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What is HDR and How Can I Use it on my iPhone?

With the introduction of iOS 4.1 also came HDR to the iPhone, a highly significant feature of the iPhone photo app and a very creative tool in the hands of a skilled iPhone photographer. HDR has since become part of the android ecosystem and there are huge communities on Facebook and Google plus centred on this feature of photo taking. This post will introduce you to HDR, Help you take better photos and make the most of this now integral camera feature on the iPhone.

What is HDR?

HDR stands for “High Dynamic Range” and is a photographic technique that has been around for a while. It involves combining several photos of the same scene but taken with different lighting settings. This maybe as few as two but can be three or more in some cases. The idea is to combine the best parts of the two or more photos (the one which shows in detail the elements in the light and the one which shows the darker areas better) and place them in one single photo.

Advice when taking a Photo

This feature makes HDR an amazingly powerful tool that can really enhance a scene but it isn’t perfect for every situation and there are some bits of advice that you really need to follow to make the most of your HDR shots.

When to use

  • Landscapes
  • portraits in sunlight
  • lowlight
  • backlit

When Not to use

  • with lots of movement
  • vivid colours
  • when you want a strong contrast
  • when you want deep and dark shadows

Don’t shake

This is more crucial when taking HDR shots as you take a second photo straight after. If you are shaking then these photos won’t line up right and the photo won’t come out correctly. It’s important not to shake when you take a normal photo but you really need to stay still with HDR. As such you might want to consider the following tips.

Use your headphones to take the photo

One of the biggest causes of movement in iPhone photography is pressing the screen. unlike a tradition camera which has a downwards moving button on the top (which causes a slight downwards movement) pressing on the hard touchscreen causes the phone to pivot on it’s axis point. This can cause much greater movement. Instead for almost every camera app you can use your headphones volume button (which causes no movement)

take a photo with the headphone button

Have a great grip.

Holding your Phone securely really helps as well. You can do this by insuring you have a solid and firm base, gripping as much as you can and making sure that you don’t cover the lens or accidentally touch the screen.

An alternative might be to check out a tool like the Glif to help insure you have a firm grip as well. Check out Moe’s review for more about the Glif.

Don’t forget the basics of Photography

Even though HDR can help bring out dark areas of a photo, it doesn’t mean that you can just ignore the basic rules of Photography.

1.Framing

Remember to line up objects correctly, think about the rule of thirds or the lines in the photo and where they lead the eyes.

2.Lighting

Although HDR will help you with a wider range of light in your photo, you don’t want to overwork the cameras processor when you could simply adjust your standing. At the same time, if you really want to take a photo from a certain angle and the lighting is bad, HDR will help compensate.

3. Perspective

Don’t just take a photo standing directly facing an object. Look for a more unusual perspective. Go higher and look down on the object, bend your knees and take a photo looking up at the object. If in doubt, take multiple photos.

4. Create a focus and a story

Don’t overcrowd the photo, dragging people’s attention in all sorts of directions. Create one focal point and one main story. It’s okay to have other things going on but direct the viewers attention.

Two Alternative HDR Apps and a Third Option

Using the built in HDR function

The stock Camera App has a simple to use HDR function that you can activate easily. In iOS 7 you just need to go to the top of the screen and click on HDR off and it will change to HDR on, activating the HDR function and turing off the flash at the same time.

It’s a simple function to use and is a great way to get into HDR. However, it isn’t the most powerful service and there are alternative premium apps that can show a wider lighting range.

Pro HDR

Pro HDR is a more advanced HDR photo app for your iPhone. Unlike the automatic built in HDR function in the iPhone which will set the two different lighting settings which are merged, Pro HDR will ask you to manually set the different exposure points. You can use an automatic setting as well if you really want as well.

In addition there is a timer which allows you to set a delay of 2 or 10 seconds and you can also add a grid to help you bare in mind the rule of thirds.

Pro HDR UI

There is a free version of Pro HDR which gives you a limit to the file to 640 x 480 and includes a water mark in the bottom right corner. Where as the full version is only $1.99 but gives you full resolution images with no watermark (a worthwhile upgrade if you ask me).

The app was not found in the store. 🙁
Pro HDR
Pro HDR
Developer: eyeApps LLC
Price: 2,29 €

AutoAwesome on Google+

Google+ introduced a features called Auto Awesome which will create one photo (to rule them all) from a series of photos you have taken. This can be an animate gif like photo if there is some movement in the image OR it can be an HDR like photo combining several photos of one shot. The great thing about this is it all happens as if by magic in the cloud.

All you need to do is turn on auto upload and then go into your settings and activate auto awesome photos.

Now you are an HDR pro the only thing left to do is set off with your new found skills and take some amazing photos.

Do you use the HDR feature a lot? What tips do you have?

About Chris Wilson

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