Join Seán Duggan for an in-depth discussion in this video Shoot in HDR, part of iPhone and iPad Photography with iOS 12.
- [Instructor] For some photographs, the difference between the brightest and the darkest areas of the scene are so great, that even with manual exposure adjustments, it can be difficult and sometimes impossible to get a good result without sacrificing detail in either the highlights or the shadows. In those situations, using the iPhone's HDR mode can often help to capture a better image with a more balanced exposure. Let's take a look. HDR stands for high dynamic range, and it can be useful for high-contrast scenes if you find that manual exposure adjustments still result in shadow areas becoming too dark, or highlights too bright.
In HDR Mode, the camera takes three separate exposures, and automatically blends them together to ensure the best possible results in terms of an exposure that contained as much detail as possible in the brightest and the darkest areas. In challenging lighting situations, this can result in better images. If you have an iPhone XS or XS Max, there's a new feature called Smart HDR that is turned on by default. You can find this by going into the settings, and then going down and finding the settings for the camera, and there you can see it at the bottom.
On an iPhone X, this settings is called Auto HDR. When Smart HDR is turned on, you will not see any HDR options in the iOS 12 Camera app. It'll just come on automatically when the camera determines it would create a better result. If you have Smart HDR turned off, or if you're using an iPhone where this feature is not available, then you can tap the HDR button at the top of the screen in the camera app to set this feature to on or off.
And on some earlier iPhones, you might have an option to set it to Auto. If you want to let the phone make the call as to whether HDR would be useful, similar to the new Smart HDR feature, you can just leave this set to On or Auto. You can see how effective HDR can be with this sunset scene, photographed with an iPhone XS. In order to show the result with and without HDR, I temporarily turned off the Smart HDR on this phone.
With HDR turned off, there is very little detail in the clouds on the left side of the scene. But when HDR is turned on, it does a much better job at creating a balanced exposure. In the settings for the camera, there is an option to keep the normal exposure in addition to the HDR blend. Keep in mind that this will result in two separate photo files for each HDR image that you take. If you have a smaller capacity iPhone or you just don't have a lot of free storage space left, this could be an issue, especially if you leave the HDR option set to Auto or Smart HDR.
I usually like to keep the normal shot in addition to the HDR blended shot just in case I like the normal one better. When you view your photos in the Camera Roll or the All Photos album, you'll see that the HDR shots have an HDR badge on them. So this is the HDR blend, and here is the normal shot. And you can really see the difference there in the detail in the clouds. The HDR feature on the iPhone can be very useful for capturing a more balanced exposure in contrasty scenes.
But it's important to understand that it may not work in some situations. And for some scenes, it may not be as effective as shooting three or more exposures on a digital SLR or a mirrorless camera, and then blending them in imaging programs that offer more advanced HDR features. If the contrast range in the scene is too extreme, then you may have to concentrate on the area that you want to expose for and sacrifice the detail in the shadows or the highlights. There are other camera and processing apps for the iPhone that allow HDR blending that can sometimes work better with more extreme contrast variances.
One of my favorite ways to shoot HDR is to use the Lightroom CC for Mobile app, because it lets me take advantage of the Raw format by capturing HDR in the Digital Negative, or DNG format. But for everyday shooting and many situations, the built-in HDR in the native iOS 12 Camera app can do a very good job at creating more balanced exposures with better detail in bright highlights and deep shadows.
- Shooting panorama photos
- Creating slow-motion videos
- Taking time-lapse videos
- Organizing photos
- Image editing with the Photos app
- Trimming videos
- Sharing photos
- Transferring photos to and from your device