aurora hdr

Aurora HDR Review: Includes New Updates in 2023

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Photo editor:Aurora HDR
Replaced by:Luminar Neo

Considering Aurora HDR? Or, in search of a powerful AI HDR software?

Great news, because in this article we’ll be going into the details of every aspect of the software:

  • What is Aurora HDR
  • What you can do with Aurora HDR
  • Key features of the HDR software
  • Pros and cons
  • Pricing review; you’ll know if it’s worth your buck or not
  • Lots more

Aurora HDR was replaced by Luminar Neo, which has the HDR Merge plugin in the Extensions pack. You will find more information about it at the end of this article.

Check HDR Merge Here >>

What is Aurora HDR?

before after landscape example

Created by Skylum, Aurora HDR is a powerful HDR software that packs amazing features to transform your images.

The company also owns other incredible image editors like Luminar. You’d be excited to know that Aurora HDR also features highly effective post-processing tools.

The software uses the power of artificial intelligence to make your photos full of life.

Let’s now see what it capable of is.

What You Can Do With Aurora HDR?

aurora hdr before after example 1

In addition to HDR image processing, the Aurora HDR allows editors to control almost every aspect of their images.

You can work with masks, blending modes, and layers within the software and have good control over how your images end up.

On top of that, every edit you make within the software is non-destructive. This means you can edit your photos with peace of mind, which allows you to experiment without boundaries.

But, that’s only when you save it in its own image format. Of course, exporting an image as a jpeg or tiff won’t give you the editing history to tweak with.

Plus, you can use Aurora HDR in tandem with Photoshop and Lightroom as well. Although this provides you with more flexibility, it can put a burden on your wallet.

However, even if you discontinued using Photoshop or Lightroom or never worked on them in the first place, there is good news. Aurora HDR can be effectively used as a standalone image editor.

If you like Adobe products and can afford them, it would be better to use Aurora HDR as a plugin with them.

And if you are not sure whether this HDR software is for you, you can always try Aurora HDR for 10 days free.

Top Aurora HDR Features Reviewed


Despite a lot of features, the layout of Aurora HDR is surprisingly simple and easy to navigate. So, you’d get used to it in no time.

And, if you have used Lightroom before, you’d find the interface a lot familiar.

When you create an HDR image, you’ll see three sections.

  1. Viewing pane
  2. Presets pane
  3. Editing pane

You can easily adjust these panes the way you like and can even minimize all of them to have a bigger, clearer preview.

Moreover, Aurora HDR provides a before & after view of an image as well.  It lets you compare your raw and polished photos easily.

aurora hdr before after button

The editing pane is also user-friendly. You’ll be able to find the different editing tools easily. Not only that but the presets pane is also unobtrusive and designed with the user in mind.

All in all, whether you are a beginner photo editor or shifting from Lightroom, you’ll get the hang of Aurora HDR’s user interface almost instantly.

Ease of Use

You don’t even need to have any previous image editing experience to use Aurora HDR effectively. That’s how easy it is to work with.

HDR image processing works by combining multiple shots of the same scene. When you open the software, a dialogue box prompts you to get started with the HDR batch processing.

As far as the post-processing tools are concerned, you can simply apply them using a slider. And, of course, the presets are applied with just a click of a button.

However, you do have to wait a bit before the software processes information. But, if you are a little patient, that shouldn’t be an issue at all.

HDR Quality

This is where you will be most impressed by this AI software. After you merge multiple photos of a scene, the tool produces a fantastic image out of them. It seamlessly aligns the images and retains the details perfectly.

You also don’t have to combine multiple images if you don’t want to. Aurora HDR can expand the dynamic range of single photos as well.


Skylum Aurora HDR’s filters are quite powerful. The sliders on the software are pretty sensitive. So, most of the time, you can get the desired result at low intensity.

The adjustable gradient feature lets you adjust the bottom and top of an image independently. This is pretty useful when you are editing a landscape.

