HDR Software

I’ve been creating HDR photographs for about ten years, so I am well-versed in this topic!

There are a number of HDR Software packages available on the market. Some are free and some cost money. I’ve tried the vast majority of these packages. Because this site is considered on of the top HDR Photography websites on the web, companies often send me their packages to test. It’s always been my goal to find the easiest and most robust software. Regular fans of the site know that I only review and recommend software that I actually use. I have two recommendations depending on what computer you use to edit your photos.

I co-developed Aurora HDR

Roughly 18 months ago I partnered with the amazing team at Macphun to develop an entirely new HDR software tool called Aurora HDR. I worked closely with them to include all of the features I felt was missing from Photomatix, Lightroom and other tools in my quiver. Since it’s release over 1.5million people have downloaded it. I’m blown away! Thank you for believing in us!

Aurora HDR 2018 Now for Mac or Windows!

Aurora HDR 2018 is now available for both Mac AND Windows! That’s right, the world’s leading HDR photography software has been entirely redesigned with exciting new features, improved user interface, speed improvements, Windows support and more. I’ve been using it a ton and I think you’ll be blown away!

Current users of Aurora HDR should check this link to see if you qualify for the upgrade price. New users can purchase Aurora HDR 2018 and my new Aurora HDR tutorial in my online store.


Buy NowTry for Free
Already own Aurora HDR Pro and want to upgrade? Click here to find out if you qualify.

Sneak Peek Inside Aurora HDR 2018

Below is a sneak peek video I made that shows off just SOME of the new features!


HDR Tutorial

I have a FREE HDR Tutorial here on StuckInCustoms.com that describes the step by step process. If you’d like to dive deeper, I also have video tutorials for Aurora HDR. The tutorials show how I use the tools for a variety of situations… landscapes, sunrise/sunset, people, motion, etc..

HDR Camera

You do not really need a special type of camera, but I do have my HDR Camera recommendations here on the site. There is a bit more explanation there, in addition to a description of my own personal gear.

HDR Photos

Below are some sample HDR Photos that I’ve taken.

Merry D3Xmas from Trey and Stuck In Customs!

from Trey Ratcliff at http://www.StuckInCustoms.com

My Last Night In Venice

The Ritz-Carlton, Phulay Bay, Thailand

from Trey Ratcliff at http://www.StuckInCustoms.com

from Trey Ratcliff at http://www.StuckInCustoms.com

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

  • I am “blown away” by your work. This has inspired me to attempt to use the HDR software. Your tutorial, I am sure, will be of great benefit.
    I live in Victoria Australia and I love taking photos in the beautiful state of Tasmania. I would love to see what you would do with images shot in this amazing place.
    Keep up the great work.
    Susan M.

  • Thank you very much Susan!

  • I am very impressed with your website and HDR images.
    I have been using Photomatix for about a year. I also teach digital photography. I would love to turn people on to your website and work.
    From your comments, that appears OK. I need to do alot more with my website, which I set up for my students use. Could I post a link to your website in mine?
    Your comments are welcome. Craig

  • Nicely done… I specialize in panoramas and have wanted to try HDR for a while, in fact I am going to shoot my first shots today with my new Canon 5D mark II… woo hoo…
    I live in St.George, Utah, a fabulous area known for Zion National Park, Grand Staircase & many others. Utah really is a wow place, so much to see & do. I thank you for sharing your images & expertise.

    Until we meet again & as always… Happy trails,

  • Julian Herbert

    Hi Trey, I came to your site through the recent TWIP podcast. Looking at your (quite frankly) stunning images, I feel inspired to try HRD on some of my own work.

    I was thinking about your recommendation for the ‘sharpening’ software. You gave Nik Sharpener a really good review (the before and after comparison was particularly interesting) and so I wondered how this compared with your recommendation for HRD sharpening, i.e. the Noiseware product.

    Sincere thanks,


  • Thanks!

    Julian – I suggest Nik, Topaz, or Lucis for sharpening – I use them all! 🙂

  • Julian Herbert

    Thanks for the advice Trey. Apologies for the typo, I should have said HDR!

  • i like this..

  • Roberto

    You’ve got here some of the most beautiful photos I’ve ever seen.
    Keep up with the good work.

