Breaking news!! Aurora HDR 2018 Is Coming To Macs And, Yes… Windows!

Drum roll… 100,000,000 HDR photos (actual number!) have been made with Aurora HDR software, and now… more dramatic drum roll… The NEWEST iteration of Aurora HDR is announced, and this time it’s launching for PC and Mac at the same time! Yes, finally, all of you Windows people (including me nowadays), can experience the greatness of this software! The Mac and PC versions will be available for pre-order in the Stuck in Customs store on September 12!

Subscribe to my newsletter to be notified first when Aurora HDR 2018 is available for pre-order!

Watch this awesome (and silly) video about Aurora HDR 2018!

Mark your calendar for September 12!

Aurora HDR 2018 will be available for pre-order in my store on Sep 12, and released on Sep 28. Current users of Aurora HDR may upgrade at a special pre-order price of $49. New users can pre-order Aurora HDR 2018 for just $89.


What is HDR Photography?

HDR Photography is one of the newest ways to take photos, being one of the most recent techniques to be practiced in the past few years. It’s a ton of fun, and anyone can do it!

This page will answer some of the basic questions and tendrils will drift off to other areas of the site that may interest you.

The Mist From The Tree Tops Fell On Me From Above And Behind

A sample HDR Image that shows off the sort of vibrancy and sense of living texture you can achieve with this technique.

How to Make HDR Photos

Creating HDR photos is something anyone can do. Even you! I’ve taught thousands of people and I’m sure I can teach you too.

I have a FREE HDR Tutorial for Mac or HDR Tutorial for Windows 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 2017 on a Mac and a separate one for using Photomatix Pro on Windows. Both tutorials show how I use the tools for a variety of situations… landscapes, sunrise/sunset, people, motion, etc..

What is HDR Photography?

HDR is short for High Dynamic Range. It is a post-processing task of taking either one image or a series of images, combining them, and adjusting the contrast ratios to do things that are virtually impossible with a single aperture and shutter speed.

An HDR image is commonly made by taking three photos of the same scene, each at different shutter speeds. The result is a bright, medium, and dark photo, based on the amount of light that got through the lens. A software process then combines all the photos to bring details to the shadows and highlights both. This helps to achieve the same task in the final photograph that the human eye can accomplish on the scene.

And yes, you can make an HDR out of a single photo as well. That is described in the HDR Tutorial here.

I would say that about 75% of my images use the technique, and if you are new to it, then you may notice a slightly different “look and feel” to the photographs. There are all kinds of nerdy technical things I can say about HDR, but in case you are like me, you can learn best by example. I posted a bunch of my HDR photos below.

To me, the HDR process helps the photos look more evocative and alive!

You might consider that the way the human brain keeps track of imagery is not the same way your computer keeps track of picture files. There is not one aperture, shutter speed, etc. In fact, sometimes when you are in a beautiful place or with special people and you take photos — have you ever noticed when you get back and show them to people you have to say, “Well, you really had to be there.” Even great photographers with amazing cameras can only very rarely grab the scene exactly as they saw it. Cameras, by their basic-machine-nature, are very good at capturing “images”, lines, shadows, shapes — but they are not good at capturing a scene the way the mind remembers and maps it. When you are actually there on the scene, your eye travels back and forth, letting in more light in some areas, less light in others, and you create a “patchwork-quilt” of the scene. Furthermore, you will tie in many emotions and feelings into the imagery as well, and those get associated right there beside the scene. Now, you will find that as you explore the HDR process, that photos can start to evoke those deep memories and emotions in a more tangible way. It’s really a wonderful way of “tricking” your brain into experiencing much more than a normal photograph.

What kind of camera do you need to make HDR Photos?

Really, the hardware does not matter…  The bulk of the look comes from the software process, as described in the aforementioned tutorial.

You can go to my Camera Equipment page to see what I use.

HDR and Photoshop

Many people ask, “Why not just use HDR Photoshop?”  I don’t recommend just using Photoshop, and I have a little article at that link that talks about it.

What is your philosophy behind art and photography?

…a good question, even if I did write it myself! Well, the answer is too long for this format, but you can find a few nuggets of truth inside this article I wrote entitled “10 Principles of Beautiful Photography“.

eBooks on HDR Photography

I’ve also penned a series of books on photography. You can find those over at my store.

