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Video Tutorial: How to Make Realistic Images Faster with Aurora HDR 2018

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Post Production Tips

As a landscape photographer who relies heavily on HDR to pull off much of my work, I’m always keen to learn about better ways of doing what I do. Most of the time my art tends to run towards natural looking images in contrast to the wild and crazy stuff of HDR’s reputation. The HDR software I use matters when I’m going for a more natural looking photo in my post-processing.

Going natural with Aurora HDR 2018

Aurora hdr 2018 cactus before after

You can see several examples of the natural-looking results I’m getting in from Aurora HDR in the accompanying video and the several before and after images included here in the article.

Aurora HDR 2018 delivers, even more, natural-looking photos than before

The latest version of Aurora HDR is fresh out of the factory and I’ve been in a tire-kicking session with it for a few days making several photos. As expected, it’s a worthy upgrade. Do you want to see what’s new and how it helps when you want to keep the look of your HDR photos on the natural side?


After processing with Aurora HDR 2018.

Under the Hood of Aurora HDR 2018

The Macphun engineers have been very busy for many months re-building Aurora HDR from scratch. It’s like Walter White always says in Breaking Bad, “It had to be done.” In order to create a cross-platform Windows/Mac application, all new code was required. Big job.

The resulting product is something they can be proud of. The new HDR algorithm in Aurora HDR 2018 churns out very natural looking HDR images when it’s used correctly and with natural HDR being the goal. Of course, Aurora HDR 2018 is a perfect fit for my landscape photography work. It uses the most modern tone-mapping technology and an advanced image-processing engine, which makes very clean images, as you’ll notice in my examples.


After processing with Aurora HDR.


Video tutorial: Keeping it natural and real in Aurora HDR 2018

All the new features, just added to Aurora HDR 2018 in this release, bring it ever closer to becoming the only app you’ll need to process your HDR images and keep them as natural looking as you want. When you watch the video you’ll see how I use some of the new major features packed into Aurora HDR 2018 when creating my natural looking HDR landscapes. Watch the demo video:

Embracing the faster workflow using Aurora HDR 2018

You probably love photography as much as I do. Getting new tools that really help me get to my intended vision faster, or easier, or just better in any aspect, are quite welcome. They make it even easier to love what I do.

Kudos to the completely rewritten HDR algorithm and the advanced image-processing engine in Aurora HDR 2018. I’m finding that it’s speeding up my workflow significantly. That’s because of how good my photos usually look immediately after tone mapping even without even doing anything else in Aurora.

If I were brand new to photography, I’d be totally happy leaving my photos in that initial tone-mapped state with no further processing. They are that clean!



Back in the day (before Aurora HDR), it could take me up to a couple of hours to finish an HDR photo. Even then, it wasn’t all that natural looking much of the time. Thankfully, things are always evolving in exciting ways.

Ever since my foray into HDR photography eight years ago, my skills have improved. But I honestly have to credit the improvements in software, like Aurora HDR 2018, for dramatically reducing the time it takes me to finish a photo to just a few minutes while getting better, more realistic, results.


My intention is keeping my post-processing time to five minutes per image and striving for consistently higher quality photography. Aurora HDR 2018 is a big piece in my HDR workflow making that happen so it’s now a permanent tool in my HDR arsenal.

Be sure to watch the video, then I invite you to check out more Aurora HDR images in my SmugMug gallery.

Disclaimer: Macphun is a paid partner of dPS.

The post Video Tutorial: How to Make Realistic Images Faster with Aurora HDR 2018 by Keith Cuddeback appeared first on Digital Photography School.


How to Use Puppet Warp in Photoshop

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Post Production Tips

One of the most powerful distortion tools in Photoshop is the Puppet Warp command. First Introduced in Photoshop CS5, Puppet Warp is a handy command that allows you to easily bend and shape parts of your image as if it were a puppet. You can use this distortion tool on almost any photo, but in this tutorial, I am going to give you a crash-course on how to make the most out of Puppet Warp command when distorting people in your photos.

Puppet Warp provides a visual mesh that lets you drastically distort specific image areas while leaving other areas intact. Applications range from subtle adjustments to severe limb distortions. In most cases, you will keep your distortions subtle to keep them realistic.

How to Use Puppet Warp in Photoshop

However, in this tutorial, we will push the Puppet Warp Tool to the max and make drastic adjustments to completely reposition the arms and legs of the man in this composite.

Isolating Your Subject

The first step to using the Puppet Warp command is to isolate the person (or object) that you would like to distort. This often involves making a selection of the individual and masking-out the background.

In this example, the man jumping was extracted from his background via a Layer Mask and placed into a Smart Object. Smart Objects allow you to apply filters, commands, and distortions nondestructively; which means that you can always come back and adjust any changes that you’ve made.

02 isolate - How to Use Puppet Warp in Photoshop

Puppet Warp works even if you don’t extract the subject from the background, but the tool becomes less efficient and less intuitive.

Apply The Distortion Pins

The Puppet Warp command allows you to distort an image by clicking-and-dragging pins which distort the pixels to which they are attached.

After you isolate the person in your scene, you will need to add the distortion pins so that you can start manipulating the pixel in your image. Start by selecting the layer that contains your foreground element, in this case, the layer of the man jumping, and Go to Edit > Puppet Warp.

03 mesh How to Use Puppet Warp in Photoshop

By Default, you will see a mesh around your layer. This mesh can be distracting; I encourage you to disable it by unchecking the “Show Mesh” checkbox from the Options Bar.

04 disable mesh

You can now click anywhere on your subject to create the pins that will allow you to move (or pin down) the pixels in the image. When working with people, create the pins near the joints such as the wrist, shoulders, knees, ankles, and in any other area where the body would normally bend. You can also create pins in areas that you want to keep pinned down.

05 add pins How to Use Puppet Warp in Photoshop

Adjusting Pins and Distorting the Image

With your pins in place, click on a single pin to activate it, and drag it to a new location. You will see that the image will be distorted as you drag the pin. The distortions will become more extreme the further you drag it from its original location.

06 move pins How to Use Puppet Warp in Photoshop

Rotating Pins

After making a distortion, you may find that the image does not look realistic because of how the pins bend the surrounding pixels. To help fix this issue, you can use the Rotate control in the Options Bar to rotate a single point and help correct some of the unrealistic distortions.

07 rotate options

You can also select a pin and hover over it while holding Option/Alt to reveal a Rotate UI element that you can click-and-drag on to rotate the mesh.

08 rotate

This method is much more intuitive, and it allows you to rotate the pin much easier. But for more subtle and precise rotations, the Rotate control in the Options Bar will be the better option.

Pin Depth

In this example, you’ll notice that the model’s leg has been placed over his right leg. But if you would like for his right leg to be in front, then you can adjust the Pin Depth.

Select the pin that controls his right leg, and in the Options Bar, under Pin Depth, Click the Move Forward icon to push that pin forward.

09 pin depth

After changing the Pin Depth, the model’s right leg will appear in front of his left leg.

09 leg behind

You can do the same with any of the other pins in your image to change the depth of the corresponding body part.

Options Bar Settings

The Options bar also give you a few extra options that will determine how the mesh will behave and it will, of course, affect how the pixels are distorted.

  • The Mode option lets you decide how stretchable the mesh should be.
  • Density controls the spacing of the mesh’s points. Adding more points makes your edits a lot more accurate, but the processing time takes longer to complete.
  • Expansion allows you to expand or contract the outer edges of the mesh.


