iPhone HDR Camera mode preserves much more detail (sample image)

HDR photography has been around for a few years now and some photographers have been able to get stunning results using this technique. Normally multiple exposures are taken of the same shot, some under exposed and some over exposed. These images are then imported into HDR software for processing to get the final result. The software combines the images so that hopefully, there are no over exposed (blown out) or under exposed (shadow) areas. There are many options to fine tune the image and the result can look artificial if overdone.

It was a surprise to see Apple’s new iPhone 4 sporting this feature and the processing is all done instantly without any user intervention. Once HDR mode is turned on, every time a picture is taken, 2 photos are saved – one standard and one HDR version.

Often I take pictures with my iPhone so I can document things. I took this photo after installing a new GPS DVD player in my car, so I could remember what features were written on the facia.

I forget I left ‘HDR on’ so the iPhone took it’s normal picture plus the HDR version. It was only when reviewing the picture later on my iMac, that I realised I should leave ‘HDR on’ all the time. 

For normal photographs, although HDR mode will keep more data in the highlights and shadow area, the photo will look slightly washed out. Since I use my iPhone a lot to ‘collect data’, the washed out look doesn’t worry me at all as long as I have clearer details in my pictures. The iPhone keeps both images when set to HDR mode anyway.

I’ve started getting in the habit of not keeping business cards, I just photograph them to avoid the clutter. The added detail of the HDR version gives me the best results nearly every time.

Take a look at the images below. As you can see, the highlights in the normal image are blown out and even the colour is lost. The HDR version is much more usable and allows the text on the screen to be easily read.

First, the iPhone 4 standard image.

Next, the iPhone 4 HDR image.


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