Travelling iPhone apps: HDR

On October 2, 2012 by DaniLew

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I don’t play games; at least not on my iPhone.  However, I do want this little computer to be more useful than a smartphone, so I’ve employed a few apps that should help me as I travel and make pictures.

Whenever I’m on an adventure to some far-flung land, most often, you’ll find me in a church, temple, synagogue, or mosque absorbing the history and shooting the ceilings.  And these sacred places are usually dimly lit, and depending on their age and care, they are sometimes dark and gloomy but for a high window to let in some sunlight.  These are incredibly hard places to shoot because the shutter speed necessary is too long to handhold.  Other times, I’m making pictures mid-day with the brightest sun or high in a mountain-range with a hazy sky.

HDR is absolutely necessary when the range of light is more than the camera sensors can bear and when you need to save both the shadows and the highlights of an image.

Whenever I return home from said adventures, my family and friends are eager to hear my stories and see my pictures.  Usually, I’ll quickly scan through the thousands of images I shot, choose at least 20 to satisfy them, and post them to flickr/facebook or combine them in a PDF for email.

Now, however, I have the iPhone and that task just got much easier!

Today, I want to quickly discuss two photo apps ”Simply HDR” and “Pro HDR”and how they work on the run and why I might use them.

Simply HDR

“Simply HDR” by JixiPix Software boasts: Turn your photo into a vibrant HDR with unparalled ranges of light and detail.

Truly, the way this app renders images in its default stage reminds me of the early days of Photomatix software.  The harsh tone-mapping of shadows and dark lines, the halos, the dulling of colors, and the dark clouds.  In other words, detail and contrast and grain out the wazoo.

Istanbul - Blue Mosque (Ferman Hotel rooftop)

Istanbul – Blue Mosque (Ferman Hotel rooftop)

Thankfully, some of this can be toned down with the plethora of simplistic presets and the few adjustments sliders that the app provides.

Istanbul - Hagia Sofia

Istanbul – Hagia Sofia

“Simply HDR” saves your original image, has a crop tool, and allows you to save a new preset and share on facebook, twitter, tumblr, and instagram or email.

PRO HDR

“Pro HDR” by eyeApps LLC boasts: Automatically create stunning full-resolution HDR images with just a single tap!

This app requires you to hold still while it analyzes the scene then takes two images (one exposed for the shadows the other exposed for the highlights).

Barcelona - Casa Mila (La Pedrera)

Barcelona – Casa Mila (La Pedrera)

So very similar to the way DSLRs work as shown in the triptych below.

Barcelona - Casa Mila (La Pedrera) lobby

Barcelona – Casa Mila (La Pedrera) lobby

However, this app sometimes likes to crop on its own and take away the power from the user.

foggy mountain highway

foggy mountain highway

Okay, it was a favorable crop this time because of my thumb, but perhaps I would’ve used less of the sky and more of the mountain range?

Nonetheless, it has a timer (2 and 10 seconds) for use on a tripod, a few adjustment sliders, some cheesy filters, and you can add text and/or frames.

“Pro HDR” also saves your original image, has a crop tool, and allows you to share on facebook, twitter, tumblr, and flickr or email.

Conclusion

While both are excellent apps, they do things very differently as the resulting images above show.

If you love grunge, crisp detail/texture, and a one-shot HDR then “Simply HDR” is for you. However, I suggest underexposing a bit since it tends to blow highlights.

Yet, if you have a steady hand or a handy wall nearby and you love subtlety or a natural-looking HDR then “Pro HDR” is for you.

I try to use “Pro HDR” all of the time but sometimes I just don’t have the luxury to stand and wait, so I move to “Simply HDR” and try to back off some of its harsher tendencies.  Both allow you to import images from the photo library so using one app and finishing off with the other is always a possibility as well.

The worst part of both apps is that they strip the EXIF data. If EXIF data (aperture, shutter speed, ISO, location) is important to you (especially when travelling) then these are not the apps for you.

I know there are other HDR apps out there, but on specs alone, these two stood out from the rest.  And under close scrutiny, the images can be sharpened further and printed at decent sizes.

Anyway, I hope I’ve given you some iPhone HDR food for thought…  Bon appetit!

 

10 Responses to “Travelling iPhone apps: HDR”

  • Beautiful images Dani. It’s hard to believe that they came from a iPhone. I still find it hard to get excited about giving up my camera for a phone, but it did a very nice job with these.

    • Thanks Phillip.

      I’m always hounded by family, friends, coworkers to “hurry up and show us some pictures” from my vacations so pulling out the iPhone for a few snapshots and HDR was the best solution for me after the DSLRs get their workout. A quick upload to Facebook, they were satisfied, and I was able to rest when I got home. Hey, I was very happy to do the instant gratification thing for them, plus, it was good for video too since my DLSRs don’t have that ability.

      Take care,

      Danielle

  • iCamera HDR has its quirks, but on the HDR-app market it shines with its many option panels and high quality final images. And as a user of many different HDR apps, I’ve tried out quite a few different options, and this is the best of them all.

    • Hi goldie. I downloaded iCamera HDR several months ago. I liked the fact that you could do a single HDR photo (like Simply HDR) and do a 2-image merge HDR (like Pro HDR) but it kept freezing/crashing on me, so I had to delete it. If it now exports at the iPhone’s native resolution – rather than 3.6 MP – then I may look into again in 2013 but I don’t see it mentioned in the specs or on the support page.

      Let me know if it does.

      Thanks.

  • Beautiful photographs.

  • This is a great post, I think you should turn it into a 2 or 3 part series.

    • Thanks Joshua. I have an idea for a two-part series on HDR apps, what’s yours? I’m willing to consider any suggestion. Thanks again.

  • As said before these are beautiful images. I have come to enjoy my cell phone’s capacity for taking pictures more and more. Not professionally yet, but I am having a lot of fun. I particularly like the Instagram app. Now you show me two new ones it seems like I could have fun playing with, too. In general I am not much for HDR, although this looks like fun. I have an android phone, but I quickly found out that both Simply HRD and Pro HDR are available for this platform too. Thanks for informing about the apps.

    • You’re welcome, Otto. As you, I’m becoming comfortable with taking pictures on the smartphone but I have yet to get into Instagram. Maybe I’ll take another look at that app. Thanks!

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