If you prefer to watch me do this and follow along by video, see below:

Remember that when using the Puppet Warp command, or any other distortion tool in Photoshop, you should do so with restraint. Small changes can have a significant impact and go unnoticed. However, extreme adjustments could quickly become unrealistic and distracting to the whole image.

The post How to Use Puppet Warp in Photoshop by Jesus Ramirez appeared first on Digital Photography School.


How to Make a Little Planet Quickly and Easily in Photoshop

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Post Production Tips

Do you find your panoramas a bit flat? Would you like to create a whole little planet out of a single street or square? Do you want to make fun, eye-catching images in just a few minutes without any new equipment or apps? Then this article is for you!

What is a Little Planet

Maybe you’ve heard about the “tiny planet” or “little planet” effect but don’t know exactly what that is. Maybe you have seen them but don’t know how to do them. Well, let’s start by explaining that a tiny planet is a spherical panorama and is technically called a stereographic projection.

The result of this effect is that your traditional landscape will now be circular and thus look like a planet floating in space, water, or sky depending on the background of the panorama you’re using.

PlanetReggio - How to Make a Little Planet Quick and Easy in Photoshop

Little planets are very trendy since it became possible to capture 360 x 180 degree panoramic shots. However, in this tutorial I’m going to show you how to do them from any straightforward bi-dimensional rectangular photo. I’m using Photoshop for this, but you can do it in most post-processing programs, even the free ones like GIMP.

Subjects for a Little Planet

A landscape or a panorama are the best choices, however you can get interesting results applying this effect to other kind of scenes. For example, I used it in this photo from the interior of a library, see how the spiral lines add depth to the space?

Library How to Make a Little Planet Quick and Easy in Photoshop

Also, if you apply it to a portrait the result is like looking through a peephole.

Clown How to Make a Little Planet Quick and Easy in Photoshop

How to Make a Little Planet

Okay, back to the instructions. First you need to open your image in Photoshop and alter the proportions of your photo so that it becomes a square. To do this go to Menu > Image > Image Size. Once the Image Size pop-up window opens, make sure you deactivate the “constrain proportions” option or else the entire image will resize proportionally. Once you do that, make sure the width and the height values are the same.

Size How to Make a Little Planet Quick and Easy in Photoshop

Now you will see your image distorted, like stretched out. Don’t worry about it, that’s what we were looking for here.

Rotate the Image

Distortion How to Make a Little Planet Quick and Easy in Photoshop

Now that you have your square you need to rotate it. To do it you go to Menu > Image > Image Rotation > 180 degrees.


Now you will see the image upside down.


*Note: if you want your planet to be inside out you skip this step! At the end, I’ll show you the results with and without this rotation.

Apply the Effect

The final stage is to apply the effect. Go to Menu > Filter > Distort > Polar Coordinates. In the pop-up window you will see a preview of your little planet; make sure that the Rectangular to Polar option is marked and click OK.


Voila a Little Planet

There you go, your own little planet! You can rotate the image (like you did in step 2) until you find the orientation that works best for your image. You can also use the clone tool if you need to blend the merging of the borders or iron out any final details. And of course, you can fix contrast and exposure, as you would do with any photo.

Final How to Make a Little Planet Quick and Easy in Photoshop

And here is the one inside out if you skipped the second step and didn’t rotate the image:

Insideout How to Make a Little Planet Quick and Easy in Photoshop

So you see, it was only a matter of three steps. However, to get better results, especially if it’s your first few planets let me give you some tips and tricks:

Tips and Tricks

Use a photo with a wider ratio, like 2:1 and more. If you don’t have that, a landscape (horizontal) photo will still do better than portrait (vertical) one.

StartLandscape How to Make a Little Planet Quick and Easy in Photoshop

Compose your photo with the rule of thirds leaving the top and bottom sections with minimal information and the details in the middle area. In this example, I have the sky on the top, trees in the middle, and ground on the bottom.

Make sure the horizon line is completely straight. If it wasn’t like that in the original shot, it’s very easy to fix. First, pick the ruler tool from the toolbox (if you don’t see it just press and hold the eyedropper and you’ll find it). Then click and drag a straight line from one side to the other. Finally, click on the Straighten Layer button on top.

Ruler How to Make a Little Planet Quick and Easy in Photoshop

The edges will merge better in the planet if the left and right edges of your panorama are similar. When possible, like it would be in the case of a forest, for example, you can copy the left side, flip it and paste it on the right side. That way they will match perfectly.

Edges How to Make a Little Planet Quick and Easy in Photoshop

Your Turn

Now you can create a whole universe of little planets from nature to urban landscapes, the possibilities are endless.


I invite you to share your planets here in the comments section below.

The post How to Make a Little Planet Quickly and Easily in Photoshop by Ana Mireles appeared first on Digital Photography School.


3 Powerful Tips for the Perfect Vignette in Lightroom

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Post Production Tips

The vignette is one of the most powerful ways to boost your photos. It reduces your photo’s brightness at corners and sides compared to the image center. It’s mainly used to highlight elements in the center even more. Besides, you can also use it to cover distracting details on the sides of your image.

As popular as it is, it’s just as common to not apply vignettes properly using Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw. Let me show you three powerful tweaks to squeeze out 100% of its potential and present your photos in a better light!

1) How to decide which photo is suited for a vignette

The vignette shifts the focus to the center of your frame. That’s why you’ll ideally have a photo where your subject is placed in the middle. Otherwise, the vignette will make your subject darker and take away the spotlight.

To make the vignette even more powerful, it really helps to have the light in the center of the frame as well. Your subject is either lit up from the front or illuminated by some backlight. Of course, it depends on how strong you apply the vignette. If you use it lightly around the sides and corners, then the subject can also be a bit to the top, bottom, left or right of the frame.

3 Powerful Tips for the Perfect Vignette

Take a look at the two photos above. The one on the left has the subject on the far left. The vignette not only covers the subject, it also highlights the less important wall in the middle. The right photo, however, has the subject in the center. The vignette blends out the unimportant details of the office and highlights the person and the view in the center. Do you see how the vignette works much better in the example on the right?

Whether you are capturing buildings in a city, trees in the countryside or animals in the zoo, the same rule of thumb applies: place the most important element in the center.

2) How to make the vignette as smooth as possible

The best vignette in the world is the one you barely notice. That’s why you always need to make sure that the transition is as gentle as possible. Once you notice the transition from dark to bright, it’s not done right. Do you see the circle of the vignette in this photo?

3 Powerful Tips for the Perfect Vignette

The reason for this is generally that the feather slider is too far to the left side. As you can see in the screenshot below, it’s at 33. The more you go to the left, the more visible the transition will be.

Transition Bad - 3 Powerful Tips for the Perfect Vignette

Always make sure to move the feather slider to the right side. For most of my vignettes, I slide it all the way to 100. That way, you will achieve the smoothest transition for your photos.

Transition Bad - 3 Powerful Tips for the Perfect Vignette

Once you’ve applied the feather more generously, the vignette’s border will largely disappear. As a result, your vignette will blend more smoothly into the natural light of the scenery. In case the transition remains too strong, you can always reduce the amount a bit as well.

3 Powerful Tips for the Perfect Vignette

3) How to create a custom vignette

Although the post-crop vignette works best with subjects in the center, you will also use different placements. Luckily, you can always create a custom vignette that is tailored to your composition. The easiest way to do this is to use the Radial Filter.

