Monday, March 21, 2016

REVIEW: Aurora HDR by Macphun & Trey Ratcliff (includes Tutorial)

UPDATE: Now with over 270,000 downloads (as of 3/21/16)

Aurora HDR by Macphun and Trey Ratcliff
Aurora HDR Screen Shot
(link goes to MacPhun)

Trey Ratcliff has long been known for his popular HDR images, but in the past he’s always talked about doing his work mostly in Photomatix or sometimes HDR Efex Pro. Now he’s decided to team up with Macphun, a company known for phenomenally well designed software, to create the first HDR software that isn’t for geeks.

At first I was a bit skeptical, but when I saw this image made from 8 bracketed shots he got my attention:

8 Exposure HDR of Shackleton Hut in Antarctica - Copyright (c) Trey Ratcliff

As you learn more about the user interface in this video you quickly realize it has the same great fluid responsiveness and ease of use as the current line up of products in the Creative Kit.

I’ve spent a day kicking the tires and I’m very impressed. If you’ve seen my HDR software comparison, then you know what I think of the industry leading products in this space. While Lightroom and Photoshop have definitely improved their HDR support, I still think it sucks compared to what all of the third part solutions offer. As a result, the question becomes where should you put your hard earned dollars?

Well, at this point I’d have to say that HDR Efex Pro seems dead and Photomatix really hasn’t done anything revolutionary in a while, so it was a delight to use a fast, fluid and powerful new product in this space. The results speak for themselves and the speed at which you get a final product that needs no other editing is worth the price alone.

Ron’s Aurora Review & Tutorial

I’m no Trey Ratcliff, but I’ll give you my 2 cents in this 30 minute tutorial where I demonstrate how I use Aurora and my thoughts about it along the way:

The cool thing about this video is that there’s no smoke and mirrors and it’s done on a 2010 MacBook Pro with 8GB of RAM and 512KB video, but it performs very well.

Watch Trey use Aurora HDR


Don’t Miss This Video Playlist

Here’s some great videos that pretty much go through everything from A to Z in these 6 videos from Macphun (+2 from Trey). They are direct and to the point, so if you are one of those people who wants to know what something does before you click it, then this video set is definitely for you!


When I found out that Trey had teamed up with them to build an HDR product I quickly knew this would be something special, and it is.

It is very disappointing that Macphun doesn’t make Windows software, but they do promise that one is eventually coming (woohoo). The user experience for their products is fantastic and the user interfaces are super smooth and responsive. This is HDR software that anyone can easily use and understand to achieve great results quickly – with no other products required.

If you don’t have a Mac, then you might want to start considering picking one up from Amazon or at B&H (no sales tax outside NY) if you can’t wait until the Windows version comes out next year.

My only gripe thus far is the lack of support for an auto edge detection brush when creating masks like you’d find in Lightroom. This is a minor quibble since no other HDR product I’ve tested is as feature rich as this one anyway. It also has a lot more features and works significantly faster than HDR Efex Pro and Photomatix, so I think Mac users are going to be thrilled – especially those new to HDR.

Where to order

Coupon Code RONMART saves 10%

Click here to learn more or order at Trey Ratcliff’s store, or click here to buy directly from MacPhun. My friends at Macphun also have it available here with a 10% discount using the coupon code RONMART. Please note that my discount coupon code for everything at does not apply to this one product, but you can use it if you add any other products to your cart besides this. Be sure to search for “customs” on my discount coupon code page for the latest code.

If you aren’t familiar with Macphun products already, then go ahead and try out the free trial below…

While it lacks a lot of the features of the stand alone desktop version (see below), you can get a lightweight version of Aurora HDR via the Apple Mac App Store:

The following features are missing from the Mac App Store version, but you can get them with the full version here:

  • Multiple license - 5 Macs
  • Native RAW support
  • Unlimited number of layers
  • Unlimited number of brackets
  • Trey Ratcliff signature HDR presets
  • Photoshop plug-in support
  • Lightroom plug-in support
  • Aperture plug-in support
  • Luminosity masking
  • Chromatic aberration reduction
  • Gradient masking tools

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1 comment:

Unknown said...

Thanks from mentioning us in your blog.
We appreciate that :)

Alina from Macphun