  • Great work, how do you get the people shots without blurring? How many fps, iso, tec

  • Brian

    Hi, I’m a former pro photog, but I am also a computer consultant/programmer, independent scientific researcher and inventor. HDR is a baby compared with what it will evolve into. Presently there are available fairly powerful computer-on-chip modules, which should soon make on-camera HDR processing possible. I predict better algorithms, requiring less computing power, and an adjustable dynamic range boost:

    HDR IS the future of photography, but not the way it is now. Viewers will get a taste of it, and they will not want anything else. But I urge the photog community to present proper examples of HDR: Images that look like what the human eye actually sees.

    If the general public witnesses a freak show, they won’t like it. The images in this post could serve as tasteful examples of how properly restrained HDR processing can improve image quality.

    I’ve been using Linux. The HDR tools available are based on Linux HDR tools. Linux offers increased flexibility and power over MacOS and/or Windows, in HDR processing. In fact, HP has a $120.00/month workstation capable, using open source Linux tools, to make HDR movies.

    One of the available movies is called, “Fiat Lux” (Let There Be Light). You can google it and take a look.

  • Moose

    A relative digital novice, I became introduced to HDR through the Canon Digital Photography Forum, and just started researching HDR software today. Your shots are amazing! (or maybe I’m just easily impressed at this point 🙂
    At any rate, after the money I’ve spent on a few lenses, the price of a decent program like Photomatix is a drop in the bucket if I can get results anywhere close to the images posted.

  • OMG!!!! I wanna be a photographer!!!!

    Trey, your photos are absolutely stunning – thank you for sharing!!!!

  • Thanks for the info and screenshot. I will check it out. Love your images by the way.

  • Thanks so much for the info. I love your website and infact just became your fan on facebook. i will definately get a copy of your book. I just recently learned about HDR and found your site from Dombowers website. Looking at your photos inspired me to try it out. thanks!

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  • I could easily say that your photos are some of the best I’ve seen yet.
    Please I would like your permission to have a link to your site on my photography site so that my members and visitors can see your work and hopefully learn something about HDR photography from you.
    Thanks for sharing.

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  • Marco

    I believe that the picture which looks most like what the naked eye would see is “two chairs by the sea”!

  • I have been using the Photomatrix trial version for awhile now and before I pulled the trigger on purchasing it I wanted to see what else was out there. Your blog came up on Google and perfectly answered my questions. I’m having fun using a little 12mp digital point and shoot, it’s got a sharp Schneider lens but miss not having the use of a polorizer or neutral-density filters with this camera. HDR software is like having these filters again. thanks

  • Darren

    I think HDR is exciting, and could definitely split photography into two separate fields.

    I can already see a split in early adoptors, some are going the arty route, because it is new and looks great, and others are after purity of image to the original, which is also ok.

    Does anyone know if the HDR of the future will be a single image process combined with technical wizardry in the shot data, or whether compound images will still be used?

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  • Beautiful work, Trey! I’m surprised that you have not invested in a Perspective Control lens for the type work you do. I’ve just gotten interested in trying out HDR and will advance to Photomatrix if needed and appreciate your recommendation.

  • Larry

    Beautiful work, Trey! I’m surprised that you have not invested in a perspective control lens for the type work that you do. Have just started to explore HDR. Thanks for the software recommendation based on your extensive work in the field.

  • Warner Weber

    I agree that Photomatrix is the most impressive software. I also use Serif Photo Plus X3. After I process images there, I usually take them into PhotoShop for some more processing using some actions I have downloaded.
    Your shots are awesome. The one looking out the window to the mountains with the puzzle in the foreground says it all..It is what HDR is all about.
    I saw Brian’s comment that in camera processing should be coming…Hasn’t it come in the Sony Alpha 550? Definately some great things to come.
    I have been working on HDR images for about six months now and am finally getting some affects and images I really like.
    Keep up the great work.
    I am in love with Panoramic photos. For my wishlist I would love to see Photomatrix process both. It would have some weight, but I think it can be done.