The following photo could really need a vignette. That way, we could highlight the sunset and the silhouette even more. In order to create a custom vignette, open the Radial Filter (Shift + M) first. Then you decrease the exposure to a level between -0.20 and -1.0. In this case, I set it to -0.64.

Radial 3 Powerful Tips for the Perfect Vignette

Click on the subject in your photo, hold and drag the circle around your subject. Everything outside of the circle will become darker.

3 Powerful Tips for the Perfect Vignette

Remember the first tip how the transition always needs to be smooth? We will do the same for the custom vignette. With the feather slider, you can make the transition from dark (outside the circle) to bright (inside the circle) smoother. The further you slide it to the right, the gentler the transition becomes. For this photo, I changed it to 81 instead of 50.

Radial 3 Powerful Tips for the Perfect Vignette

When you compare the original photo (left) with the custom vignette (right), you can clearly see the difference. The light atmosphere in the right photo is more intense and the vignette guides the viewer to the subject.

3 Powerful Tips for the Perfect Vignette


I hope these three tips for better vignettes will you take your images to the next level. Of course, practice makes perfect. Play around with the sliders as much as possible to get a feel for the right amount. If you have any questions, let me know in the comments and I’m more than happy to help you out!

The post 3 Powerful Tips for the Perfect Vignette in Lightroom by Marius Vieth appeared first on Digital Photography School.


Speed up Your Workflow with the Accent AI Filter in Luminar and Batch Processing

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Post Production Tips

It’s not uncommon for me to sit down at my computer with a memory card full of images and stare blankly at my ever-growing Lightroom catalog while my mind reels at the thought of editing each and every one of them. Many photographers have experienced this phenomenon and there are certainly some good methods of dealing with it such as using Presets in Lightroom, syncing edits across multiple photos, or even just copying and pasting a series of edits from one image to the next and then tweaking as you go.

Other programs offer similar tools for processing multiple images at once, but the Achilles Heel of this type of workflow is that the edits are often static in nature. You can choose from a predetermined set of values (e.g. Clarity +10, Saturation +5, Highlights -20, etc.) and then apply that to many images at one time. But what if some of your images require subtle changes to those parameters?

Lightroom and just about every image editor I have ever used for batch processing won’t tweak your editing parameters if a picture needs a little extra contrast boost or exposure adjustment. That’s where Luminar is different, and its unique Accent AI filter combined with the program’s built-in batch processing offers a great way for you to significantly speed up your workflow while producing outstanding images for yourself, your clients, or your fans on social media.

How to Speed up Your Workflow Using the Accent AI Filter in Luminar to do Batch Processing

After batch processing with the Accent AI filter in Luminar.

Accent AI Filter in Luminar

The Accent AI filter is new in Luminar Neptune, an update to Luminar that was released this summer. It works by using artificial intelligence to analyze your image and make adjustments depending on where it thinks the picture needs it most. Accent AI isn’t just a predetermined set of adjustments, but a series of tweaks and edits applied dynamically to the image, all controlled by a single slider that lets you control the overall intensity of the filter.

When I edit my images in Lightroom I often start with a custom preset that includes many alterations such as sharpness, highlights, shadows, tone curve, etc., and then adjust those on a per-image basis according to how I want them to be fine-tuned. It’s the latter part of that process which becomes tedious, and it’s precisely where the usefulness of the Accent AI filter really starts to show.

If Luminar thinks that an image might benefit from lowering the highlights, increasing shadow detail, altering the exposure, or any number of other editing parameters then it adjusts all of these at once instead of forcing you to edit individual sliders and change numerical values.

How to Speed up Your Workflow Using the Accent AI Filter in Luminar to do Batch Processing

Original unprocessed image. All I did to edit this into the image you see above was to use the Accent AI filter in Luminar and nothing else.

Applying the Accent AI Filter

Another example of the effectiveness of the Accent AI filter is this image of the Seattle skyline I took from the Sky View Observatory at the top of the Columbia Center Tower. I spent a lot of time using the various sliders in Lightroom to try to get a decent final result. But when opened the same picture in Luminar and used the Accent AI filter, I got a great finished photo in a matter of seconds.

How to Speed up Your Workflow Using the Accent AI Filter in Luminar to do Batch Processing

Original photo. Listen closely and you’ll hear a sad trombone playing in the background.

The first version, processed only using Lightroom. I spent about 10-15 minutes to achieve this in LR.

The Luminar version is so good I like it even better than the results I got from manually tweaking all sorts of sliders in Lightroom, and it literally took less than 10 seconds with the single Accent AI slider.

How to Speed up Your Workflow Using the Accent AI Filter in Luminar to do Batch Processing

Applying the Accent AI filter dramatically improved the image. The only thing I don’t like about this picture are the spots from dust on my lens in the top-left corner. Accent AI is great at many things, but it won’t fix blemishes like that. Luminar does include a powerful Erase tool to fix blemishes if you want to, but of course, it doesn’t work for batch processing.

Accent AI can also be used in combination with other filters in Luminar to enhance your images even more. You can get just the right combination of editing parameters to make your photos shine. I often use the Accent AI Filter as a starting point, usually adjusting the value to between 60 and 80, and then apply other edits as I need them like Vignette, Dehaze, or Soft Focus.

But the real power of Accent AI lies in how it can be used for batch processing wherein it can dramatically speed up and enhance the results of your photo editing workflow.

Creating Presets in Luminar

How to Speed up Your Workflow Using the Accent AI Filter in Luminar to do Batch Processing

Click the Add Preset button (shown here with a red circle around it) to create a new Preset that you can use when Batch Processing several images.

In order to use Accent AI for batch processing you must first create a preset, since you can’t just apply individual filters when going through a batch of images. Your mileage may vary but I’ve found that a good place to start when working with this type of operation is a value of 75. Set that, then click the icon third from the left (circled in red on the screenshot) and give your Preset a name, but make sure it’s descriptive like “Accent AI 75”.

Presets can contain as many filters as you like. I have create several for different types of images including: landscape, close-up, portraits, etc. All of them include the Accent AI filter and a combination of other filters in order to get the right look. The heavy lifting is done with the Accent AI filter, though. So I have a few different presets created with just that one filter set to different values like 60, 80, and 100 so I can quickly apply a single Accent AI adjustment to multiple images at once.

The Accent AI filter shines

Since the Accent AI filter examines each image individually and edits them based on where it thinks they need to be altered, I can generally trust it to give me good results and often don’t even need to use any other adjustments or filters.

Another way to approach batch processing with Accent AI is to open a single image from a collection of similar photos, apply the filter just as much as you want for that specific image, and then save that value as its own unique Preset. Then enter the Batch Processing mode and apply that Preset to all of your images at once.

How to Speed up Your Workflow Using the Accent AI Filter in Luminar to do Batch Processing

The thought of going through and editing each one of these pictures individually really bugs me. I created a preset called Cicada Accent AI 82 for editing these in a batch, which was nothing more than the Accent AI filter set to 82 Percent.

The major difference between using the Accent AI Filter in Luminar and syncing (or copy/pasting) edits in Lightroom is that Accent AI works dynamically to apply adjustments where they are needed. So each picture is edited individually rather than having all the same edits applied to all of them at once. That makes it ideally suited for batch processing in a way that is a step above what Lightroom and other programs have to offer. I’m not all that comfortable with applying a single preset in Lightroom to many pictures at once without then going through and tweaking all of them. But I’ve learned to trust the Accent AI Filter in Luminar and I’m quite pleased with its results.

