keskiviikko 22. marraskuuta 2017

10 Reasons Why You Need to Learn to Love Your Tripod

When I first purchased my tripod it sat unused for several months. In some ways, I was a bit afraid of it, all the effort of having to carry it around and set it up, etc. Would people look at me funny? Was it heavy to carry around? Setting it up properly looked complicated and seemed to take ages. Did I really need one?

How to Learn to Love Your Tripod

After a trip in what turned out to be a low light environment where I wasted a day of travel by coming back with no sharp shots, I bit the bullet and dusted off that tripod. Now it pretty much goes wherever my camera goes and is my go-to accessory in many situations.

Eventually I learned to love my tripod, hopefully, you will too. Some people think having a tripod limits your capabilities. Yes, you do have to carry it, which may limit where you go, or how far you can carry it. But it is my opinion that even with those limitations, the benefits of using a tripod far outway the issues.

Reasons to Love your Tripod

#1 – Slowing Down is a Good Thing

Having to position your tripod, take the time to set up the camera, get the angle and framing right all take time. This means you often need to think about where you will position your gear before you actually do so. Then it means you need to think quite specifically about your composition so you can put your gear in the right place to achieve that.

All this careful consideration gives you time to look at your subject, to really take time and properly see it, to see the possibilities beyond the first initial obvious frame you might take. Taking the time to think about your composition also offers opportunities to be creative and experiment.

10 Reasons Why You Need to Learn to Love Your Tripod - food shot

An overhead flat still life shot takes a lot of fiddling to get set up correctly.

10 Reasons Why You Need to Learn to Love Your Tripod

Camera set up in an overhead position, pointing straight down. Not all tripods allow this movement with the center pole, so check before you purchase.

10 Reasons Why You Need to Learn to Love Your Tripod

An L Plate tripod mount makes it much easier to change between portrait and landscape orientation, but they are an extra cost. Provided your tripod head has drop notches, this is easy to achieve.

10 Reasons Why You Need to Learn to Love Your Tripod

A quick release lever tripod mount is my preferred option. Other choices include screw mounted closures instead. Note the included spirit level.

2 – The Tripod Carries the Weight

If you have a large or heavy lens (and camera body) it can be very tiring to lift and hold and shoot with for extended periods. Bird and wildlife photographers often use long lenses that can be very heavy. A tripod will take the weight for you, allowing you to shoot for longer without fatigue. If you need more flexibility in capturing birds in flight, or animals on the move, a gimbal head allows freedom of movement and support at the same time.

10 Reasons Why You Need to Learn to Love Your Tripod

This is the wrong way to be using the center column, it adds the opportunity for vibration and is not very stable.

3 – Video

I am not a videographer myself, but there is nothing worse than watching a wobbly handheld video. Keeping it steady on a tripod with a fluid head is a good way to start.

4 – Sharpness and Stability

Of course, the whole point of using a tripod is to ensure you get sharp shots by removing any camera movement or vibration. Additionally, you can use a remote or self-timer to limit further physical contact when taking the shot and maximize sharpness. My camera has a custom setting for landscapes that flips up the mirror and pauses for 2 seconds for the vibrations to flatten before the shutter clicks.

10 Reasons Why You Need to Learn to Love Your Tripod

Using an L plate makes it easier to mount the camera in either landscape or portrait orientation.

10 Reasons Why You Need to Learn to Love Your Tripod

L Plate with the camera set up in Portrait.

5 – Macro

When dealing with a small subject and a very limited depth of field, getting focus on the right spot can be hard. It is even harder when you are hand holding to keep the focus steady. Just breathing is enough movement to throw the line off and end up with blurry shots. Using a tripod combined with manual focus is often a good way to improve your keeper ratings with macro photography.

Additionally, if your camera supports it, using live view and zooming in to fix the focus more accurately could improve your keeper rate a huge amount (it did for me). My final tip is to use a wireless remote as well.

10 Reasons Why You Need to Learn to Love Your Tripod

10 Reasons Why You Need to Learn to Love Your Tripod

6 – Landscape and Panorama

Lugging a tripod on a hike for a day seems like a huge effort, but being able to set up your camera and take sharp shots is worth it in my opinion. Should you want to experiment with hyperfocal distances a tripod is recommended. Using filters to tone down a bright sky? Need a tripod.

