Gorgeous Bracketed HDR Photos Without a Tripod? Yes, it's Possible With Aurora HDR 2018.

You've heard of HDR photography, right? HDR stands for "high dynamic range", which really just means the photos have absolutely amazing color and depth. HDR photography is amazing to look at, but it can be a pain to do. One of the "requirements" of HDR is that you shoot your original photos with a tripod. Well, using Aurora HDR 2018 (af), high dynamic range photos without a tripod is now possible.

In this post, you'll...

  • Learn about bracketing in HDR
  • Learn what "ghosting" is in photography
  • See the 4 brackets I shot hand-held, no tripod
  • See my final edited HDR image

Simple, Powerful HDR Photo Editing

Aurora HDR 2018 (af) is the latest version of the popular photo editing suite. This is hands-down our favorite specialty high dynamic range photo editing product. It's simple, it's fast and it's powerful.

Before Edit After Aurora Edit

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Why does HDR photography "require" a tripod?

HDR photography makes use of what is called "bracketing". Bracketing means that your camera is setup to take multiple photos of the exact same shot, just at different exposure levels.

For example, if you do a three-bracket shot, you may take photos at EV (exposure value) -1.0, EV 0 and EV +1.0. In other words, you'll take a photo one "stop" under exposed, one at regular exposure and one photo one "stop" over-exposed.

Many cameras have a mode for this built in - typically referred to as AEB or auto exposure bracketing.

Hopefully you can see how taking these "identical" photos can be challenging without the assistance of a tripod. If your resulting "brackets" don't match up properly, you'll experience what's known as "ghosting".


in photography, ghosting is an effect where image artifacts are present, typically when there is movement present in the photo or the camera is not stabilized when taking the shot(s)

What is "ghosting" in HDR photography?

Ghosting in HDR photography is a fairly simple concept. When you consider that HDR typically means you're taking multiple photos for a single edited image, the concept of "ghosting" means that an object or element is different between those bracketed photos.

Check out the photo here shown within Aurora HDR (af). Can you see the "Universe of Energy" sign's letters and how there is a "ghosted" version floating above the actual sign?

HDR Bright No Ghost Reduction

Not all ghosting is created by camera sway - or physical movement of the camera. Some ghosting is natural. For example, in a landscape photo with clouds, the movement of the clouds can cause ghosting.

Even shooting HDR with a tripod doesn't guarantee that all image ghosting will be avoided. That's why it's important that your HDR photo editor can handle it.

Aurora HDR 2018 Handles Ghosting, Allowing You To Shoot HDR Without a Tripod.

I just got off the boat from a vacation and I actually remembered to take my "good camera" with me. My camera has all the bells and whistles on it and when I want to take my best quality shots, I make sure I'm carrying it with me.

I went on this vacation without something though, too. I didn't bring a tripod with me. I mean, carrying a tripod around on vacation isn't exactly convenient. My family and I were wandering around an island for most of our trip. Even the smaller tripods can be cumbersome to store and carry. Besides, who has the time to take it out, set it up, shoot, take it back down...

You get the point. I went on this trip knowing that I wanted to take some new photos I could edit in Aurora HDR 2018 but I didn't want to have to use a tripod.

Below is just one example of the bracketed photos I took with my camera and the resulting HDR version of the photo. All photos were taken using four brackets and were shot without a tripod (aka wild and free). I converted my native files to DNG before importing into my photo editor. Naturally, I did all of my editing in the new Aurora HDR 2018.

Aurora HDR 2018 Import - Don't Forget Ghosts Reduction
Naturally, I did all of my editing in the new Aurora HDR 2018.

Braket 1: 1/125s

16mm, f/3.5, 1/125s

Braket 2: 1/500s

16mm, f/3.5, 1/500s

Braket 3: 1/2000s

16mm, f/3.5, 1/2000s

Braket 4: 1/8000s

16mm, f/3.5, 1/8000s

The Final Product - An HDR Image From Four Hand-Held Brackets

Here are the final results of my edits. Once I finished importing this image, I started by using the preset called "Beachy" within the Captain Kemo Presets collection.

From the base preset, I tweaked the following settings a bit more:

  • Bumped up HDR structure
  • Lowered HDR softness
  • Raised HDR denoise
  • Added a -20 post-crop vignette

(Drumroll) Here's the Final HDR Edited Photo

Final HDR Edited Image - 4 Hand-Held Brackets
What do you think? Have you had success creating HDR images without a tripod? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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