Batch Processing

Once your preset is created, click the multi-file icon in the top-left of the Luminar interface to enter Batch Processing mode. Here you can set a variety of options such as export location, image format and quality, resizing, renaming, and more.

How to Speed up Your Workflow Using the Accent AI Filter in Luminar to do Batch Processing

In the example above I have loaded the Accent AI 75 Percent preset and ran a batch process on 50 photos of a cicada bug. Luminar processed all of them in about the amount of time it would have taken me to edit a single image in Lightroom.

How to Speed up Your Workflow Using the Accent AI Filter in Luminar to do Batch Processing

A quick caveat

As good as the Accent AI filter is for batch processing, it does have some important limitations that you should be aware of. I have found that it works best for nature, landscape, and architecture photography and generally prefer its results in those types of situations over portraits.

That’s not to say it isn’t useful for portraits, just that I’m a bit overly picky and tend to obsess over small details that even the advanced artificial intelligence in the filter can’t quite match. Also there can be a tendency to apply it a little too much, especially when you first start using it. My advice would be to hold back a bit to a value of 40 or 50, especially when batch processing. Sliding the filter all the way to the right can sometimes result in photos that look a little too over-edited and fake, so it might be best to start small and then find how you like to use it over time.

How to Speed up Your Workflow Using the Accent AI Filter in Luminar to do Batch Processing


Even if you don’t like the idea of trusting a computer to edit your photos for you, I would encourage you to at least give the Accent AI filter inside Luminar a try. Use it in combination with a couple other filters and see how it could save you a great deal of time, especially with batch processing or generating proofs for clients. You might be surprised at how much you like it.

The post Speed up Your Workflow with the Accent AI Filter in Luminar and Batch Processing by Simon Ringsmuth appeared first on Digital Photography School.


Review of the Latest Version of PaintShop Pro 2018

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Post Production Tips

In this article, I will review the latest version of PaintShop Pro 2018. I have a unique perspective, having used it over 17 years ago for the first time. Let’s see how it fairs now.

Please note: this is a Windows-only program.

Start of PaintShop Pro (PSP)

Approximately 17 years ago I was working in retail selling computer hardware and software. A lot of people came in asking for Photoshop and were understandably shocked when they were informed the price was $1500. So being able to offer them an alternative for around $200 meant I made a lot of sales of what was then PaintShop Pro Version 7.

Review of the Latest Version of PaintShop Pro 2018

Since then, Corel bought the program and invested in further development. PSP (as it was known in the day) could do quite a bit of what Photoshop did, it had layers and masking, support for graphics tablets, and for the majority of people who just wanted to be creative, was a very cost-effective option. It was laid out in a similar way to Photoshop, functioned very similarly and to a certain extent was just as difficult to learn for a newbie.

Things have changed a lot since then. Now, I have spent the last three years learning to use Photoshop to creatively edit my images beyond straight photography. With a new set of skills under my belt, it’s time to see what PaintShop Pro 2018 can offer once again.

Price and Options of PaintShop Pro 2018

PaintShop Pro 2018 is available in both Standard ($64.99 USD) and Ultimate ($79.99 USD) options, where Ultimate includes some other potentially useful Corel programs. For our purposes here, this review will only cover the Standard version.

Purchase Full version for a new installation, or upgrade if you are a current user.

Please note that PaintShop Pro 2018 is only compatible with Windows operating systems, however, it must also be noted that this is a perpetual license, not a subscription. You only need to pay once and it’s yours forever, which may appeal to some customers.

Ease of Use

On starting up PaintShop Pro you are greeted with a Welcome screen and the choice of Essentials or Complete.  Each screen is a different color to minimize confusion. At the bottom of each screen is a choice of links encompassing tutorials, free stuff and access to technical support.

Review of the Latest Version of PaintShop Pro 2018

There is also access directly within the program to purchase extra textures, software (including an upgrade to the Ultimate version) and lots of different plugins and special effect options.

Creating a new file offers choices from a custom design and several different image or document presets.

Review of the Latest Version of PaintShop Pro 2018

The Essentials Workspace

The Essentials workspace layout is very simple and clean with the usual central space dedicated to the image, a menu bar at the top, tool bar options to the left and right, and an image browsing interface (similar to Adobe Bridge) at the bottom.

The left tool bar can be moved, docked, floated or stretched out to a single column of buttons. Adding or removing functions is easily done by clicking on the plus (+) at the bottom and selecting from the choices available. It is a pretty extensive list and would likely cover the requirements for most average users.

The right tool bar by default handles the colour palette options and can also be docked by right-clicking and selecting that option.

Review of the Latest Version of PaintShop Pro 2018

The Complete Workspace

The Complete workspace layout is a bit more involved with an additional Learning Center docked on the right-hand side. Good news is that if you switch between Essentials and Complete, the program remembers your preferences for laying out the menus so it stays consistent. Layers also dock much tidier in Complete workspace than they do in Essentials – so if you want to use Layers, I suggest using the Complete workspace. There is a fair amount of customization of the visual layout, sizing, and color options as well under User Interface.

Keyboard shortcuts appear to be pretty similar to those used in Photoshop. I tested Ctl+Z (undo), B, and X with expected results.

Review of the Latest Version of PaintShop Pro 2018


The system used for testing was an HP Z230 Workstation with an i7-4770 3.4Ghz processor, 12GB memory, and an SSD drive. The performance was quick and responsive. However noticeable lag was experienced when bringing in a large PSD file with around 50 layers. It took about a minute for the program to process and open the file.

Linking to a Network Drive to view RAW files also showed some hesitation while the program did some background processing.

Image Management and Editing

Enhance Photo options are available within both the Essential and Complete workspaces. My preference is for the Smart Photo fix, as you get a large preview window to view the effect of adjustments, plus you have more options and control over the settings. One Step Photo Fix is a “click the button and what you get is what you get”. Smart Photo Fix gives you basic options but with a bit more control.

Review of the Latest Version of PaintShop Pro 2018

Smart Photo Fix option offers some basic editing options as well as a Before and After preview which is really useful.

There are also some Lens Correction options under the Adjust Menu to help counter various distortion problems.

The usual Adjustment layers are available; Brightness/Contrast, Curves, Hue/Saturation, and Levels being the most likely candidates, plus a few unique to PaintShop Pro. One feature I did particularly like was that it offers a preview of the effect from within the editing palette.

Review of the Latest Version of PaintShop Pro 2018

A preview window is offered on all the Adjustment Layers that I tested.

Working with RAW images

RAW images can be edited via a Camera Raw option. It appears to work similar to Lightroom, where you point the navigation at the desired folder and it pulls up the images in a grid view. I have everything saved on an NAS (Network Attached Storage), and the Computer navigation option couldn’t view it, but I was able to add a link to the NAS under the Collections>Browse more Folders option. It took a while for the program to make the network linkage, and bring up the images.

Once you find the RAW file you want to edit, select it and click the EDIT Tab and it will open up a fairly basic panel with similar options to Adobe Camera Raw. It would be on a par with Lightroom version 3 or 4, so quite limited compared to current Adobe options. However, if you do not need the more advanced features, it is quite functional.

Review of the Latest Version of PaintShop Pro 2018

Raw file editing is fairly basic compared to today’s standards (Adobe ACR) but it covers the bases for most home users without being too complicated.

Creative Options

Masks are still a bit clunky. When you want to add one, you are asked to choose from three options – if you want it to behave the same way you expect in Photoshop, choose Source Opacity. The default is Source Luminance.