Landscapes often lend themselves to a panorama, where you take several shots and blend them into one big (usually long) one. It is important to get your horizontal or vertical lines straight so the frames match up when you are stitching them together in software. You also need to make sure the camera is oriented flat on the rotation as well. Some people even work out the parallax point and may shoot using a nodal rail.

All these elements require a tripod to ensure they happen correctly.

10 Reasons Why You Need to Learn to Love Your Tripod

This 7-minute long exposure absolutely required the use of a tripod.

7 – Low Light

All cameras struggle when the light situation is low – astrophotography, light painting, timelapse, light trails or just generally limited lighting circumstances. To counter the limited light, the camera will be required to hold the shutter open for longer. It is very difficult to hold a camera perfectly steady in your hands for even one second, let alone 20 seconds, or even several minutes.

The only way to guarantee sharp shots is to hold the camera still, in other words, use a tripod.

10 Reasons Why You Need to Learn to Love Your Tripod

A long exposure shot of around 20 seconds to try and remove the crowds of people attending the event, instead I have blurry ghosts.

10 Reasons Why You Need to Learn to Love Your Tripod

Night shot of a fire dancer – the tripod allowed me to take a longer exposure time and capture the trails of fire.

8 – Special Effects

Focus stacking, HDR (High Dynamic Range) and exposure blending are reasonably commonly used special effects these days. The common factor is several frames are taken but the camera itself stays perfectly still (or may only move in tiny increments). The multiple images are then blended together later using post-processing techniques. Therefore in order to keep the camera perfectly still from frame to frame, you must use a tripod.

10 Reasons Why You Need to Learn to Love Your Tripod

Two frames are blended for this shot, the berries in one and the falling icing sugar in another.

9 – Long Exposures

Those lovely foamy waterfalls and swirls of whitewater in streams or smoke like waves around rocks and shorelines require exposures of that are much longer than usual. They could be tenths of a second, a few seconds or several minutes, depending on the lighting conditions. To keep your camera that still for that long, demands a tripod must be used.

Often, to simulate the limited lighting conditions required to give the very soft flowing effect, filters will also be used, which are mounted on the front of the lens. It is very difficult to load and mount the filters if the camera is not sitting on a tripod, leaving your hands free to add the extra equipment.

10 Reasons Why You Need to Learn to Love Your Tripod

Shot at 1/15th of a second, too long to handhold steady, but long enough to capture the colored lights on the trees.

10 – Self-Portraits

Not the quick snap up the nostrils at arm’s length which is the best you can hope for with a cell phone usually. Instead, using a tripod allows you to be very creative with your self-portraits. Adding in a wireless remote, and shooting fine art self-portraits becomes easy and fun.

10 Reasons Why You Need to Learn to Love Your Tripod

Top view of a camera with a wireless remote trigger mounted on the hot shoe and plugged into the camera.

10 Reasons Why You Need to Learn to Love Your Tripod

Back view of a camera with a wireless remote trigger mounted on the hot shoe and plugged into the camera.

10 Reasons Why You Need to Learn to Love Your Tripod

Wireless remote and a camera trigger ready to be plugged into the camera.

This self-portrait was taken with the camera in an overhead position pointing straight down. The remote was in my hand.


Tripods require some effort to use. They must be taken with you, whether that be in the studio, a wander in the gardens or several hours long hike in the mountains. It is extra weight and an awkward shape to carry. For many people, they prefer to go without and successfully manage to do so.

Personally, I believe the benefits a tripod offers are invaluable. By forcing me to slow down and think more about my photography, my composition skills improved a great deal with my landscape work.

Being prepared to use and experiment with a tripod allowed me to move into macro photography. Adding in manual focus and a wireless remote improved my sharpness and accuracy with very limited depth of field.

Having the capability to set the camera up at unusual angles and heights, and keeping my hands free for other things gave me the freedom to try out food photography, still life shots and creative self-portraits.

Anytime you need the camera to hold still for just a bit longer than you can (or want to) hold it is when you need a tripod. There are lots of fun things you can shoot but they might be difficult if your hands aren’t very steady or your gear is heavy.

So learn to love your tripod, soon it will be your best friend.

