Were you wanting to do some HDR work in Luminar Neo? It's about to be offered as a paid extension. HDR Merge compiles multiple exposure-bracketed images into a single HDR image. It can merge up to 10 photos and deliver an increased level of color enhancement, making the final result look as close as possible to what the eye sees. HDR Merge is scheduled to be released on July 28, and the preorder starts today.
HDR is nothing new. Photographers have been bracketing photos for years, and its star has faded a bit over the years as cameras have offered increased dynamic range. It's still a big deal for real estate photographers, and landscape photographers still use it in extreme lighting conditions.
Skylum offered their own HDR software for some years, called Aurora. It's discontinued now, so the timing is good for photographers who want to do HDR.
What Is the HDR Merge Extension for?
If your camera doesn’t have a high dynamic range, one technique to compensate for this is to take multiple exposure-bracketed images. That’s where HDR Merge can help, merging up to 10 images into one HDR photo.
Skylum claims Luminar Neo’s HDR Merge doesn’t produce halos or artifacts. Plus, with the help of intelligent technologies, Luminar artists can create HDR images even from a single photo, with no brackets needed. Artificial intelligence allows for the highest quality of bracket merging and a spectacular level of color enhancement.
What’s unique about Luminar Neo’s HDR Merge is that it can be combined with Luminar Neo’s other tools to create spectacular photos. After merging brackets, artists have a full arsenal of AI-based tools at their disposal. They can enhance with one slider, fix colors and toning, add glow, play with super contrast, add realistic sun rays or vivid foliage. Luminar Neo gives photo artists the power to achieve the best HDR photos and go beyond in their editing, all in one app.
I was a user of Aurora some years ago and thought it did a nice job. There was more flexibility than the HDR tools I had in Lightroom, but I thought a lot of HDR was overdone for my taste and a slowly lost interest in using HDR for landscapes.
I do use and like Skylum tools, and I think the Luminar series has been a great leap forward for photographers with the addition of AI tools that can speed up workflow. For example, Luminar Neo has world-class sky replacement tools, which other companies are rushing to duplicate. There are also intelligent masking and powerful tools for portraits.
Still, the addition of extensions seems like an excuse to grab more money in a product that has been struggling to finish all the features that were promised. It's sad to see Skylum worrying about HDR when Neo is still waiting for things like dodge and burn and cloning tools, things I use on almost every image, and while they were in the last version of Luminar, they are absent in Luminar Neo.
The troubling knifing of products like the original Luminar and its replacement with Neo forced owners to buy again, even though there were significant discounts. Skylum now is offering subscriptions to Neo, and that will send chills down the necks of some photographers who were never happy with Adobe subscriptions.
The Neo software, which was built to be easily extensible, is a good thing, but it will be tempting for Skylum to add new features this way, charging for every one of them. I would have liked to see this HDR extension sent to all owners of Aurora and Neo for free as an introduction to this advanced architecture. In the future, I'd love to see things like panorama assembly and photo enlargement features, all as part of the basic purchase.
Getting the HDR Merge Extension
The HDR Merge extension preorder starts today on July 15. The release is scheduled for July 28, 2022, but Luminar owners can preorder HDR Merge now for a better price.
Aurora HDR owners will get the opportunity to buy Luminar Neo with a loyalty discount and receive the HDR Merge extension for free. Additionally, Skylum customers with Luminar Neo subscriptions will get the Aurora HDR Merge extension for free. Otherwise, you'll shell out for it. You can get details here.
Luminar Neo will also be available in the Microsoft and Apple app stores.
I'm happy to see Luminar Neo is extensible, but I foresee a lot of paid updates in the future, which I think goes against the some of the original goals at Skylum. I want them to succeed and prosper. They are nice people and innovative. Their coders are working in the Ukraine under horrible conditions. But still, finish Neo before you extend it.
I'll have an advanced copy of the HDR Merge extension soon and will share my thoughts when I've used it.