Luminar Neo has seen a whole series of free updates since its launch (and our review), but the HDR Merge extension is different. It’s a paid add-on that works alongside Luminar Neo to add new features and capabilities not in the core program.
The idea of HDR photography is that you take a series of photos of the same subject at different exposure levels – a set of ‘bracketed’ exposures in other words – and then use special HDR software to merge them into a single image with much higher dynamic range, i.e. extreme shadow and highlight detail, than you could achieve normally.
Skylum’s HDR Merge tool can merge up to 10 bracketed images (most people would shoot 3, 5 or 7). Skylum says it does not produce halos or artefacts, two particularly problematic issues in HDR, and uses artificial intelligence for the best possible merging and color rendition. It can auto-align shots taken hand-held, and it can also apply ‘ghost-reduction’ to objects which have moved between exposures.
You don’t have to shoot multiple bracketed exposures to get the benefit. HDR Merge can apply the same HDR processing techniques to raw files, to enhance both shadow and highlight detail in a way that’s difficult with normal editing techniques. Very often, with today’s cameras a single raw file may contain all the dynamic range you need (though multiple exposures may give better quality).
These were also features of Skylum’s standalone HDR tool Aurora HDR, but this is no longer showing on the Skylum site so it seems reasonable to assume it’s now been redeveloped into this new tool.
Skylum is suggesting HDR Merge as an ideal tool for landscape photographers, who often face very high brightness ranges, and architectural and real estate photographers who often have to deal with very high contrast indoor and outdoor lighting in the same shot.
Skylum HDR Merge should be available now at the Skylum website. The pre-launch price was $50/£44 (about AU$76) but it’s likely Skylum will be offering a variety of deals and bundles which you can explore at the Skylum store (opens in new tab).