Another impressive feature of Aurora HDR is that you don’t have to turn off a layer just to see your changes. Every filter has a toggle ON/OFF button, so you can easily see the changes.

Other filters that can make a considerable impact on how your images look are:

  • Color contrast slider
  • The HDR enhance panel
  • The image radiance filter

Let’s talk about its AI filters.

AI filter features

aurora hdr denoise clarity smart structure

HDR Denoise

The HDR Denoise AI filter lets you eliminate any noise from your images with just a simple left-right slider. And, the results are pretty great.

HDR clarity

The HDR Clarity filter, as the name suggests, makes your photos clearer by adding localized contrast.

Smart structure

Move the slider left and right until you get perfect detail and depth.

Presets (Looks)

aurora hdr looks collection

Presets are great when you don’t want to get into the individual details of an image. The Aurora HDR also comes with a few presets. These are now renamed “Looks” by Skylum. Using these presets you can change the whole “Look” of your images with just one click.

And, although the software comes with just a few looks, you can get more from Skylum’s website. In addition, you also get a few LUTs with Aurora HDR.

While Look Up Tables are usually for movie making, they can enhance images as well.

Post Processing Features

One more impressive thing about the Aurora HDR is that it offers great post-processing features as well. Here is a list of them:

  • Color toning
  • Tone curves
  • Crop, rotate and distort
  • Vignette
  • Layers and masks
  • Basic clarity and contrast
  • Color enhancements

Plugin Compatibility

aurora hdr compatibility

If you use Adobe products like Photoshop and Lightroom and like them, you’d love to know that Aurora HDR perfectly works as a plugin with them.

Plus, you can use a variety of Photoshop plugins within Aurora HDR. When you select a Photoshop filter, you’d be redirected to Photoshop to apply that filter.

It would then re-import the image into Aurora HDR for further editing.

Batch Processing

aurora hdr batch processing

This feature is great if you are a professional editor and need to edit many photos simultaneously. Fortunately, Aurora HDR allows you to process multiple HDR images at the same time.

However, the software does have a couple of tiny gripes. First, as mentioned before, it’s a little sluggish, so you’ll have to be a little patient.

Second, it would have been great if it had a healing brush to erase unwanted stuff from a photo. You have to use it with another program to remove, for instance, dust or a water droplet.

Pros and Cons


  • Excellent HDR quality
  • Fantastic post-processing features and tools
  • Easy to use
  • Saves a lot of time


  • Can be a little sluggish in performance

Aurora HDR Replacement – HDR Merge Extension

Skylum updates their software pretty frequently. A while ago they decided to replace Aurora HDR and put its main features into Luminar Neo while introducing a new extension: HDR Merge.

HDR Merge is extremely useful for real estate or landscape photos where you often need to expand dynamic range resulting in more detail in your photos.

Here’s a before and after example of applying HDR Merge on a landscape picture:

hdr merge before and after

You can get a monthly or yearly Luminar Neo subscription including all extensions, or buy the HDR Merge extension separately.

hdr merge extension price

At the time of writing, HDR Merge is priced at $49 as a standalone extension.

Check HDR Merge Here >>

Aurora HDR: the Verdict

Aurora HDR is a powerful, cost-effective, and user-friendly HDR image editor. It uses artificial intelligence to automatically produce results that would take a lot of time manually.

You can use it as a plugin with Adobe products like Photoshop and Lightroom or a standalone HDR image editor. It also features many post-processing features as well.

Probably the only gripe is that the software can be a little sluggish at times. But, that’s understandable as HDR image processing is an information-intensive task.

The best thing is, you pay a one-time affordable price and own the tool for life. On top of that, the software keeps on getting powerful new updates, adding more value to your purchase.

More articles about Skylum software:

What is Luminar AI?

How much does Luminar AI cost?

Does Luminar AI offer a free trial?

What is Luminar 4?

What’s the price of Luminar 4?