Review of the Latest Version of PaintShop Pro 2018

No wonder I found masks so difficult to learn back when first using PaintShop Pro.

The Scratch Remover worked alright but when I tested it on a textured background, there was an obvious blur visible where it had applied. Object Remover was a bit clunky to use, in that you had to select the object you wanted to remove with one tool, and the background you wanted to replace it with via a separate tool. Once applied it did a pretty good job. Some feathering of the edges, and it would blend in nicely.

Here you can see a line of blur where I have used the Scratch Remover (red circle). I have also used the Content-Aware option but that is less obvious (purple circle).

Text can be applied, and there are lots of options for texture, paint, brushes (though there is a very limited default range of brushes, you do have the option to purchase more or create your own).

Review of the Latest Version of PaintShop Pro 2018

Brushes and text and using layers.


PaintShop Pro 2018 is a program that is clearly aimed at the consumer market. With two levels of control, it caters to the most basic requirements, and still allows enough scope for people who want to stretch their editing capabilities.

For those needing professional or advanced level editing Lightroom and Photoshop, both offer much more advanced functionality, but PaintShop Pro will cater to the vast majority of user requirements. The price is attractive, as is the lack of any ongoing subscription costs. A lot of work has gone into improving and modernizing the interface and there is a lot of flexibility offered as to how you can interact with the program.

It offers a good range of tools and options at a reasonable price and should not be overlooked. It would compare favorably against Adobe Elements.


There are a few historical quirks (like management of layers) that should be improved to make it easier to use. But PaintShop Pro is ideal for a home user who wants a range of features that are not too complicated.

The post Review of the Latest Version of PaintShop Pro 2018 by Stacey Hill appeared first on Digital Photography School.


5 Reasons for Lightroom Photographers to Use the Edit In Photoshop Feature

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Post Production Tips

Since its Version 1.0 release in 2006, Adobe Lightroom has gone from strength to strength, firmly establishing itself as the go-to software for photographers around the globe. With each new update, you’ll be relieved to find you have fewer reasons for awakening the software’s fuller-figured big brother, Photoshop CC.

That said, there are some limitations with Lightroom that have stood the test of time. Thankfully, with more signups for the Creative Cloud Photography plan, there are now few photographers without access to both solutions. But for the times you need it, here are five reasons you’ll likely find yourself firing up Photoshop CC for better results.

1 – Cloning and Healing

Lightroom is a whiz at removing simple sensor spots from that top left corner of your images (Nikon users, you know what I’m talking about!). Punching Q then A allows me to quickly visualize any distracting spots with the handy white on black overlay, and their removal is typically a swift one-click solution using the Spot Healing tool.

However, the same cannot be said when attempting to remove distractions from more complex textures such as dust spots in the grass, for example, or people, as in the image below. For those situations, I rely on the smarter algorithms and expanded capabilities of Photoshop.

Cloning before - 5 Reasons for Lightroom Photographers to Use the Edit In Photoshop Feature

Want to feel like the only person at Angkor Wat? Then, you’ll need Photoshop!

To remove and replace objects that Lightroom cannot handle, start by right-clicking the image and choosing Edit in Photoshop. Then create a duplicate layer (CTRL/CMD + J) of your image in Photoshop (I generally do this every time I start processing so I can always get back to the original if I make a mistake or don’t like the result).

Next, erase the distraction with the Eraser Tool (E) so that you can see a “missing piece” where the culprit used to lie (be sure to turn off the visibility of the original background layer if nothing appears to have been erased). Select the area using the wand tool (W) and then in the menu bar at the top of your screen choose Select > Modify > Expand (choose around 5 pixels as your setting).

Next, choose Edit > Fill and select “Content-Aware” in the Contents dropdown list. Hit OK and Photoshop will attempt to replace what you’ve erased with something sensible.

Cloning demo - 5 Reasons for Lightroom Photographers to Use the Edit In Photoshop Feature

A before, during, and after shot showing the simple removal of people from an image using Erase and Content-Aware Fill.

I’ve been able to seamlessly remove crowds of people from the image you see here using this technique, and the process took only around two minutes. Whereas Lightroom relies on finding a similar texture it can use to cover up distractions/blemishes, Photoshop uses its clever algorithms to create its own texture.

Cloning final - 5 Reasons for Lightroom Photographers to Use the Edit In Photoshop Feature

Going, going, gone! Photoshop makes light work of the unwanted people in the image.

2 – Digital Blending

Sometimes you just can’t quite capture enough dynamic range in your image to get away with a single exposure (at least not without introducing an unacceptable amount of noise or strange artifacts). While Lightroom has attempted to cater to those who wish to combine exposures with the introduction of HDR Photo Merge, using the feature can sometimes lead to incredibly flat images that are tricky to process (and in the case of the image you see below, caused the sun to completely disappear by virtue of it not appearing in both of the photographs).

Hdr both frames - 5 Reasons for Lightroom Photographers to Use the Edit In Photoshop Feature

Pulling up the shadows on the darker of these two exposures would introduce too much noise, and so HDR seemed the way to go.

Lightroom hdr attempt - 5 Reasons for Lightroom Photographers to Use the Edit In Photoshop Feature

…if only it wasn’t for Lightroom’s attempt to fix global warming.

Lightroom hdr after post-production - 5 Reasons for Lightroom Photographers to Use the Edit In Photoshop Feature

The plight of a freezing earth aside, even after post-production in Lightroom, the blended exposure looks flat and uninteresting.

The advanced masking abilities of Photoshop, combined with a technique called Luminosity Masking makes combining exposures much simpler. Using this technique, you choose exactly what appears from each exposure, so blending images that have uncommon elements (as in the case of the sun in the example image) is simple.

Photoshop hdr blend - 5 Reasons for Lightroom Photographers to Use the Edit In Photoshop Feature

Not only is the sun retained, but the image looks punchier overall, too.

3 – Advanced Tone and Color Control

The local adjustment tools in Lightroom including the Adjustment Brush (K), Graduated Filter (M) and Radial Filter (Shift+M) give you far less need for Photoshop than was the case before they were introduced. They are excellent targeting tools, yet they all suffer a major weakness – there is no access to HSL (Hue, Saturation, and Luminosity) adjustments.

In daytime landscape images, you’ll often want to deepen the blue of the sky. While this can be done using the HSL panel, the problem is that blue is not a color found exclusively above the horizon, as is the case with the walls and clothing in the example image below. The only way I could deepen the blue here would also cause detrimental effects to the blue everywhere else. Targeting the sky with the Adjustment Brush didn’t give me access to the necessary HSL sliders.

Color control before -

I wanted to bring a bit of life to the sky in this image. But in Lightroom, there is no way to adequately control the blues without affecting the same tones in other areas of the image.

Color can be better controlled in Photoshop by hitting Select > Color Range, then using the eyedropper tool to select a color you want to affect in isolation. You can then create an adjustment layer of your choice to affect the selected area; most often you’ll find a Hue/Saturation adjustment is the best method.

The benefit of this last method is a dramatic one: Whereas in Lightroom you can only make wholesale adjustments, i.e. changes that affect the entirety of the image, to Hue, Saturation, and Luminosity, you aren’t subject to the same limitation in Photoshop. By selecting an appropriate color, then masking out the effect in undesirable areas, you’ll retain more control, as is the case with the image below.

Color control after - 5 Reasons for Lightroom Photographers to Use the Edit In Photoshop Feature

Targeting only specific areas while retaining full access to every adjustment Photoshop offers is hugely appealing. Note the sky is darkened here but not the wall or people’s clothing.