The post 10 Reasons Why You Need to Learn to Love Your Tripod by Stacey Hill appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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10 Google Chrome Extensions for Social Media Marketers

Do you want to streamline your social media marketing tasks? Looking for tools that will improve content quality and boost productivity? In this article, you’ll discover 10 Chrome extensions to improve your social media marketing workflows. #1: Scan Your Blog Posts for Broken Links With Check My Links The free Check My Links extension lets [...]

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- Your Guide to the Social Media Jungle


tiistai 21. marraskuuta 2017

Review of the Tamron 18-400mm F/3.5-6.3 DI-II VC HLD Zoom Lens

Tamron has been specializing in super-zoom lenses for the last few years. You may be familiar with their 16-300mm, 18-270mm or 150-600mm lenses. Their newest super-zoom is an even more astonishing focal length, the Tamron 18-400mm. I recently had a chance to review this lens for a few weeks so I thought I’d give you an idea of who this lens is for, the good, the not-so-good, and my overall recommendation.

Review of Tamron 18-400mm F/3.5-6.3 DI-II VC HLD Zoom Lens - Hibiscus

Hot pink hardy hibiscus bloom. Canon 7D Mark II, Tamron 18-400mm lens @ 400mm, f/9, 1/160th, ISO 100, handheld.

About this review

I know you already know this (because you read ALL my pieces for dPS, right? Right?!) but my lens reviews are pretty real world. I don’t sit in a lab or use techy gizmos to measure sharpness. I actually hold a lens in my hands and shoot with it. This lens was tucked in my favorite bag for most of August.

That said, my intention was to see how a lens holds up for an actual shoot. I used this lens to photograph Lipizzan horses at a dressage performance as well as at the racetrack. Then I used it on a mission to photograph old barns and finally to make some macro flower images.

Tamron 18-400mm lens - Lipizzan Foal

Lipizzan foal at Tempel Farms, Old Mill Creek IL. Canon 7D Mark II, Tamron 18-400mm lens @ 300mm, f/6.3, 1/640th, ISO 500, handheld. 

The goal was to make images at most focal lengths with a variety of apertures, but a few might have been skipped because I was really out there shooting. I shoot at the focal length, shutter speed, ISO and aperture that each situation calls for. So let’s just say I apologize in advance if I’ve skipped something important to you. Give me a shout in the comments if that’s the case. I’ll dig through my notes and image archives to see if I can answer your question.

Lens specs

Let’s start off with a quick overview of the lens specs. This lens is for Nikon and Canon APS-C (crop sensor) cameras only. I tested the lens on a Canon 7D Mark II.

The Tamron 18-400mm super-zoom is a variable aperture lens. Meaning that at 18mm, the maximum aperture (largest opening) is f/3.5. But when you zoom into 400mm, the maximum aperture is f/6.3. The minimum aperture (smallest opening) is f/22 at all focal lengths.

Tamron 18-400mm - Red barn

Dilapidated red barn, McHenry County IL. Canon 7D Mark II, Tamron 18-400mm lens @ 71mm, f/9, 1/250th, ISO 200, handheld.

The lens has an HLD Autofocus Motor that is quick and quiet for a consumer lens at this price. It also has Tamron’s standard VC Image Stabilization. This feature enables you to get sharper shots while hand-holding at longer focal lengths. The lens also has what Tamron calls Moisture-Resistant Construction. I’m relieved to tell you I didn’t get to test this feature.

The minimum focusing distance – important especially if you want to try your hand at making macro images – is 17.72″ (45 cm). Macro is usually a 1:1 ratio and this lens only produces 1:2.9, but I was pleasantly surprised with my macro results.

Tamron 18-400mm - White bud

White hardy hibiscus bud. Canon 7D Mark II, Tamron 18-400mm lens @ 400mm, f/13, 1/320th, ISO 320, handheld.

If you use screw on filters, like a circular polarizer, the front thread is 72mm. The lens is 1.56 pounds (710 g) and approximately 3.11” in diameter by 4.88″ in length (79 x 123.9 mm). It’s an incredibly compact lens for this focal length range.

The price, at the time of publication of this article, is $649.00 USD.

Who is this lens for?

I would describe the ideal user of this lens as an amateur or enthusiast. If you’re an amateur photographer who travels but doesn’t want to carry more than one or two lenses, this is the perfect choice for you.