Some HDR Photos

Here are a few photos I’ve created… I make a new one every day here on the home page at StuckInCustoms.com, so you are welcome to come back regularly.

Moonrise Kingdom

Downtown Beijing After Rain

Road Trip New Zealand!

Inception Reflection New York

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

The Rock Moved So Slowly That I Did Not Notice

walking alone and being somewhat lost on which way

The Secret Workshop Of Jules Verne

Reflections on the Eiffel Tower Isn't it romantic?  What could be more perfect than a beautiful sunset here in Paris?There was a big storm all day long, but I could see the clouds were beginning to break up a little to the west, and I knew there was a possibility the sun would dip into an opening beneath the heavy clouds.  So, with that intense possibility, I headed over to the Eiffel Tower area hoping the light would turn out right...I also made a behind-the-scenes video.  Since you guys have been so nice over on Google+, I'll share that video exclusively there first, so be sure to stay tuned... I'm still editing the thing together!- Trey RatcliffRead more here at the Stuck in Customs blog.

Aurora Australis Galactica

An Abandoned Game Trail in China

There Evolved a Technopolis

Lijiang at Night

The Secret Crystal LakeThis remote lake was so icy cold.  You would think it's about 33 degrees or something, right?  It felt like absolute zero.  I dropped a little piece of my tripod in here and my hand almost froze off trying to retrieve it.In the distance you can see where the glacier comes into contact with the glassy lake; it gives a sense of the epic scale here.- Trey RatcliffClick here to read the rest of this post at the Stuck in Customs blog.

Hong Kong from the Peak on a Summer's Night If you want to see how I made this (and how you can too!), visit my HDR Tutorial. I hope it gives you some new tricks!I had a long day waking up at 5 AM to take a series of subways and trains up to Shenzen for some meetings. I had a Chinese VISA, which you don't need to get into Hong Kong, but I had to use to cross the official Chinese border after getting off the train. I didn't realize that it was a one-time use VISA, and I had to go to Shanghai the next day. This caused a lot of problems with the Chinese officials, a body of government with which I do not enjoy causing problems.Anyway, after I got back to Hong Kong after a day in Shenzen, I was hot and sweaty and in the sort of meeting clothes that aren't great for being hot and sweaty in. But, everything about Hong Kong was still awesome and I had too look hard for things to complain about. The sun was setting, and I made it up to The Peak just in time for a shot.This was a 5-exposure HDR shot at 100 ISO, and, of course, a sturdy tripod to get all the lights as steady as possible.- Trey RatcliffClick here to read the rest of this post at the Stuck in Customs blog.

The Treetop Temple Protects Kyoto

Approaching Mount Fuji from the Old Village What a perfect place this is!I’ve been to Japan many times, but I never had the chance to visit Mt. Fuji! This time, Tom and I made a point to do it, and this was one of our fist stops. You can see much more about it in the video above!- Trey RatcliffClick here to read the rest of this post at the Stuck in Customs blog.

Bryce Canyon National Park

A Neo-Rockwellian Christmas When dad is a photographer, then there is a major degree of pressure to deliver photos on all the requisite holidays and celebrations! So, I decided to try to re-invent the family Christmas photo with HDR. Please note that many of my inventions go down in flames, but, as Winston Churchill said, “success is the ability to go from one failure to the next with no loss of enthusiasm”.Christmas scenes have a lot of light levels. The lights on the tree, the deep greens withn the branches, a roaring fire, lights in the room, reflections off the ornaments, and the like. It’s wild! I’m pretty sure this is why people like Christmas scenes so much - a wonderful treat for the eyes that is rich in texture and rich in light. Traditionally, it’s been very difficult to capture so much richness in a single photo, saving a lucky and heroic combination of shutter speed, aperture, ISO, and lenses.The tree lights made the faces of my three stunt-children (who are also my real children) glow perfectly. No flash could have achieved this, unless you are the kind of Rambo-flash guy that would go bury one inside the tree to hit their faces from the left. But, let’s face it. That’s hard.This was a 5-exposure HDR. You will notice that I often use 5 exposures, but note I could have done it with 3 exposures at -2, 0, and +2. Some silly Nikon cameras, like the D3X I use, will not let you step by twos, so I had to take 5 at -2, -1, 0, +1, and +2. The middle exposure, from which the kid’s faces were masked in and perfectly lit, was shot at f/4 aperture, shutter speed of 1/250, 100 ISO, and at 28mm.- Trey RatcliffClick here to read the rest of this post at the Stuck in Customs blog.