To achieve my aim, I simply created a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and then masked away the effect from everywhere but the sky. I’d tried all manner of adjustments in Lightroom but could only get the sky to look how I wanted at the expense of adding too much blue elsewhere.

Another great option when this happens is to simply create two virtual copies in Lightroom, one with the sky (or another problem area) as you want it, and another before you did the damage with the other edit. You can then blend the two together in Photoshop.

4 – Stitching Panoramas

When Adobe announced they’d be adding the Panorama Photo Merge feature to Lightroom, I figured that’d be yet one more thing scratched from my “Must use Edit in Photoshop” list. Alas, it wasn’t to be, predominantly because of the likelihood of “blank canvas” – the phenomenon where you’ll find blank, white space in your Lightroom panoramas. Try it for yourself. CTRL/CMD + Click to select all of the images you wish to stitch, then right-click and select Merge > Panorama. I bet there’s an area missing from the photograph.

Lr pano demo - 5 Reasons for Lightroom Photographers to Use the Edit In Photoshop Feature

Here you see Lightroom’s attempt at creating a 6-frame panorama.

The effect is caused by the distortion inherent to some degree in every lens, and Photoshop will produce near identical results. Where Photoshop excels, however, is in its ability to offer a more flexible solution. In Lightroom, you are left to merely crop away the now-useless areas. But in Photoshop you can use the same Content-Aware Fill method described in #1 above to cleverly re-create a convincing replacement area of sky (although you may want to try expanding your selection by 20 or so pixels, as opposed to the 5px recommended for removing smaller items).

Left to the solutions in Lightroom, I’d have been forced to crop away more of the sky than I’d have liked in this image. With Photoshop I was even able to replicate some tricky texture in the water at the bottom of the frame. I still needed to crop away a little of the image, but nowhere near as much.

Pano in photoshop - 5 Reasons for Lightroom Photographers to Use the Edit In Photoshop Feature

Pano complete - 5 Reasons for Lightroom Photographers to Use the Edit In Photoshop Feature

Photoshop’s Content-Aware Fill allowed me to retain much more of the final image and forced less cropping.

5 – Chromatic Aberrations

Lightroom generally does a pretty good job of dealing with chromatic aberration, the color fringing that can appear where dark and light tones meet. You’ll often see this in daytime cityscapes where the top edges of buildings meet a bright sky, for example, usually manifesting itself as a green or purple edge straying into the brighter tone.

Chromatic aberration before - 5 Reasons for Lightroom Photographers to Use the Edit In Photoshop Feature

While this nun is a holy person, the blue glow on the shoulder is a bit much.

Lightroom has a couple of ways of dealing with this. First, there’s the Remove Chromatic Aberration checkbox in the Lens Corrections panel. I’d say 90% of the time, this is enough to correct the problem. Where the fringing persists, heading into the manual tab of the same panel allows you to grab the Fringe color Selector (the eye-dropper-like icon) and click on the offending area.

This will generally fix a more complex problem, but every once in a while you’ll encounter fringing so stubborn that Lightroom can’t handle it. This happens most frequently with blue fringing, which Lightroom is pretty much powerless against. Fortunately, blue fringing is quite rare, but it does happen.

Fringe color selector - 5 Reasons for Lightroom Photographers to Use the Edit In Photoshop Feature

Lightroom is powerless against the dreaded Blue Glow!

You could try to desaturate the offending edge with Lightroom’s adjustment brush but you run the risk of accidentally straying into the surrounding area. Alternatively, you could try to completely desaturate the blue and cyan in the HSL panel. In this case, I didn’t want to do either of those as it would put my blue-green background at risk, making it look far too much like color-select for my liking.

Photoshop affords so much more control in fixing this problem. It’s as simple as heading to the menu bar to hit Select > Color Range and then clicking on the color fringing with the eyedropper tool that appears automatically. This will create a selection based on that very blue causing the problem.

By altering the “Fuzziness” you’re basically setting color sensitivity. The lower the number, the more precisely Photoshop will select that color; the higher the number, the more leeway you give the software to find similar colors. Don’t worry if there’s an identical or similar color elsewhere in the image that Photoshop picks up on; it’s easy to mask that out later.

Once you see that your mask has isolated the problem area well enough, open a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer, which should have automatically applied your selection as a mask. Reduce saturation in the Blues and Cyans until the problem is gone. If you’ve accidentally desaturated some other important area of your photograph, click on your mask, grab the black brush, and mask it out. Easy.

Color range with mask - 5 Reasons for Lightroom Photographers to Use the Edit In Photoshop Feature

Targeting doesn’t get any easier.

Chromatic aberration demo

The nun’s blue glow is successfully removed. I’m not quite sure how she’d feel about this.


The next time one of the few remaining weakness of Lightroom is exposed, you can try one of the above techniques so the software doesn’t have to get in the way of your vision.

Have you found any other Lightroom limitations? Please share in the comments below.

The post 5 Reasons for Lightroom Photographers to Use the Edit In Photoshop Feature by Chris Cusick appeared first on Digital Photography School.


How to Speed Up Your Photo Editing with the Right Lightroom Workflow

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Post Production Tips

Processing photos is fun for me. But as much as I like doing it, I like being out in the field making new photos even more. That’s why I’ve developed a Lightroom workflow that helps me get the job done as quickly as possible.

Following these steps, you’ll learn how to make adjustments to a whole batch of images and then apply image specific adjustments to bring out the best in each frame.

Before you begin, choose a batch of photos taken at the same time under similar lighting conditions. I usually go through and pick my favorite photos from a shoot first, and then work on those.

How to Speed Up Your Photo Editing with the Right Lightroom Workflow

Step 1: Make Global Adjustments to the First Photo

In the Develop Module, pick the first photo in your batch and make the following adjustments to make it look its best.

Remember there are no rules with the sliders other than a little goes a long way. Just go with your gut. And if you’re not sure what a slider does, just take it to one extreme and then the other and you’ll be able to see exactly what is going to happen.

Camera Calibration

You’ll find this at the bottom of the develop module on the right-hand panel. I like to set this first because it makes such a dramatic difference to the color and contrast in an image. Simply go through the drop down box and pick the one that looks the best.

White Balance

Next go up to the top of the develop module and start working your way down. The first slider is white balance and there you can choose from the items in the drop down box. Again, simply choose the one that looks best.

Highlights and Shadows

Try darkening the highlights by moving the slider to the left and lightening the shadows by moving the slider to the right. You don’t want to go so far that you’ve removed all contrast from the scene, just enough that you have more detail in the highlight and shadow areas.


The clarity slider will add contrast to the edges of things making them appear more crisp. Try nudging it a bit to the right. On the other hand, if you want your image to be softer and dreamier, you can move the clarity slider to the left.


The vibrance slider is more subtle than saturation since it adds color to the parts of your image that are already less saturated.


Most photos need a little sharpening. In the Detail Panel, try moving the sharpening slider a bit to the right.


In the Effects Panel, add a slight post-crop vignette to draw the eye into the frame by dragging the slider slightly to the left.

How to Speed Up Your Photo Editing with the Right Lightroom Workflow

Before any adjustments in Lightroom.

How to Speed Up Your Photo Editing with the Right Lightroom Workflow

After the basic adjustments have been applied in Lightroom.

Step 2: Sync Settings

In the Develop Module, select all the photos in your batch (including the one you just edited) from the filmstrip at the bottom of the screen. Then click the Sync button at the bottom of the develop panel.