With an 18-400mm focal length, you might not need to ever change the lens, except in a dark indoor situation, when you need either flash or perhaps the fast f/1.8 maximum aperture of a nifty fifty.

Tamron 18-400mm - racehorse portrait

Low-key portrait of a racehorse, Arlington Park IL. Canon 7D Mark II, Tamron 18-400mm lens @ 400mm, f/6.3, 1/250th, ISO 250, handheld.

This lens would also be great for a busy parent who needs more than a smart phone to capture pictures of soccer matches and dance recitals but who doesn’t have a ton of extra room in her carryall bag. The compact size and weight of the Tamron 18-400mm make it an easy addition to any parent’s standard kit.

What’s good about this lens

The size of this lens just can’t be beat. At only a pound and a half and less than 5 inches long, it’s a lot of focal length in a very small package. I was really taken with how small it was since I normally shoot with such large neck-and-shoulder-busting glass.

Hand-holding this lens for an afternoon at the race track wasn’t even remotely painful. With the insane focal length capabilities, I didn’t even bother to carry a second lens with me (or even my camera bag!) and that made for a really care-free afternoon.

Tamron 18-400mm - size comparison

The Tamron 18-400mm lens, attached to the Canon 7D Mark II, with the Canon 100-400 lens alongside for size comparison.

Tamron 18-400mm lens comparison - extended

The extended Tamron 18-400 lens, attached to the Canon 7D Mark II, with the extended Canon 100-400 lens alongside for size comparison. Clearly you can see what a compact size this lens is and how beneficial that could be when you travel.

Great for landscape images

It’s also a pleasure to catch a pretty landscape out of the corner of your eye and to simply zoom out to 18mm to capture it. Typically if you’re shooting with a long lens, you have to take the time to switch over to your wide-angle lens, take the shot and then switch back to your longer focal length lens again. Well, actually, if you’re me, you see that landscape and think ooh, pretty and then walk away without taking the shot.

Tamron 18-400 - at the track

Arlington Park Racetrack IL. Canon 7D Mark II, Tamron 18-400 @ 18mm, f/13, 1/100th, ISO 320, handheld. Processed in Lightroom.

I’m lazy that way so this was the first time I’ve actually made images of the racetrack itself. The lens performed really well in the 18-50mm focal range. It was both sharp and relatively distortion free. Lightroom’s Lens Correction easily managed the slight distortion there was too.

Things to be careful of

Remember I said we’d talk about the not-so-good too? It is a touch tricky to twist the lens in order to zoom in past 200mm to get to the 400mm focal length. First, your hand gets a bit “stuck” since anatomically, your wrist only twists so far before you have to reposition in order to continue the twisting motion.

Tamron 18-400mm lens - racetrack

Headed to the gate, Arlington Park IL. Canon 7D Mark II, Tamron 18-400mm lens @ 209mm, f/6.3, 1/1000th, ISO 250, handheld. 

Second, the lens has what I call a “hiccup” where you need to exert more pressure to push it past this point. I missed a few shots because the twisting motion wasn’t smooth enough and I jerked the lens a bit as I zoomed in from 200mm to 400mm.

Tamron 18-400mm lens - white hibiscus

White hardy hibiscus bloom. Canon 7D Mark II, Tamron 18-400mm lens @ 227mm, f/13, 1/400th, ISO 320, handheld.

Softness around the edges

There is a definite softness (or loss of sharpness) at the longer end of the lens, especially when your aperture is wide open, e.g., 400mm at f/6.3. If you crop in too much during post-processing or print too large, you’ll start to see the loss of fine details in your image since they weren’t tack sharp to start. You won’t see this loss of detail in a small 5×7″ print, or if you post to social media – so for many people, this actually won’t be a big issue.

Tamron 18-400mm lens Review - Riders up

Riders up at the paddock, Arlington Park IL. Canon 7D Mark II, Tamron 18-400mm lens @ 18mm, f/5, 1/500th, ISO 640, handheld.

Use the center focus point

The lens tends to be softest in the corners so sharpness improves if you use your camera’s center focus point. It also improves if you close down your aperture to f/8, f/9, or smaller. Because the lens is not tack sharp all the way through the focal length spectrum, I’m not recommending this lens for super serious wildlife shooters or anyone who likes to print really large. For you guys, I’m going to suggest sticking with a more standard zoom lens like a 100-400mm or 200-400mm. (I apologize in advance for the wear and tear this recommendation will cause your shoulders.)

