Quick test of Aurora HDR vs Affinity Photo

I’ve been trying some photo editors recently, some free, others paid through the demo and I’m really liking Affinity Photo. It has a natural workflow and some nice intuitive tools to enhance images. This is not a review, but rather, a side by side testing with Aurora HDR to see what I could achieve from knowing zero on both.

Much of the decision behind testing these were not to bow to Adobe and their ubiquitous Lightroom/Photoshop with the pay forever price model.

Along with Affinity Photo and Aurora HDR, some of the photo editors I tested were:

RawTherapee, fully free. Interesting software, however, the UI and the delay in re-render the image makes it hard to use.

DxO OpticsPro, but actually I tested this “essentials” completely free version. The adjustments are nice and probably enough for many, but they don’t go too far.

Aurora HDR, with a nice and wide array of adjustments applied to the overall image. It’s a very capable photo… editor? I guess it’s still an editor if you can transform the image, but for example, if you want to remove a wire, a bottle, or a bush in the photo, you have to buy a separate module called Snapheal for extra money.

Affinity Photo is a strong Photoshop alternative. Its tools cover almost everything you would expect coming from Photoshop, selection, healing, brushes and more. It has layers, adjustment layers, layer styles so you can non-destructively edit the image. It has a dedicated UI to develop the photo, particularly interesting for RAW photos and another for tone mapping, very powerful, with more than enough options. My only concerns are that some operations seem to be too intensive on CPU and the MacBook Pro fan started going like crazy for a bit, and that sometimes adjustments lag for a millisecond on images like 6000 px wide.

So, here’s the comparison from knowing zero to this on Aurora HDR and Affinity. The photo was taken with a Fujifilm X-T2 35mm f2 in Horseshoe bay in West Vancouver, while I was waiting for the Bowen island ferry.

The original image is on the left. You can see it could use some contrast and stronger colors, some areas are too dark, there’s a bush in the front, and lacks volume and details on clouds. Aurora HDR can bring the cloud details up quickly, but can’t remove the bush and fails to set color on the island in the center. Affinity Photo can solve all these issues perfectly.

While I could’ve spent more time perfecting the colorizing in Aurora HDR, this is what a total newbie got with it, just like in Affinity Photo. Since the former has everything there, you start getting lost touching here and there. Somehow the tools in the latter are more focused and lead you to a better overall workflow.

I even throw a little of my own choice in Affinity Photo and tinted the shadows slightly purple. That is to say, it feels so comfortable that after a little while you’re already making your own choices unlike others where you’re trying to learn the UI.

All in all, Affinity Photo is a great product, feels fast, comfortable, and has all the tools to quickly start enhancing your photos.

Leave a Reply