  • Gerry

    I have tried trials of several HDR software programs including Photomatrix. The software that really impressed me was
    Dynamic Photo HDR. This amazing little program is so tightly programmed it only takes about 20 mb of space. It has the most complete workflow solution I have encountered and contains it’s own photo editor along with ability to load photoshop plug-ins.
    The price is also very reasonable imo. This is the software I now own and happy to do so. I am not affiliated with this software company. Free trial offer at http://www.mediachance.com/hdri/index.html

  • The SNS-HDR Pro generates a more natural images than Photomatix. It is easier to use and has better editing capabilities.

  • TylerG

    Sebastian, as with any HDR software, the natural and/or surreal look is all in the Tone Mapping. I use Photomatix Pro 3.2 and with the custom Tone Mapping setting I have created, all of my images look completely natural. I am a professional real estate photographer and having a realistic, natural looking photo is a must. You just need need to play with the sliders more.

  • TylerG, also important is the quality of used algorithms. Better use of algorithms optimized for the natural look.

  • Ajit

    which is your camera… it would be nice if you included the camera lens, focal length, fstop etc.
    thanks for sharing these amazing creations.

  • Thanks for the comments

    Ajit – I have all my camera information here: http://www.stuckincustoms.com/hdr-camera/

  • Witt Puto

    The pictures are good, and I shall give them a B-. I am not crazy about the HDR images.

  • OH MY GOD!!!!! WOW.. I dont even know what to say. These are some of the most beautiful photos I have ever seen! I only wish I could do this. I really really wish i could make my photos look like this. Wow!!

  • Richard SDunham

    I tried PhotoMatrix on a picture I took and it said it did not support my camera. I have a Nikon D70 and the pic was in JPEG format. Could you tell me why?

  • Thanks all.

    Richard – it should work with NO problem. It’s just JPGs… you should have no issue at all with Photomatix !

  • Robert Miedema

    Simply Stunning. Do you have any tutorials on how you did a specific image – I would luv to be able to obtain the individual images and process them in the steps that you took – I have tried HDR but without the same results as yours. Let me know. Outstanding work – I am humbled. Robert

  • Thanks! Well – if you get the HDR DVD (out soon) – the premium one comes with sample photos so you can follow along

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  • Terence O’Neill


    Two new-comers to the HDR scene are Adobe CS-5 & NIK HDR beta.

    Will you be updating your site for Adobe CS-5 HDR?

    Are you beta testing NIK HDR (announced 5/7-2010)?

    Do you have any comments on these programs at this time?

    Terence O’Neill
    tere[email protected]
    (805) 4702-6935

    We still need a HDR program that produces a picture that the first knowlegable comment you get is not “Yuk its HDR”

  • Yes – I will update all this when I get some time – it’s hard – I get new comments and need to maintain 10-20 threads so I get behind ! 🙂

  • Hat’s off. Well done, as we know that “hard work always pays off”,
    after a long struggle with sincere effort it’s done.
    Useable Technology

  • Very nice photo’s…wow.
    Just wundering about the photo from India (?) with all those people walking around…how you manage this photo? Normally i take 3 photo’s to create HDR…but with ppl on it … they moveand the ppl on the HDR are blurry?


  • Mike Dunbar

    Congratulations on what is obviously a hugely successful photographic career. Your compositions are very good and also unique as shown in the views of Hong Kong and the Taj Mahal in Agra.

    That said, you have given in to what so many should study to avoid; Photoshop/Lightroom abuse. I refer especially to Vibrance/Clarity/exposure and saturation sliders which you have overused to jaw dropping extremes. Perhaps it is your intention to create a ghastly world of kelly greens and dayglo pinks. My only concern is that so many people are so visually illiterate that this kind of excess is their only means of appreciating photography and that some of them may well try to emulate your example.

    I do want to say that you seem to be generous to a fault and that you energetically pursue what you love. That’s more than most of us can say.

  • Lip

    sir. Im a student here in Philippines studying fine arts and design major in advertising arts.. im not that good at painting but photography is my passion, your works inspired me to be better.. im using photomatix and lightroom only for processing.. just want you to know that your photo inspired me a lot and i want to learn more how to make a good HDR image.. this is some of my works in my photography subject 🙂 im noob though.

  • OMG!,trully blown me away with all this pictures.

