Photo Tip: Use HDR to Decrease Dynamic Range

In photography, dynamic range is the difference between the lightest light and darkest dark which can be seen in a photo.

– Ken Rockwell
Today, we’ll look at how HDR can decrease that difference. The capability is present on most smartphones’ stock camera apps. I recently posted a few HDR shots from the iPhone 5s, so this post is sort of a behind-the-scenes of a photo I’d taken on that day.

The HDR mode on the 5s allows you to save the original photo along with the HDR version. There are some situations, typically portraits, where you’d want to avoid HDR because it usually doesn’t look right. But, when you want to capture a scene with a high dynamic range, it can help flatten the image. For example, if you were to shoot a sunset landscape where the sky is usually brighter, HDR would blend the multiple photos taken to achieve the proper exposure on both sides of the horizon.

In the photos above, I tapped the sky on the iPhone’s screen in order to expose for it. Although there wasn’t much darkness in the original photo, HDR allowed me to get a little more detail in the shadows. It’s very subtle, and that’s probably because the iPhone’s processing is more realistic than other smartphone cameras. I’ll expand on that in another post when I compare the HDR mode of two smartphones.


I’ve been taking some photos that better demonstrate the differences. I’ll add them below as I come across more good examples of this tip.


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