140701 – 02 – Viking house
20140701 – 03 – Gjáin Foss

This scheme makes it much easier to find a certain photo later. (keywording is not subject to this post)

As I wrote in my last ‘tech‘ post, I’m a raw shooter. Thus, I have to do my developments, when I’m back at home (on a trip I only develop very few, but really fantastic, photos).

Therefore I create a sub-folder called “edit” inside the folder of certain trip part. Each developed photo is stored inside this edit folder. When I’m ready with all development of a folder, I start a batch process for exporting all developments to JPG-Files. Subsequently I start another batch job, that creates some further sub-folders for the original (printable) JPG and a watermarked file in web resolution.

photo-storageWhen I’m finished with a project, I move all JPGs to my file server, all developed files go to my NAS and all untouched raws to an external USB disk. On both storage devices, I have folders named by the year to hold the folders mentioned above. My file server and my NAS are backed up every day (night) to separate, independent USB disks. The external USB disk with all the raws isn’t backed up separately. Now, the pristine second copy isn’t needed anymore and thus cleared for a new use.

2014
 ⤷ 2014 – Iceland
    ⤷ 20140629 - arrival
       ⤷ big
       ⤷ org
       ⤷ web
    ⤷ 20140630 - 01 - Gullfoss
       ⤷ big
       ⤷ org
       ⤷ web
    ⤷ 20140630 - 02 – Geysir
       ⤷ big
       ⤷ org
       ⤷ web
    ⤷ 20140630 - 03 – Brúaráfoss
    ⤷ 20140701 - 01 - Pseudo crate field
    ⤷ 20140701 - 02 - Viking house
    ⤷ 20140701 - 03 - Gjáin Foss

Both, file server and NAS, are built from regular computer parts and set up with Linux. Thus, I’m able to adapt them easily, in case of new requirements.

My desktop computer is also backed up every night. All those backups are incremental backups. This is copying only the modified files, instead of the whole disk. Thus a backup is finished usually in less than half an hour, depending on the amount of modified files.

Take care for you valuable files. Have a backup!

Happy snapping 🙂