My Go-To Tool for HDR Imaging

There are a variety of software tools available for creating high dynamic range (HDR) images from a series of bracketed exposures. My recent experience has demonstrated that Aurora HDR 2019 is among the best,

NOTE: Get an extra $10 off Aurora HDR 2019 by using coupon code greylearning after following this link:

Conceptually the process of creating an HDR image involves only two steps. First the bracketed exposures are combined into a single image, generally with a very high bit depth that enables that image to contain a tremendous range of tonal and color values. Second, that image with an extended range is mapped into the narrower range of a “normal” photographic image, with a degree of creative interpretation available as part of this process.

What I have found is that a surprising number of my photos can’t be assembled reliably by most of the HDR software that is available. This often happens when I have a frame that has a relatively large area of the scene that is dynamic. One recent example was this sunset featuring water below and clouds above:

A sunset HDR capture, which I found that only Aurora HDR was able to assemble with good quality.

With a scene such as the above, it can certainly be difficult for HDR software to figure out how to blend the exposures into a single image. The water is moving relatively quickly, and even the clouds have a degree of movement that may cause variations among the individual frames of the bracketed exposures.

From a workflow convenience standpoint, I will admittedly use Lightroom Classic CC to assemble my more basic HDR images. After all, I’m already using Lightroom to manage my photos, and Lightroom does a good job with many HDR images.

Lightroom, however, failed miserably when it came to assembling the above sunset photo. Aurora HDR 2019, on the other hand, did a great job.

Beyond the task of assembling the initial HDR image, it is also important for HDR software to provide a good range of flexible tools for optimizing the appearance of your HDR images during the tone-mapping stage of the workflow.

In particular, I find the various adjustments in Aurora HDR’s “HDR Enhance” category to be helpful for enhancing details in a photo. Multiple sliders enable you to increase the clarity and texture, with control at varying scales within the image.

The wide range of tonal and color adjustments also make easy to exercise tremendous control over the general appearance of an HDR image being assembled with Aurora HDR.

If you like to create HDR images in your photography, I recommend taking a look at Aurora HDR 2019. You can get a free trial through the Skylum website here:

NOTE: Get an extra $10 off Aurora HDR 2019 by using coupon code greylearning after following the link above.

New Features in Lightroom Classic CC 8.0

Today Adobe has announced the October 2018 release of Lightroom Classic CC (version 8.0). There are a handful of technology improvements in this update that many photographers will find helpful. The updates include:

Masking by Depth Map

It is now possible to refine a targeted adjustment in Lightroom based on distance ranges within the scene. The Range Mask feature for targeted adjustments has now been updated to include support for depth maps embedded in certain image formats.

At the moment this feature applies to HEIC photos. In other words, for now this is a feature for photos captured with the iPhone or other smartphones running the new Android Pio operating system. It is reasonable to expect, however, that other cameras will offer similar support in the future.

An HEIC capture can include an embedded depth map, which effectively maps out the distances from the lens for all areas of the scene being photographed. That depth information can then be used to refine the mask for a targeted adjustment, such as with the Gradient Filter, the Radial Filter, or the Adjustment Brush.

For photographers familiar with the Focus Area feature in Photoshop CC that enables you to create selections based on areas of a photo that are in focus, the concept of masking based on a depth map is somewhat similar. The key difference is that the Focus Area selection evaluates an image and attempts to determine which areas are in focus, while the new Depth Map feature in Lightroom actually uses depth information embedded in a supported photo.

With this feature you can apply adjustments to areas of a photo based on a range of distances. This can be incredibly helpful for applying adjustments only to foreground areas versus background areas of a photo, for example.

Merge HDR Panoramas in One Step

For more than three years (since April 2015) Lightroom has supported the ability to merge multiple captures into an HDR (high dynamic range) image, or to a composite panorama. With the new October 2018 release of Lightroom Classic, you can now merge captures into an HDR panorama with a single process.

Previously, to create an HDR panorama in Lightroom, two steps would be required. You would first need to assemble all of the bracketed exposures into individual HDR image, and then assemble the HDR images into a composite panorama.  With the new update, you can simply select all of the captures that represent bracketed frames of the full panorama, and then merge all of the images into an HDR panorama with a single process.

Improved Tethering for Canon Cameras

While there aren’t any new features for tethered capture in the October 2018 update to Lightroom Classic CC, there have been improvements to tethered capture with Canon cameras. With tethered capture you are able to connect your camera to a computer running Lightroom Classic CC, control the captures within Lightroom, and have the tethered captures added automatically to your Lightroom catalog.

The improvements for tethered capture primarily relate to greater stability and faster performance when using Canon cameras for tethered capture. In addition, support has been added for a couple of additional Canon camera models (the Rebel T7 and the M50).