How to Speed Up Your Photo Editing with the Right Lightroom Workflow

Voila! All the adjustments you made to your first image have now been applied to the whole group.

Step 3: Make Final Adjustments to Single Photos

The following adjustments need to be made to each photo individually since they are rarely the same in a batch.

Crop and Straighten

If necessary, use the crop tool to adjust the crop. Maintain the aspect ratio of your image by holding down the shift key on your keyboard while you crop. You can also use the angle tool located inside the crop tool to make sure any horizon or shore lines are straight by drawing a line from one side to the other.

How to Speed Up Your Photo Editing with the Right Lightroom Workflow

Don’t Miss a Dust Spot

Using the spot removal tool, check the box next to “Visualize Spots” below the image to help you see the dust spots more easily.

How to Speed Up Your Photo Editing with the Right Lightroom Workflow

Radial Filter

Use the radial filter tool to increase the exposure very slightly on your main subject which will help to draw the viewer’s eye to it. Remember to click the “invert mask” checkbox to affect the area inside the circle. Otherwise, the default is to affect the area outside the circle you draw.

How to Speed Up Your Photo Editing with the Right Lightroom Workflow

Radial Filter in Lightroom.


I find that processing photos is more fun when it doesn’t take forever! Now with time saved doing basic processing, you may choose to take your photo into another photo editor to add special effects. Or you can just call it done and get back out in the field doing what you love: making photographs.

Want more? Try Anne’s Lightroom video course: Launch Into Lightroom to learn everything you need to know to get started in just a couple of hours.

The post How to Speed Up Your Photo Editing with the Right Lightroom Workflow by Anne McKinnell appeared first on Digital Photography School.


A Guide to Creating Stunning HDR Images

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Post Production Tips

The simple contrast between light and shadow can have a powerful effect on a photographic image. In fact, quite often you may find that contrast is what inspires you to photograph a particular scene or subject in the first place. Sometimes, however, the contrast of a scene exceeds the ability of your camera to contain all of that information. Fortunately, with the help of powerful software such as Aurora HDR 2018, you can transform a scene with high contrast into a stunning photographic image with tremendous detail. In this article, I’ll show you how it’s done.

Photographing the Scene

The first step in creating a high dynamic range (HDR) image is to capture a sequence of photos. Put simply, when you aren’t able to capture a single photo that includes detail in the darkest shadows and the brightest highlights of a scene, you’ll want to capture multiple exposures and blend them together with software such as Aurora HDR 2018.

Bracketed Exposures A Guide To Creating Stunning HDR Images

Most cameras include an automatic exposure bracketing (AEB) feature that can help streamline the process of capturing the several exposures which are needed to create an HDR result. If your camera only enables you to capture a bracket of three exposures, you can separate the exposures by two stops each. If you are able to capture a bracketed sequence of five or more photos you can separate the exposures by one stop each. It is highly recommended that you use the RAW capture mode for these exposures, to ensure there is maximum information available for creating your final image.

In most cases you will want to keep the lens aperture setting fixed, altering the shutter speed for each frame to adjust the exposure. This will help ensure consistent depth of field in the scene. The ultimate goal is to be sure that you have one exposure that is dark enough to include full detail in the bright areas of the scene, one exposure that is bright enough to include full detail in the dark areas of the scene, and exposures in steps of one or two stops to transition between the darkest and brightest exposures.

Creating the Initial HDR

There are two basic steps to creating a final HDR image. The first is to assemble the multiple exposures into a single image with a tremendous amount of information. The second is to perform what is referred to as “tone mapping” or translating the huge range of tonal and color values into the range of values available for a “normal” photographic image.

With Aurora HDR 2018, there are a couple of ways you can start the process of creating the initial HDR image. If you’re using other software such as Lightroom or Photoshop as the foundation of your overall workflow, you can employ Aurora HDR 2018 as a plug-in for these other software tools. The other option is to simply open the original captures directly from within Aurora HDR 2018.

Open your images

When you initially launch Aurora HDR 2018 you’ll see the “Open Image” button. You can click that button, or choose File > Open from the menu to get started. Note, by the way, that you could also take advantage of the “Batch Processing” option to assemble multiple HDR images in a single process.

Aurora Open Images - A Guide To Creating Stunning HDR Images

After selecting the option to open images, you can navigate to the folder containing the photos you want to assemble into an HDR image, and select those images. Then click the Open button to initiate the process of creating your HDR image.

The images you selected will then be presented as thumbnails so you can confirm which photos are going to be assembled into an HDR image. More importantly, however, you can adjust the settings for how the individual captures should be combined.

HDR options and settings

Almost without exception, you’ll want to turn on the “Alignment” checkbox. Even if you used a tripod when capturing the bracketed frames, it is possible that there was a tiny movement of the camera during the capture process. By having the Alignment checkbox turned on, Aurora HDR 2018 will analyze the contents of the images and fine-tune the positioning of each to ensure perfect alignment.

Aurora Initial Settings - A Guide To Creating Stunning HDR Images

Next, click the popup with the gear icon to adjust the settings for assembling your HDR image. If there was any movement of subjects within the frame, such as people or cars, or even trees blowing in the breeze, you’ll want to turn on the “Ghost Reduction” checkbox. In many cases having this option enabled can completely eliminate the “ghost” effect that results from objects moving within the frame from one exposure to the next.

Once you have turned on the “Ghost Reduction” checkbox, you can choose which exposure to prioritize by selecting it from the “Reference image” popup. In most cases, you will want to choose the image that would provide the best overall exposure if you hadn’t captured bracketed exposures in the first place.

You can also choose the strength setting for ghost reduction, depending on how much movement there was in the scene you were photographing. If there was minimal movement in the scene you can use the “Low” option. However, there are also settings for Medium, High, and Highest to help you achieve good results even when there was considerable movement within the scene you photographed.

Other settings

For many situations where you might employ HDR techniques, you may be photographing a scene with relatively low light levels. If so, you can turn on the “Color Denoise” checkbox to apply noise reduction to your original captures as Aurora HDR 2018 is processing them.

It can also be helpful to turn on the “Chromatic Aberration Removal” checkbox so that any color fringing that appears in the captures can be removed. This fringing is most common when using a wide-angle lens to photograph a high-contrast scene, but it can also occur with other lenses or photographic situations.

Once you have established the desired settings for the assembly of your HDR image, click the “Create HDR” button. Aurora HDR 2018 will then combine the multiple exposures you selected into a single high dynamic range result.

Presets and Beyond

Put simply, an HDR image contains a greater range of tonal information that can actually be displayed on a computer monitor or presented in a printed output. It is, therefore, necessary to translate that huge range of information into the range used for a normal digital photo. That process is referred to as “tone mapping”. Fortunately, Aurora HDR 2018 makes it easy to exercise considerable control over the interpretation of your image during this process.

One of the great features of Aurora HDR 2018 is the ability to use a variety of presets to quickly achieve the optimal look for your image. Even better, these presets are presented as thumbnails that provide an actual preview of the effect you’ll achieve with each preset. In other words, there is no guessing involved. You can browse the preset thumbnails, and easily find a good starting point for processing your photo.

Preset Categories - A Guide To Creating Stunning HDR Images

The presets are organized into categories, so you can start by clicking the “Categories” popup at the center of the thumbnail display at the bottom of the Aurora HDR 2018 interface. Choose a category from the popup (including an option to view all presets at once), and then browse the thumbnails to find a preset that looks good to you. To apply the effect, simply click on the thumbnail for the desired preset.

