Aurora HDR can be used as a standalone app, but it can also be used as a plugin for Lightroom. Below is a quick guide on how to get Aurora HDR running as a Lightroom plugin.
First, though, there are some things worth mentioning about the way in which Aurora HDR works a Lightroom plugin.
Some plugins work inside Lightroom. Some work outside Lightroom. The Aurora HDR 2019 plugin functionality works outside Lightroom. It’s not like the develop presets where changes are made to the develop settings. When you’re working with Aurora HDR as a Lightroom plugin, what you’re doing is sending an image from Lightroom to Aurora HDR and then back to Lightroom–a so-called round trip.
When you send the image or images from Lightroom to Aurora HDR, you can choose whether to take advantage of the edits you’ve made in Lightroom, in which case it will render those edits and send the file as a high quality TIFF version. Or you can tell Aurora HDR to work directly with the original source file, which will ignore any edits you’ve made in Lightroom. And yes, Aurora HDR can work directly with RAW files–it will pass a TIFF version back to Lightroom when you’re done.
Aurora HDR isn’t unique in working this way–many plugins do it, from Perfectly Clear to the NIK Color Efex Pro to Photomatix Pro. Aurora HDR does it slightly differently to some of those in that you access it through the Export Presets menu rather than the Edit in External Editor menu, but the result is the same.
These screenshots were taken using Lightroom Classic CC and Aurora HDR 2018, but it’s exactly the same process for the newer Aurora HDR.
How to Install Aurora HDR as a Lightroom Plugin
- First, you have to open Aurora HDR as a standalone app (ie. not to through Lightroom). Then go to Aurora HDR > Install Plugins…
- Select from the list of options: Photoshop, Lightroom, Photoshop Elements, and Aperture. You obviously have to have the host app installed first; that is, you obviously can’t install the plugin for Aperture without first having Aperture installed.
- In this case, I’m installing it in Lightroom Classic CC. To have the plugin register, I’ll need to restart Lightroom.
- Once it’s installed, the status at right will be updated. You can then click on Done, fire up Lightroom, and start using Aurora HDR 2019 as a Lightroom plugin.
How to Use Aurora HDR 2019 as a Lightroom Plugin
- In Lightroom, select your images.
- Go to File > Export with Preset.
- In the flyout menu, you’ll see a new section for Aurora HDR 2019. You can choose Open Source Files or Edit a Copy with Lightroom Adjustments. These do functionally the same thing as Lightroom’s usual Edit With option–it’s just the wording is a bit different. And the wording varies slightly with older versions of Aurora HDR. But it’s pretty easy to work out what they mean. One opens the original master image and ignores any changes you’ve made in Lightroom. The other takes the edits you’ve made in Lightroom, creates a new version based on those edits, and sends that to Aurora HDR 2019.
If you choose the Open Source Files option, you can have Aurora HDR work directly with RAW files, but you won’t see the effects of any edits you’ve made within Lightroom. When you send the image from Aurora HDR back to Lightroom it will send a high-quality TIFF file.
Choosing Multiple Images. If you select multiple images to export to Aurora HDR 2019, it will assume that they’re the same image at different exposures and try to merge them as a true HDR image.
If you export a single image to Aurora HDR 2019, it will assume you want tone mapping and that’s the only option you’ll have available.
- Looking for a Lightroom alternative? Whether you're done with subscription software or after a feature Lightroom doesn't have, check out some of the great options available in my roundup, from full-featured asset management and image editing in a single app, to specialized RAW processing, to image tools. And some of them can be used to as tools to expand Lightroom's features.
- Want to get the most out of Lightroom's features? I've put together a guide to some of the best Lightroom online courses and tutorials.
About Aurora HDR 2019
Aurora HDR 2019 can be used as a standalone app (Mac and Windows) or as a plugin for Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, and Apple Aperture.
It's set to be released on October 4, 2018, but in the meantime you can pre-order to take advantage of special pre-order pricing and a bonus bundle. You can find further details here.