Reflecting on the Taj Mahal

Coming Home

  • Trey,

    How is it that you can had HDR shots with moving people and animals in it? Are you using different layers for them? I’ve started using pretty much everything you say on here. Frankly, I am nothing short of amazed by your work. I love it- I look at it every day. You have taught me so much with your tutorials and have really helped me to make a lot of money with my own photography. Thanks so much for that. The gift of knowledge is priceless…and it is free. You are awesome man.

  • Matt – I talk a bit about that in the HDR tutorial. There is a final step that helps you mask in one of the original RAWs.

  • Trey,

    Thanks man- I’ll look into that. So, would your reccomend that if I am shooting HDR that I do it in RAW? So far I haven’t been.

    Also, would knowing that I shoot HDR and travel photography like you do- would you reccomend the D300 or the D3? I’ve read a lot of reviews on it, but truthfully, your opinion would mean the most to me.

    Ps…you are my hero. Thanks for making so many great tutorials. I have purchased many of the lenses and software that you ahve reviewed. You have given me the tools to become a far better photographer. Thanks man.

  • hehe thx…

    I suggest shooting in RAW yes

    Also – I have a My SLR Camera recommendations over there on the right – see it? That has some good suggestions.

  • Awesome. Also, I reread the HDR tutorial, and you already answered that question about shooting in Raw. So- my REAL question is this: what will it take for me to be invited to shadow you on your next global excursion? FYI- I am COMPLETELY serious. I travel as much as possible, and would love nothing more than to tag along with a master. I’ll even voluteer to carry your stuff. Hahah.

  • Have just read your HDR-tutorial. Best one I found till now. Gonna work at my HDR-techniques in the coming weeks again, because I really got exited again now haha.

    I created only one HDR-picture which I’m content with. Still not really good, but it’s ok hehe. http://www.flickr.com/photos/weeebo/2825903184/

    Anyway, with your site I have another website that I should follow 😛

    Greetz, Wibo

    Groningen, Netherlands.
    Student photography.

  • Hehe thanks all – appreciate the feedback 🙂

    Matt – a very nice offer there to carry my stuff – haha

  • HDR is one of the most important factors to consider when buying the DSLR cmaera. Thanks for clearly explain it!

    PS. You have really nice photos.

  • Mary

    I am a former Disney World castmember, and now frequent WDW vacationer. My favorite thing to do there (right after—possibly even with riding the attractions) is taking pictures.

    I stumbled onto your Disney pictures tonight and I was moved beyond words! The intensity of the emotions that came over me was overwhelming. You really did capture the essence of how my mind’s eye sees the parks.

    WOW!! Thank you for sharing your amazing works.

  • Thanks! Mary that is very nice of you 🙂

  • Carl Bostek


    I’d never heard of HDR until this morning when reading an update on Ken Rockwell’s site. I followed his link to your page and was blown away by your pix.

    I’m looking forward to reading everything on your site and studying your tutorial. I might even break down and buy PS if I can’t do anything with Elements or Graphic Convertor. Guess I’d better start reading!

    Thanks for the great pix and all the info.



  • Carl,

    Cool! Welcome to the site – happy to have you 🙂

  • very stunning pictures! i like them! i has heard before of HDR but never tried them. will try your tutorials, thanks for sharing!

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  • Beautiful work, sir. Thank you for sharing it with us.
    Many, many thanks for all the cool wallpaper!

  • lp

    simply incredible. i’ve always been somewhat wary (read: lazy) of image processing, but since discovering the possibilities of HDR and what it can do, i can’t imagine not touching up my photos! thanks for sharing all of your insight and techniques!

