(Temporary) Free alternative to Adobe Lightroom

After I stumbled across a new editing software AirMagic especially for (drone) aerial photography last month and was very positively surprised, I looked at what else Skylum has to offer. Alternatives to the quite expensive photo editing software like Adobe Lightroom are always in demand, because especially hobby photographers don’t want to pay expensive subscriptions for occasional photo projects.

The photo software “Aurora HDR” offers a wide range of functions for image processing and can do much more than just creating HDR images. The 2018 version of the software can now be downloaded for free for a limited period of time – normally the software costs about 100 Euro.

Features of Aurora HDR

As the name suggests, Skylum can promote the HDR function, with which you can automatically create HDR shots from series of exposures. However, you can also edit your photos individually and “classically” and the tool gives you a whole range of practical editing functions, for which you would otherwise have to buy full versions such as Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom. These include color correction, lens correction, color tables (LUTs), vignetting and Dodge&Burn. Also great is that Aurora supports layers and the corrections can only be applied to selected layers.

Filter options in Aurora HDR 2019

Comparison to Adobe Lightroom

Adobe Lightroom is an incredibly comprehensive photo software and still the “most complete” software solution for professionals from my point of view. Cheaper alternatives are rare. I liked Skylum Aurora HDR very much and think it is the overall better option for all non-professionals.

I like the fact that the basic results with Aurora HDR are already much more balanced than with Lightroom, which requires more work and finetuning to achieve a similar result. Another big plus: Aurora HDR is available for a onetime purchase price, while Lightroom is only available as a subscription, so you have to pay every month even if you don’t use it.

Only thing I did not like: The HDRs generated from Aurora are TIFF files, i.e. your changes to the recording are final. In contrast, the HDR images from Lightroom are DNG files and all adjustments can be changed at any time. However, once aware about it, it is not really an issue.

Free download available for limited time

For a short time Aurora HDR 2018 is available for free as full version. You don’t notice that this is the previous year’s version, it runs very stable. Of course the 2018 version is missing some of the new features of the latest version, but if you like Aurora HDR you can upgrade to the 2019 version at a reduced price.

Please be aware, the download was free of charge at the time of writing this article, unfortunately there is no information about how long it will be available – so act fast!

The regular price is also still a very good offer for the functionality of the software. New functions of the 2019 version are for example your own combination of filters and LUTs, intelligent tone mapping for single shots or the HDR Smart Structure function, to change contrast, depth and definition for picture areas with an intelligent slider control.