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  • Martin Greig

    Great info and photo’s!!! Could you please let me know what software I should use with Ubuntu OS?
    Thanks, martin, scotland

  • Incredible work. Surrealistic and almost all your work look like magnificent painting. I am a techie who dabbles in photography often. Your work is an inspiration.

  • Joseph

    Great work Trey. Your work is the best. I tryyed Photomatrix and it works great as opposed to the new Nik HDR Efex (very slow and goasting is almost impossible – with so many people dissatified with it, they’ve stoped responding to email about how bad it is – WOW!) Keep up the great work :o))

  • Jason

    In your photo “Godly Dance at the Taj,” how did you get three different exposure shots of the people in the same place and with no blurring? Thanks!

  • Jim

    The thing that I have noticed is that your photos are spot on even before you process them . Can you please bite me , so that I can be infected with a bit of this talent ? The future of image making .
    Thanks for sharing with us .

  • hehe Jim — thanks so much – that is nice of you to say!

  • Awesome, love them and hope to have this kind of work also.. I love taking photos too.

  • NOW I know where all of those great images I have seen come from! HDR is amazing! thanks for sharing! LOVE IT!

  • Valerie

    I just started by deep research into HDR software and which one to buy. I haven’t honestly tried any downloads as yet. But, after seeing these stunning images, I’ve decided on Photomatix! Thank you for taking time to share!!

  • Steve S.

    Trey –

    New to HDR and photography. You have blown me away with these images and now I am addicted.

    I have downloaded Topaz Adjust/ Aperture3 however, I can’t seem to get the final images that you guys are getting on the HDRspotting.com site.. I don’t have photoshop CSxx, is that the key i am missing or am I able to get these final images with what I have? I have a EOS 60D shooting in raw.. any hints?

    I live in Houston and would love to attend a class/workshop? any new dates?


  • Awesome resource, lots of useful information and all of it so clean, this will help me alot. thanks a lot.

  • Realy wonderful picture .. thx

  • Joe Pattavina

    I agree with Gerry above (post 26). I’ve tried both Photomatix and Dynamic HDR and I feel like Dynamic HDR just produces better images. It gives more control over almost everything. But with more control comes more time spent perfecting your images. So if you want something quick that gives outstanding results with some minor tweaking in photoshop, stick with Photomatix but I find myself using Dynamic HDR without ever needing to use photoshop. It’s not perfect by any means but it’s a cheaper alternative.

  • I never quite understood photo “purists”, maybe they should take up painting if they’re too concerned about a machine (or software) assisting in the artistic process. I would say use whatever tool at your disposal just as long as you’re good at it and others appreciate it.

    When it comes to HDR, I find both major venues have equal merit, that is the HDR that seeks to reproduce what the human eye sees and HDR with a more “painterly” effect. The only thing I dislike is that many people overdo it on the painterly effect, to the point that there are ghastly halo effects around the edges and way too much noise. That to me is unappealing, as well as over-saturation.

    And unfortunately, I find the newer version of Photomatix has gone a little too far over the edge (as of 2011 when I’m writing this). For almost all the presets I saved in the past few years (at least 30 of them over 3 years), most of them return pure garbage in my new images. Mind you, my post-process in Photoshop’s RAW interface still remains pretty minimal when I know I’ll be outputting for HDR, so I don’t think there’s anything significantly wrong on my side.

    Back in the day when I first discovered HDR, I thought it was extremely intuitive to use Photomatix… move a few sliders, use some common sense, and you’d end up with an image pleasing to the eye. Now I have to fiddle around with so many sliders, literally left and right, that it just becomes too time-consuming (like 30-60 minutes) to get the image looking half-decent before further post-processing in Photoshop.

    Don’t know if anyone shares the same sentiment, but I just wanted to vent that out for once. Not too happy with how Photomatix has shaped up, and if anyone could suggest an alternative, I would very much appreciate it. I’ve already found HDR Express from onOne to be practical, but only to a certain extent, like when you have bracketed images that are not too tonally varied, but I find it butchers any images with ghosting issues (ie moving objects)… in that respect, Photomatix is still extremely good at handling ghosting.



  • Nice collection and great tutorial.. Just started using hdr software and looks like your tips will definitely help.. thanks.