If you predominantly shoot wide-angle images, like landscapes, and only occasionally shoot long, this lens will be a good fit for you when you don’t want to carry a ton of gear.

Final thoughts

Ultimately there were a number of things I really liked about this lens. The small size and super-zoom focal length make it a very practical tool to have in your bag. At $649.00 USD, it’s also a great value.

However, the softness at the long end of that focal length can become a real issue if you’re not careful. Because of that, I’m cautiously going to rate this lens 3.5 stars out of 5.

Tamron 18-400mm lens running foal

Running Lipizzan foal at Tempel Farms, Old Mill Creek IL. Canon 7D Mark II, Tamron 18-400mm lens @ 400mm, f/6.3, 1/640th, ISO 100, handheld. 

I’d love to hear your opinions too. Have you tried super-zooms lenses? Do they work for your type of photography? Which is your favorite one and how does it compare to the Tamron 100-400mm lens? Please share your thoughts with the dPS community in the comments below.

The post Review of the Tamron 18-400mm F/3.5-6.3 DI-II VC HLD Zoom Lens by Lara Joy Brynildssen appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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How to Process Real Estate or Architectural Photos with Aurora HDR 2018

If you’ve ever tried your hand at real estate or architecture photography, you know that these are two of the most complicated forms of photography out there. The challenge is due mostly to having to balance out shadows created by harsh or uneven lighting. Thus, it’s no wonder that High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography is one of the most-used techniques for capturing real estate and architecture photos.

Before I go any further, let’s make it clear that this article is not about defining what HDR photography is or debating its merits. There is a myriad of arguments for and against HDR, but let’s save those are for another article. For now, let’s talk about Aurora HDR 2018 and how it might help you capture and process better HDR images.

How to Process Real Estate or Architectural Photos with Aurora HDR 2018

Simple, intuitive interface

If you’ve made HDR images using other photo editing programs such as Adobe Photoshop, you’ve probably had trouble figuring out how to use the software. One of the best features of Aurora HDR is that it is very stripped down, presenting you with only a few essential options that you can select to create your image. This greatly reduces your learning curve and makes it easy to get started immediately.

Use as standalone or with other programs

Speaking of other photo editing programs, you can use them in conjunction with Aurora HDR. It’s very easy to do. When you install Aurora HDR 2018 you can set it up to work both as a standalone program, or as a plugin for Lightroom, Photoshop, and others.

You don’t need a tripod

Historically, you’ve always needed to shoot bracketed images with a tripod to make sure they’re all aligned before merging them into a single HDR image. Not so with Aurora HDR. Thanks to their handy Alignment feature, Aurora HDR can automatically align your bracketed images (more on this in #2 below). This means that you don’t necessarily need to capture brackets with a tripod.

Of course, your images should be relatively aligned beforehand, but you don’t need the pinpoint accuracy that you used to need with other HDR photo editing programs.

Macphun Aurora HDR Photo Editing

Getting started with Aurora HDR

1. Open Aurora HDR and load images

When you first open Aurora HDR, you’re presented with a straightforward dialogue box that offers you three options (as seen in the screenshot above).

a) Open Image – In the very center is a button labeled “Open Image.” You can click on the button to select your images, or drag and drop them.

b) Batch Processing – If you have multiple sets of bracketed shots that you want to process all at once, drag and drop them into the Batch Processing dialogue box! Aurora HDR is intuitive enough to sort through the batch of files for you and automatically detect and match up your bracketed images.

Aurora HDR Batch Processing

c) Open Sample Image – This is a blue hyperlink below the “Open Image” button that you’ll probably only use the very first time you’re getting your feet wet with Aurora HDR. It exists mainly for demonstration purposes.

2. Set additional settings

For now, let’s assume you chose to Open Images (or, in the demo screenshots below, Load Sample Images). After doing so, another dialogue box appears with just a few options. The Alignment option is visible, and the others pop up when you click on the “Additional Settings” button.