New Process Version

The October 2018 release of Lightroom Classic CC includes new Process Version 5. While a new process version has typically involved the addition of significant new features in the Develop module, with this release the updates are a bit more modest.

Noise reduction has been improved to help reduce the appearance of a purple color cast in photos captured at high ISO settings. In addition, the Dehaze adjustment has been improved to help reduce noise when you use a negative value for Dehaze.

HEVC Video Support

The HEVC video format is essentially the video version of the HEIC (or HEIF) capture formats for still images. With the October 2018 release, Lightroom Classic CC now supports HEVC video captures, so you can import videos created in this format. At the moment, this update primarily relates to videos captured with an iPhone using the latest operating system update.

Updated Camera and Lens Support

As with perhaps every other update to Lightroom, the October 2018 release also adds support for additional cameras and lenses. This translates to support for additional proprietary raw capture formats, as well as automatic Lens Corrections adjustments for photos captured with newer lenses.

New lenses supported in the October 2018 release are:

  • Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS II USM
  • Canon RF 24-105mm F4 L IS USM
  • TAMRON 17-35mm F2.8-4 Di OSD A037E
  • Venus Optics Laowa 15mm F2 Zero-D

New cameras supported in the October 2018 release are:

  • Canon EOS R
  • Fujifilm X-T3
  • Nikon COOLPIX P1000
  • Nikon Z 7
  • Panasonic LUMIX DC-LX100 II

New Features in Lightroom 7.2

While the new version 7.2 update to Adobe Lightroom Classic CC might technically count as a “minor” update, there are a few new features that I think can add a major benefit to your workflow.

You can check out the top new features of the Lightroom 7.2 update in the latest episode of Tim Grey TV here:

Don’t forget to subscribe to the Tim Grey TV channel on YouTube to ensure you see all of the latest updates!

No More “Perpetual” Lightroom

There will no longer be any updates to Adobe Lightroom for those who don’t subscribe to an Adobe Creative Cloud plan.

Yesterday Adobe released version 6.14 of Lightroom, which is the final update to the “perpetual” version of Lightroom. There will no longer be any updates for bug fixes, proprietary raw capture support, lens profile support, or new feature updates.

Adobe had previously made it clear that by the end of 2017 Lightroom would no longer be updated for users who did not subscribe to an Adobe Creative Cloud plan. In a blog post from October 18, 2017, which focused on the release of Lightroom CC and the rebranding of Lightroom Classic CC, the following information was included:

Lightroom 6 is the last standalone version of Lightroom that can be purchased outside of a Creative Cloud membership. There will not be a Lightroom 7 perpetual offering. Lightroom 6 will remain for sale for an undetermined amount of time, but will no longer be updated with camera support or bug fixes after the end of 2017.

Needless to say, this milestone will frustrate many photographers who are not happy about Adobe’s shift toward a subscription model for software licensing.

New Lightroom Downloader App

If you are a photographer who is using (or thinking about using) the new Adobe Lightroom CC and you are worried about your photos or metadata being “locked up”, you can now breathe a sigh of relief. Adobe has released the new Lightroom Downloader application that enables you to download all of your source photos with metadata updates from the Creative Cloud.

Prior to the release of this application, all photos you added to your Lightroom CC library would be uploaded to the Creative Cloud servers, and possibly deleted from your local storage. Any metadata updates would be stored within your library and synchronized to the Creative Cloud servers, but not stored with local copies of your photos.

This created some (very reasonable) concerns among photographers who were worried that their photos would be “locked up” with Lightroom CC, forcing them to continue paying for a monthly subscription just to retain access to their own photos.

The Lightroom Downloader application enables you to download copies of your original photos, along with metadata updates you applied within Lightroom CC. In other words, this application provides a way to access all of your photos and data should you choose to discontinue the use of Lightroom CC (or if you simply want a full backup of all of your photos and data to store locally).

When you use the Lightroom Downloader application, your photos will be organized into a folder structure based on the date of capture. This is the same folder structure Lightroom CC uses in the background, regardless of the folder structure you may have previously been using for your existing photos.

More details about the Lightroom Downloader application can be found on the Adobe website here:

Lightroom Gets Confusing

Adobe has just announced “Lightroom CC”, which of course is likely to confuse many photographers who have already been using Lightroom CC for a while, and who have been familiar with Lightroom for about a decade.

It turns out there is a completely new version of Lightroom that doesn’t actually replace the existing version of Lightroom. To make things more confusing, the new Lightroom is called “Lightroom CC”, and the prior version of Lightroom will become “Lightroom Classic CC”.

Confused? Me too!

Fortunately you can get some clarification in an episode of Tim Grey TV here: