Updated: Aurora HDR vs. Luminar - A specialized HDR photo editor vs one of the best all-purpose editors out there. How do they compare?
Updated 5/20/18 with the release of Luminar "Jupiter".
With so many photo editing software programs available out there, how do you know which is best for you? We put together this head-to-head comparison review of two leading products: Aurora HDR and Luminar to help you understand the differences and decide which is better for your situation.
Both Aurora HDR and Luminar are awesome products, but they serve different purposes. Lean more about those differences in our review below.
Finding the right photo editor should NOT be this hard!
We at Dadtography want to be a resource to all amateur and budding photographers out there. Everyone is new to something at some point. You're not just born knowing how to edit photos, after all!
If you're like me, you really just want to take a few cool photos, edit them up in a simple app for a few minutes and share them off on Facebook, Instagram or other social platforms.
Trying to figure out which photo editing software to use is more difficult than using them sometimes!
That's exactly why we wrote this post.
Aurora HDR 2018 and Luminar "Jupiter" are two of my favorite photo editors by Skylum (formerly Macphun) (af) software. Why did they make two separate apps? Let's dig into some of the differences between these two programs.
Aurora HDR Doesn't Use Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Well, at least not yet, anyway.
Aurora HDR 2018 doesn't come with artificial intelligence features built in. You have to rely on your own eye and good old-fashioned technique to fine-tune your HDR photo editing.
Who knows? Maybe they'll introduce AI to Aurora at some point as well?
Want to learn more? Check out our full Aurora HDR 2018 review.
Luminar has an Accent AI Filter
Yeah, you guessed it - Luminar Jupiter has a feature that uses artificial intelligence, or AI.
Their "Accent AI" feature analyzes the unique aspects of every single photo - structure, objects, dark and light zones, colors and other parameters.
The Accent AI tunes each image based on what it knows about that particular image, improving many of the "problem" areas of the photo without the user having to do them manually. I've tried it a few times and the results have been pretty good so far!
Aurora HDR 2018 is a Specialized Photo Editor
About 18 months ago or so, a fellow dad blogger & photographer introduced me to the concept of HDR photography, or high dynamic range.
HDR is just a fancy word for really high contrast in a photo or TV picture. Good HDR photo editors, like Aurora HDR, take multiple shots of the same photo at different exposures and smush (super technical there) them together to make one totally awesome image. The reason you use multiple images (or "brackets") is because different aspects of the image are emphasized with more or less light.
Aurora HDR specializes in this type of photo editing.
Luminar Jupiter is an All-Purpose Photo Editor
On the flip side, you have Luminar Jupiter. It's not a specialized editor like Aurora is. Luminar is more like a utility player in baseball. Luminar can edit landscape photos, portraits, low-light, lots of light and more.
If you're looking for an editor to replace a tool like Lightroom or even Photoshop, Luminar may be a good fit. In fact, I was a long-time Lightroom user (3+ years) and switched to Luminar as my dedicated all-purpose photo editing software.
Luminar can work with just about any image and isn't specialized to just one type, like HDR.
Aurora HDR Comes With 70+ Presets in 7 Categories
Okay, I'll level with you. When it comes to editing my photos, I'm lazy. Give me a photo editor that can make my pics look awesome in just one or two clicks?
That's exactly what photo editor presets do. They take a bunch of edits and roll them up into a single preset. You click the preset and it applies all of those changes to the photo.
Luminar Comes With 70 Presets in 7 Categories
Luminar Jupiter comes with a bunch of presets as well, just not quite as many as Aurora HDR. Also missing are the big-name photographer presets. That's okay, though.
New in Jupiter, Luminar now comes with nine (9) new presets made specifically for aerial photography. They call them their "Aerial, Inspired by DJI" presets.
The presets that come loaded with Luminar are awesome. You can also save your own presets or download free and paid presets from the Luminar market place.
Luminar comes with a fewer presets, but you can create your own or download more (af).
Luminar vs Lightroom
What are the differences and similarities between Luminar and Lightroom? Our post compares these two popular photo editing programs.
Aurora HDR Works Best With Bracketed Images
Remember my explanation of HDR photography up above? Well, Aurora HDR works best when you have multiple "brackets" of an image available.
In fact, Aurora HDR can handle unlimited brackets in a single edit. That means if you took 7 versions of an image, each 1 f-stop apart, you'd be able to merge them all together to make one awesome HDR photo!
Aurora HDR doesn't require bracketed photos to produce an HDR image, but it sure does help.
Luminar Doesn't Benefit From Bracketing
Because bracketing is a technique specific to HDR photography, Luminar doesn't really benefit from having multiple brackets.
However, you can add new images as layers in Luminar, so you can produce a similar effect, just not quite as easily as with Aurora.
One cool effect I like is when photographers produce "double-exposure" style photos. They'll take two separate photos and, using layers, produce a single photo blending the two together.
This is a more advanced technique of photo editing, but one that is also possible, and even fairly simple, in a tool like Luminar.
Aurora Uses Layers and
As of Aurora HDR 2018 version 1.1.3, "Tools" in Aurora have been renamed to "Filters".
This may be a simple matter of semantics, but the user interface (UI) of Aurora HDR 2018 has a toolbar on the right side. Like Luminar, you can add layers to your edit.
A layer allows you to apply an effect to all or part of the original photo. Those layers get stacked on top of each other and can even control what effect is applied first, second, third, etc.
Aurora HDR calls the edits that you're able to apply to your photo "tools". Examples of these tools include changing the tone, structure, noise, radiance and more.
Luminar Uses Layers and Filters
Luminar Neptune also uses layers in its editing UI. You can create multiple layers and re-arrange them to apply in a different order much the same way you can in Aurora HDR Pro.
However, the edits themselves are referred to as "Filters" in the app. Unlike Aurora HDR, you only see the "filters" you add to the photo. Aurora shows you all of your options and you choose what to edit and what to leave alone.
In Luminar Neptune, you can add filters for tone adjustment, structure, noise, radiance and others.