Aurora HDR Brackets


As mentioned above, checking the Alignment box will make sure all of your bracketed images line up properly. This means that you could possibly hand hold your camera while taking bracketed shots. But if you’re shooting a paid job, I’d still recommend shooting on a tripod to make sure you get the right shots, in perfect registration.

Ghost Reduction

If you happen to have a moving subject in your HDR brackets, enable the Ghosts Reduction setting. This can minimize the effect of ghosting in which moving objects may appear translucent or ghost-like in your final image. For real estate and architecture photography, you’re unlikely to have moving subjects unless you’re incorporating people in your photo or you can see moving tree branches through a window.

Aurora HDR Options

Get to Ghosts Reduction, Color Denoise, and Chromatic Aberration Removal by clicking on the gear icon (seen here in orange).

Color Denoise

Reduces the low-light noise in color pixels that can sometimes occur when merging photos together. This option is automatically enabled (as seen above), but you can shut it off if you wish.

Chromatic Aberration Reduction

It’s not unusual for real estate or architecture photos to have chromatic aberrations. Luckily, Aurora HDR has an option for minimizing the appearance of the purple and green glow along your image edges that is a clear indication of chromatic aberration.

3. Merge your photos

After checking the settings, click on the blue Create HDR button, and wait for your images to merge. This is perhaps the only downside to Aurora HDR (or, the whole HDR process in general). It takes a minute or two for the images to be merged together, so sit tight!

4. Select a preset or edit with the tools

Once Aurora HDR is done merging your photos, you’ll be presented with a more robust workspace where you can edit your HDR image further.

At the very bottom of the screen are a bunch of presets that you can choose to automatically adjust your image to a certain style. The Basic presets are selected by default, but if you click on the yellow “Categories” hyperlink, a bunch more will appear. For real estate, the Architecture presets are particularly helpful. Once you select a preset, you can adjust the amount to lessen or magnify the effect to your taste.

If you prefer to manually edit the photo with or without presets, use the far right panel where you’ll find basic photo editing tools. Scroll down to find even more editing tools such as Adjustment Layers and Dodge and Burn (more on these below).

aurora HDR

Preset categories here.

Aurora hdr

Lessen the effect of a preset by lowering the slider.

5. Add Adjustment Layers

Another fantastic feature of Aurora HDR is the ability to easily add Adjustment Layers in order to make targeted, non-destructive edits to your image. This is extremely useful in real estate and architecture photography, as you often need to make color and tonal adjustments to your image without inflicting permanent changes on the pixels.

For example, the image below illustrates the addition of an Adjustment Layer that targets the blue tinge in the staircase and chairs in the middle of the image, with the goal of color correction. Adjustment Layers also exist in Photoshop, and they function very similarly in Aurora HDR. The best part is that it is much more intuitive and easier to find in Aurora HDR than they are in Photoshop.

Aurora HDR Adjustment Layers

Adding an Adjustment Layer for local color control in selected areas.

6. Dodge and Burn

If you’ve upgraded to the brand new Aurora HDR 2018 version, you’ll find a couple of essential real estate photo editing tools that are much handier to access: Dodge and Burn Tools! If you’re unfamiliar with dodging and burning, you can read up on these photo editing processes in this dPS article.

In short, dodging helps you brighten targeted areas of an image while burning lets you darken them. Both techniques are essential for real estate photography retouching. In the new version of Aurora HDR, these tools are easily accessible in the right-hand panel. Simply scroll down to the “Dodge and Burn” panel and click on “Start Painting.” This will activate a few settings right above your image.

Aurora HDR Dodge and Burn

Use the Dodge and Burn tools to do special localized tone control in your image.

In Conclusion

If HDR photography sounds interesting to you and you’re looking for an easier way to post-process your images, give Aurora HDR 2018 a shot! Its intuitive, clutter-free interface is relatively easy to learn and you can begin enhancing your real estate photos in no time.

Disclaimer: Macphun is a dPS advertising partner.

Aurora HDR Final

Final image edited with Aurora HDR 2018.

Aurora HDR Sample Images

Before – a single image of a series of brackets.


01 Macphun Aurora HDR Photo Editing



01 Macphun Aurora HDR Photo Editing

01 Macphun Aurora HDR Photo Editing

The post How to Process Real Estate or Architectural Photos with Aurora HDR 2018 by Suzi Pratt appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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