  • I just use http://www.pixlr.com/editor/

    with 30% brightness + 30% contrast + Vignette filter and job done in 2s.
    Ok my it’s not true HDR but it’s very close to that.


  • Wow your HDR images are awesome, love them!! I have done some HDR work and now will go check out your tutorials and maybe pick up some tips 🙂

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  • But these were lies from a memeber of a terrorist group. ,

  • @filip007: While the http://www.pixlr.com/editor/ Pixlr online editor is a delightful tool (and recommended), and while your 2s technique might give generally useful results, it has absolutely nothing to do with the motivations behind HDR.

    To be sure, generally “increasing contrast” in a photo will actually blow out color information and generate over/under-exposed areas, which is precisely the opposite of the HDR motivation. HDR may have contrast in hues, but it tends to have LESS contrast in light levels– kinda “flat” in that regard.

    Similarly, increasing brightness can also cause loss of information in areas of your photo that are already bright– another affront to the concept of HDR.

    The vignetting filter has absolutely nothing to do with HDR. [And again, can work against it by removing color information around the edges of your photo.]

    Kind regards,

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  • filip007

    Like i said it’s amateur approach but still good enough for wallpapers.


  • Deanna


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  • Graham Anderson

    Isn’t the best way to describe this to say that the eye rapidly adapts its aperture so that it can distinguish ratios of intensities over more orders of magnitude than a CCD can?

    Also, you imply that the goal of HDR is to make photos appear more like humans perceive reality, but many of the photos on this page look fake. A viewer spends more time considering the process of creating the photo than the subject matter. What is the actual goal of your photography?

  • Brenda

    Your work is brilliant! Cannot wait to get started on the tutorials!

  • i was on that portalarium website on the ‘About’ page.
    are all those photo’s from austin texas?
    looks crazy.

  • dingo8mybaby

    Trey~Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and the breathtaking pics. Truly, visual nutrition! But I was just wondering do you ever post, say a HDR photo next to the same non-hdr one? Or have a gallery of non-hdr photos? The reason I ask is that I feel like the odd man and a weirdo feeling this way but while initially a hdr photo pops out at me and is stunning if I look at too many of them or stare at one too long, I always get this fakish, Thomas Kincaidish type of feeling come over me. Would just be neat to study and see one of your photos unprocessed versus processed. Again, just flat out awesome work. Thanks.

  • dingo8mybaby

    @Graham Anderson ~Not to defend Trey, but I was amused at your post. No offense, but I’ll go out on a limb and say the goal of 99.9% of ALL photographers is too take visually stunning, memorable, emotional photographs of brief moments in time, the best they know how. (And hey, maybe make a little coin in the process.) Dissertations and philosophies aside, I’d say Mr. Ratcliff does that in spades. Just my $.02

  • dingo8mybaby

    duh, nevermind. I just saw your tutorial. my bad.

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  • Jodi Birston

    Holy Mother of God! I stumbled across this on my lunch hour and I am completely MESMORIZED!! You are my photographic Pied Piper! I am just getting my feet wet again after years of putting my camera down. I knew what style of photographs I wanted to produce but the means to get there were as clear a mud. Until this….UNTIL YOU!!! I will keep you posted on my progress. I am so excited that I will likely not sleep tonight!

  • Janice Champagne

    Totally awesome pictures- Love them all

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  • These photos are stunning. I will have to look through your tutorial to figure out what I am doing wrong, hahaha.

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  • Mate, I think your travel article give ideas for preparation of our further vacation. Thanks.

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  • I must say you have the most iconic HDR photographs around the internet. I’m continually inspired and motivated by the work that you produce. Keep pushing boundaries and I look forward to the iPad app!

  • Thanks man – you rock – I appreciate it!

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  • Trey:

    Just wanted to let you know I used some of your images in my blog about HDR. I appreciate your open use of your work for non-commercial purposes, which definitely describes me! Thanks for being such an inspiration to so many photographers!


  • Wonderful publish, very informative. I wonder why the opposite experts of this sector do not notice this. You should continue your writing. I’m confident, you have a great readers’ base already!|What’s Taking place i am new to this, I stumbled upon this I have discovered It absolutely helpful and it has helped me out loads. I hope to give a contribution & help different customers like its aided me. Great job.

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