Adjust to your taste

Of course, the presets are merely a starting point in the process of optimizing your interpretation of the HDR image. You can still exercise tremendous control over the image with a variety of adjustments.

First, you can tone down the effect of the selected preset by reducing the strength with the “Amount” slider. As soon as you select a preset, you’ll see a slider on the thumbnail for that preset. Simply drag that slider to a lower value if you want to reduce the strength of the overall effect.

In addition, there is a wide variety of adjustment controls available on the right panel within Aurora HDR 2018. The preset you selected will have changed the value for many of these controls, but you can go far beyond the effect applied by that preset.

You will probably want to get started in the “HDR Basic” set of controls, where you can fine-tune the overall color and tonality of the image. For example, you can bring out more detail in darker areas of the image by increasing the value for Shadows. In the Color section, you can adjust the intensity of colors in the photo.

HDR Basic A Guide To Creating Stunning HDR Images

Many options available

You’ll then want to move on to some of the other powerful adjustments available. The HDR Structure section provides controls for enhancing the overall appearance of detail in the image. You’ll also find a variety of special effects available, including a polarizing filter effect, graduated adjustments to refine the top or bottom areas of the image, color tinting, dodging and burning, a vignette effect, and much more.

Be sure to also take a look at the Lens Correction and Transform controls available via a popup at the top of the right panel in Aurora HDR 2018. These enable you to correct for lens distortion as well as perspective issues caused by your position relative to the subject you photographed.

As you refine the settings for the many available adjustments in Aurora HDR 2018, you will likely find it helpful to see a “before” and “after” view of the image. You can click and hold your mouse on the “Quick Preview” button (the eye icon) at the top-center of the Aurora HDR 2018 interface to see the image without any adjustments applied. Then release the mouse to see the final effect. You can also enable the Compare view with the button to the right of the Quick Preview button.

Compare View A Guide to Creating Stunning HDR Images

Tone mapping a single image

By its nature, creating a high dynamic range image involves capturing multiple exposures and combining them into a single image with tremendous detail. However, the powerful adjustments available in Aurora HDR 2018 can also be used to improve the appearance of a single photo.

To use Aurora HDR 2018 to process a single image, you can simply open that image. Instead of selecting multiple exposures when you initiate the process of working in Aurora HDR 2018, you can select a single image. The overall workflow is exactly the same as when assembling an HDR image from multiple exposures, and all of the same adjustments are available.

So after getting familiar with the use of Aurora HDR 2018 to process a series of exposures into a single stunning HDR result, you can use the same basic process to apply similar adjustments to individual photos.

Single Image - A Guide to Creating Stunning HDR Images

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Only the beginning

The ability to assemble multiple exposures into a single image containing a tremendous amount of detail and texture provides you with incredible creative control as a photographer. Aurora HDR 2018 provides a powerful solution for creating high-quality HDR images and creating unique interpretations of those images with a variety of features and effects.

In this article, you’ve learned the basic process of creating great HDR images using Aurora HDR 2018. But this is only the beginning. If you spend a little time exploring the many adjustments available within Aurora HDR 2018, you’ll be able to create stunning HDR images with ease.

Disclaimer: Machpun is a Paid Partner of dPS

The post A Guide to Creating Stunning HDR Images by Tim Grey appeared first on Digital Photography School.


How to Make a Joiner Collage for a Retro-Style Panorama Image

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Post Production Tips

Almost every camera can do a panoramic shot. A lot of apps and software can create a “little planet” image. So how can you capture that beautiful view and still stay creative? Try going vintage! In this article, I’ll show you how to do a patchwork-style collage (called a Joiner Collage) so you can do any panorama in an original way and end up with a one-of-a-kind image.

What is a Joiner Collage?

Back in the 80s, an artist called David Hockney was studying how human vision works and experimenting with an idea he created called Joiners. Using Polaroids at the beginning and commercial 35mm film later, he shot one subject from many different angles and then put them together into one image creating sort of a patchwork pattern.

Following on this idea, I’m going show you how to do some digital panoramas. By following these steps, you can capture any subject from every point of view that you want. Here is a panoramic I made of Milan that I’ll use to show you all the steps.

How to Make a Joiner Collage for a Retro-Style Panorama Image

How to make a Joiner

To start this project you already have to be thinking about it from the moment you make the photos. Three things you have to consider:

  1. You will want to shoot all the photos that you are going to need so that you don’t find yourself in front of the computer with a piece of your scene missing.
  2. If you decide to go with a regular shape like a square or a rectangle then try to visualize how many pieces you need per side and divide your scene like a grid (e.g. Five photos for the horizontal side and three for the vertical side).
  3. You need to set the resolution to a lower setting than you might be used to, because all the files will be combined into one (I’ll explain how further along). If you shoot each one at 25 MB for example, or the highest your camera can shoot, it will probably be too big for your computer to handle.

Once you have all the images, organize just the ones are you going to use, all into one folder.

How to Make a Joiner Collage for a Retro-Style Panorama Image

Merging the images

Now open the folder in Bridge and select all images. You can easily do this by holding the Shift key while clicking the first and then the last file; it will select all the images in between as well (or Cmd/Ctrl+A for select all).

With all the photos selected you can now go to the menu Tools > Photoshop > Load Files into Photoshop Layers.

How to Make a Joiner Collage for a Retro-Style Panorama Image

The result of this command is exactly what its name suggests. It will open one image composed of all the selected images as layers. However, the file will be the size as an individual image, so you need to make room to fit all of them.

Go to menu Image > Canvas Size and a window will pop up with the current measurements. In the drop-down menu choose Percentage and multiply it by as many photos you will line up in your panorama, plus one. So if you are doing a panorama of 5×3 you need to put a percentage of 600 x 400, that way you will have also some blank space to play with.

I like to leave the point in the center so that space will be created evenly on the sides. But you can move that around depending on how you feel it’s easiest for you to spread your images out on the canvas.

How to Make a Joiner Collage for a Retro-Style Panorama Image

Arrange the Joiner collage

Now all you have to do is use your creativity and arrange the photos to create your Joiner collage.

To make this task easy, use the Move tool from the tools panel. Tick the Auto-Select choice and choose Layer from the drop-down menu from the settings of the tool. This will allow you to just click on each image and move it without having to go back and forth to the layers panel. The tool will select it automatically.

How to Make a Joiner Collage for a Retro-Style Panorama Image

Tweak your final image

That’s it! Once you have the final layout you can add some adjustment layers if you want to fine-tune the levels, contrast, saturation or anything else on your panorama. Add a background color if you decide to incorporate some negative space around your Joiner, and flatten the image.

How to Make a Joiner Collage for a Retro-Style Panorama Image

You can also add some effects if you want to create different versions of the image. For example, you can turn it into negative.

How to Make a Joiner Collage for a Retro-Style Panorama Image

You can also do an abstract or surreal panorama by duplicating layers, forcing perspective, and anything you can imagine.

How to Make a Joiner Collage for a Retro-Style Panorama Image

Keep in mind that David Hockney, the creator of the Joiner worked mainly with portraits, so you don’t have to limit yourself to panoramas. Try all sorts of subjects, the sky is the limit!

How to Make a Joiner Collage for a Retro-Style Panorama Image


I hope you give this fun and easy technique a try. Please share your Joiner collage images in the comments below. We’d love to see what you create.

The post How to Make a Joiner Collage for a Retro-Style Panorama Image by Ana Mireles appeared first on Digital Photography School.