  • J W Jones

    I think most of these photographs are dreadful. They are overly modified, bearing little or no relation to reality, and are grossly overstated in terms of any artistic message. While everyone accepts some adjustments are needed to correct for camera shortcomings or to provide emphasis, the majority of these photographs in my opinion go well beyond that.

  • I love what you guys tend to be up too. Such clever work and reporting! Keep up the good works guys I’ve included you guys to my own blogroll.

  • I will right away grab your rss feed as I can’t find your e-mail subscription link or newsletter service. Do you have any? Kindly let me know so that I could subscribe. Thanks.

  • Scott Wylie

    I totaly agree, the images are really awful. They are ‘HDR’ mush at its worst  – if this is the kind of mushy slop that this software creates then AVOID it! It’s amazing how many people think the images are great – or perhaps they are just fawning?

  •  Fortunately we live in a world in which everybody has an opportunity to express their opinion. You don’t like them – others do.

    Personally I find some of the images so unreal that they pass from photography into the realm of art, lending a surreal air to readiolly recognisable scenes. I’d rather see people pushing boundaries than sticking with the camera club mentality that sees the form of expression rigidly constrained.

    Thanks to Trey for sharing his work and for all the helpful links and articles.

    Just out of interest: what have you guys done to help fellow photographers express themselves? I’m sure Trey wouldn’t mind you mentioning your websites for the benefit of all of us.

  • Some of those images are superb. There are a few that a little too much on the unreal. stic side for me. However some of the scenery shots are just fantastic. The colours are awesome. As a photographer, model, digital artist and also make up artist within the artistic side and professional fashion side for the past six years this stuff impresses me because i agree it is not realistic but that is the bloody point of it. If you do not like it, you avoid it, but for those who do it well it looks frikin interesting and you will be amazed at how many people would pay for their images to look that in their portfolio in the fashion world. 

  • VaughanRoberts

    Beautiful images … and a real inspiration! These have got me really interested in trying HDR. Many thanks for sharing such excellent work.

  • When it comes to the negative comments about HDR images, I love to tell them, we aren’t looking at your Grandfathers photographs anymore. If we were to have advanced photography into this digital age only to make it look like the photography of past generations, I think we would be missing the whole point. A great quote I love is: “Progress is the enemy of tradition” and it works just as well the other way around too – “Tradition is the enemy of progress.” So, all you “creatives” keep pushing forward inspite of all the “Nay-sayers” and let’s see with great anticipation what happens next. Great work Trey.

  • I’ll go from Lightroom (minor adjustments) to Photomatix, to the Topaz Suite, then into Nik Suite and finally back into Lightroom for final touches. That’s my workflow.. painstaking at times but I get the results I wanted every single time 🙂

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  • Bob

    Whoa, those graphics are amazing especially the one with the puzzle it almost looks like a photo I would love to get some made up for my site: http://www.flameresistantclothinghq.com/

  • Jack

    I too would love to have some custom images made for my website, do you offer that kind of service? If so then you contact me via the contact for on my site :http://www.teenanalyst.com/

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  • EasyHDR works a real treat for natural looking HDR produced at speed. Outdoes Photomatix Basic for ghosting. I’ve seen screenshots of early versions and they look dreadful. The latest one is fast and easy to use.

  • Robert Weiss

    It almost looks like a photo – urmmm IT IS a photo

  • Mark

    I began with Photomatix and switched to Machinery HDR Effects. I’ve been using Machinery for a few months and I’m thrilled with the program. I like the presets and that you can spot a good effect right away – without fiddling around with the settings.

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  • The last photo is really good. I consider taking HDR photos for my cleaning website http://www.1carpetcleanerlondon.co.uk You gave me some good ideas.


    Thank you Trey, I especially liked “Dubai Marina”. I have been using Topaz Adjust, which has an HDR option, since 2010, but it may be time to switch. Thank you for the ideas. David-Blakley.FineArtAmerica.com OR FalconEyesPhotography.ViewBug.com

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  • Eric Wulfsberg

    Do you really think the Mac software guys at Macphun will ever make a Windows version of Aurora? It’s certainly been a long wait.

  • Stu – SIC

    Yup, they are working hard on it now. 🙂

  • Ed

    I don’t see my previous post

  • Stu – SIC

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