Digital Photography Tools for PC

In all the years I’ve been taking photos digitally, I’ve made great use of software tools to enhance often accurate but boring photos as well as those which didn’t expose perfectly in the first place. Elsewhere I’ve discussed at length a favourite of mine when it comes to enhancing mobile phone photos, a free package called Snapseed, developed by Google and available on both the Google and Apple Play stores. Sadly this otherwise excellent package has never quite made it to the desktop other than in emulators which really don’t do it justice.

Meanwhile there are many image editing packages for PC and MAC, few which are any good are free so I’ll skip that aspect here.

Depending on what you want to achieve, how slow you like your software, how complex you like things to be or otherwise and more, your image processing options on a PC are almost endless. I like simple-to-use and fast – especially when producing material for my blogs, Facebook and other social networks. Last month I took the plunge and purchased Corel Paintshop Pro 2019 Ultimate and yes  it is reasonably fast and very powerful and flexible. To get what I usually want however still takes a bit of effort. Last week I stumbled across a package from a company called Skylum, a PC/MAC package called Luminar 3 and it is a damned good general purpose image editor. Luminar 3 also does a cracking job of enhancing photos with somewhat featureless skies – more of that elsewhere.

Almost immediately I fell in love with Luminar 3, especially as it has an “ai” function for handling bracketing (HDR photography). For a short length of time I decided I’d never need another photo package, until I discovered another package from the same company, this one called “Aurora HDR 2019” – this software being focussed on not only turning multiple photos taken at different exposures into a single HDR photo but also claiming to be able to do a decent job of improving the dynamic range of a single photo. Well, I had to give  it a whirl and tell you about the latter, so here goes… seconds after opening Aurora HDR 2019 and opening one of my un-enhanced phone photos of a nearby garden centre…

Here below is the original, not a bad photo, technically, but non-the-less a tad on the boring side.

Unprocessed phone image

And here, below, is one of the automatically generated images from Aurora HDR 2019 using my original above, a process which took no effort and around a minute of my time from start to finish. Yes, there are arguments both in favour of taking this lazy approach to processing and against it, I’m lazy so that’s a no-brainer.

Image automatically processed by Aurora HDR 2019 by Skylum

Some will say I went over the top with this – I sometimes like summer scenes which more closely resemble what I want to remember rather than what I actually witnessed – and this is one. I love garden centres and I particularly like this garden centre just outside of VERA, down at the coast in the province of Almeria in Spain – here then is Aurora HD’s first attempt at effortlessly sprucing up one of my photos. As I become proficient at actually doing something useful with the package I’ll put up more images and with more critical explanations.

Baha'i originalMeanwhile here’s my second attempt, starting with a unique shot, completely marred by rubbish Chicago winter weather last year, fixed by Aurora HDR.

To the left is the original photo I took while in Illinois last winter – probably my first and last opportunity to visit this landmark in person.

I tried cheating elsewhere by replacing the sky with another one but although that worked, it certainly wasn’t perfect thanks to manual masking and other tricks – but the image below is much better and all with very little effort on my behalf – and I  mean VERY little effort. That is actually the original sky with a spot of auto enhancement and HDR processing (the latter has improved the whole picture).

Baha'i Temple

Here’s a link – check out Skylum’s software and docs… and decide for yourself if this stuff is any good – they have demo images to try and free trials… https://skylum.com/

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